Caithness FM, Thurso, Scotland

Caithness FM banner from station Facebook page

Country air

At the tip of Scotland’s rugged northeastern coastline is the historic county of Caithness, famed for its ancient burial sites and beautiful scenery (writes Annabel Martin). It is also home to Caithness FM, the northernmost radio station on mainland Britain. Here, we speak with Jackie Johnson, co-director and secretary, about the station’s beginnings, its most requested track and falling asleep at the mixing desk.

Tell us about the history of the station.

Caithness FM first went on air in the summer of 1993. We broadcast from a Portakabin in the garden of a local councillor for four weeks. After some initial success, we broadcast the following year for eight weeks from some empty nursery school rooms in Scapa House, in the town of Thurso, which had previously been a hostel for American Navy personnel. We are still entirely run and manned by volunteers, and continue to try to keep up with the needs of our community as well as ongoing changes in technology.

Caithness FM building in Thurso. Photo: station Facebook page.

Who’s your most popular DJ and why?

Definitely our chairman, Robin Young. He is known throughout the county as a musician and for his love of country music. Our listeners love his banter and music knowledge.

What song is played most on the station?

We have a listener who tries very hard to get “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers played every night – we always try to persuade him to choose another track.

What are some memorable broadcasting moments?

It has to be when one of our volunteers fell asleep during his own show. To be fair, he was suffering with a bad cold and had been taking medicine, which knocked him out. My daughter was working in the studio that day and it was only when she knocked over a pile of CDs that he woke up – I don’t know who got the bigger fright!

What events will you be covering in the near future?

At the end of this month, we have our Spring Soak, when some totally crazy residents will go swimming in the freezing waters of Thurso Bay. We will be entertaining the crowd and providing commentary.


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© MONOCLE Weekend Edition March 19, 2022

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