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Jim Duggan of Horsham

Jim Duggan

I was born in Dublin in 1940.  My  dad worked in the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake, which was a form of lottery, one of the biggest on the planet at the time. My grandfather was one of the founders of the Sweepstake, which helped build hospitals all over Ireland.

My mother didn’t have to work, but she was involved in various charities and ran a hairdressers for a while too. I had two brothers. Kevin was three years older than me, and he died a couple of years ago. My younger brother Alan still lives in Dublin. I was brought up in a privileged family, and my parents raised me well.

I took entrance exams for the Royal College of Surgeons as I wanted to be a Doctor, but it didn’t work out as I caught Tuberculosis and it took a long time for me to recover. I was fortunate as in those days such diseases could be very serious.

I went to London as Kevin was there. He was trying to be an actor and studied method acting at the Stanislavski Studio. I joined him there for a couple of years, but I didn’t have his talent.

This did though lead to a little bit of modelling work. I starred in an advert for Lifebuoy Soap. I was the guy that rode off into the sunset with the girl. It was fantastic for me as you I would earn money whenever the advert was repeated on TV. I was also in a Gillette advert for a Christmas gift pack. I was a hand model!

A friend from Ireland called Ronan O’Rahilly set up a pirate station called Radio Caroline, on a boat off the south coast. I became  involved in promotions, sold air-time and ran the Caroline Club with a handful of other people in an office in London.

The press  were all over the story, and of course they printed details about the station. They should never have done that as instantly we had millions of people tuning in and it just took off. Kevin and I eventually ran a second office in Liverpool after Ronan launched a second boat near the Isle of Man. The government tried to close us down but in all honesty Ronan was a little too smart for them.

Everything was happening in London, and to be there was an amazing education. Even at the time, you could feel something amazing was happening, as you’d had a taste of life beforehand when everything was grey, dull, and boring. Thn suddenly along came the ‘Swinging Sixties’ and Radio Caroline was a small part of that.

I was deeply involved in music and radio and my job with Radio Caroline gave me access to everywhere. I saw The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones recording. I shook John Lennon’s hand, but he didn’t know who I was. It doesn’t mean anything at all. I was just lucky to be there in London as the whole scene was taking off around me.

Eventually, the  government brought in the Marine Offences Act, essentially to get rid of pirate radio stations. It clobbered us a bit. Eventually, radio Caroline came to an end. Ronan moved on and produced a Marianne Faithfull film called Girl on a Motorcycle, and I was involved in that project.

I had been involved in the occasional peace rally but I wasn’t a hugely political young man. However, the Vietnam rallies and the growth of the hippy scene did have a major impact on my life. I decided I was tired of  London, so I took off.

I travelled to an island called Formentera, near Ibiza, which was a haven for hippies, and it was there that  met my wife, a beautiful South American called Consuelo. She was a writer, had been involved in films in Colombia, been a model, and had a far more interesting life than I had. I fell in love. She always joked that I kidnapped her and brought her to England, which is probably not far from the truth!

I briefly returned to London, where my brother was putting together some film of Jimi Hendrix performing on the Isle of Wight, then went back to Ireland. I married Consuelo and we had our first child, little Aaram, which was a name that we conjured up between us.

Aaram died when he was 14 months old, which was devastating.

I started the Peace Party on the 23rd July 1972 in Phoenix Park in Dublin. I had decided that I wanted to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I wanted to raise awareness about peace. We started to put on a lot of concerts in Dublin, and they were pretty big events. Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy used to come over and play for the Peace Party at christmas when he was a big star.

It was mainly musicians, painters, sculptors and photographers who were involved with the party in the early days. We did have political aims, but we did not put candidates forward at elections for a long time to come.

We used to create a calendar, with pictures of the two of us taken by professional photographers, and baby Aaram too. We were hippies, so we wouldn’t be wearing any clothes, but the images were beautiful.

In 1972, I put the calendars into a tube with some incense fragrants and a little Japanese whistle, and sent them out to various international embassies. The next thing I knew we had special forces knocking on the door, as they thought it was a bomb! The People newspaper published one of the calendar photos as part of an article about it, and that brought the wrath of the Church. They were disgusted and  said ‘Couldn’t you have covered up the child’s genitals?’  I said ‘No, why?’

Consuelo wrote a book and I published it, and now I’m working on putting it on to the Internet. A lot of artists and photographers contributed to it. It has some incredible images from those early peace concerts. It’s simply called The Book: Peace and Love.

The book was successful in Dublin, so we took it to London and Amsterdam, staying there for a while. We might have been there a month, it might have been six months. Then we headed back to Formentera and that was where our son, Aaramateo, was born. As far as we were concerned, it was the same son who had returned.

For a time, Consuelo disappeared with my son. Eventually, social services intervened and put my wife up in a hotel in Crawley, whilst my young son was placed in a care home. Suddenly, I was fighting for the right to care for my son. It was a traumatic time in my life.

I had to earn some money. I ended up working on a building site, which I quite enjoyed, and we stayed in a little house in Three Bridges. Our son came home to us, and we were quite happy. I took a band on tour to Ireland, as their manager, and my family came with me. When we came back, we found that our house had been taken over by squatters.  There was not a stick of furniture left and it had become a drug den. The place had been devastated.

My marriage broke up. I took a job selling insurance, which I didn’t like at all, but I had to make ends meet.
Conseulo met someone new, and we  divorced. I had to move out and leave my son behind. That was pretty uncool.

After a time in Rusper, working at Gatwick Airport, I moved to 1 Worthing Road in Horsham, where the bus depot is now. What is now the Beales entrance was basically our front door. I was there for ten years. Consuelo had re-married, but her second husband died tragically, and she came back to live with me.

It was only when I stood at an election in the 1980’s that we called the party the People’s Peace Party, adopting an image of a dove, designed by Consuelo, as our party symbol.

I’m under no illusions. I’m not going to Westminster. I’m not even going to be a District Councillor. I would like to be a Parish Councillor as that is the level with the closest links to the community, which is what the Peace Party is all about.

I have always continued to put on music events. We held many great nights at Tilgate Park, and more recently we’ve put on shows in Horsham, with the proceeds always going to a good cause.

People do associate peace with the 1960’s but we are not stuck in that decade. I’m not going to change my spots to suit other people. I am what I am. You can love everybody, but you can’t like everybody, and not everybody may like me.

I am mistaken for Billy Connolly regularly. I always say that he looks like me, rather than the other way round.

When I stand at elections, I don’t receive many votes. I campaign to raise awareness. I am more concerned about the next generation and saying that there is an alternative to how the three main parties promote themselves. I wouldn’t say they are warmongers - that would be unfair - but at the same time they do not give much consideration to the countries they are attacking.

I stood as a candidate in the Eastleigh by-election. We had a great reception, and I played a lot of peace music from my Volvo. We got an amazing amount of coverage, on the radio and on television. The parties were throwing the kitchen sink at each other, so all of the media were there and we had the likes of David Cameron and Boris Johnson there.

We moved to Bennetts Road when our old home was demolished, and Consuelo died about six years ago. You have good days and bad days on your own. I miss her. She was my reason to be. Luckily, I had some good friends to help me through it, and my son and grandchildren, Freya and Aaram, too.

I was invited to a debate recently by the Oxford Union at St Catherine’s College. The debate was on whether force can be justified in defending human rights. I was speaking alongside a human rights lawyer and a journalist for The Economist, against a panel including Edward McMillan-Scott, the Vice President of the European parliament.I was absolutely bricking it, but I felt I did very well and we won the debate.

The Peace Party is quite radical. If you read our charter,  you’ll see what I mean. But it’s the same message - peace, love, respect, justice, tolerance.  We are an anti-war party, and that is a hard sell.

The hippy communes have all gone now. But there are a lot of people whose lives were changed by the hippy philosophy. People who follow their heart, not their head.

I decided in 1972 to devote my life to Peace. It will be my life until the day I depart. I believe I sell the best product in the world - peace. It is a shame it’s such a hard sell. I guess there’s no profit in it.