A PIRATE radio stalwart has jumped ship after more than 40 years of helping to keep Radio Caroline on the airwaves.

Albert Hood, 80, from Windsor Avenue, Clacton, began his Radio Caroline career by running covert tenders from Brightlingsea to the station's pirate radio ships, Mi Amigo and later Ross Revenge, which were broadcasting from 16 miles off the Essex coast in international waters.

At the risk of prosecution and possible imprisonment Albert, with the assistance of his wife Georgena, took food, supplies, DJs, records and equipment out to the ships under the radar of the authorities and in often hazardous conditions.

The volunteer also played a role in the rescue operation the night the Mi Amigo sank and when the Ross Revenge ran aground on the Goodwin Sands, liaising with the authorities and rescue teams.

Staff and listeners gathered at the weekend to celebrate their longest serving supporter.

Speaking at a retirement event on Saturday, station manager Peter Moore thanked Albert and Georgena for their many years of support in good times and bad.

"The dedication of this wonderful couple has certainly helped Radio Caroline through some very difficult years," he said.

"I think it is fair to say that without their support the station would not be where it is today."

Presenter Ray Clark handed the couple a replica of Caroline's radio ship bell with an engraved dedication and a model of the Ross Revenge, the station's current radio ship.

In recent years Albert and his wife Georgena have been sending out merchandise and in October 2016 Albert started the official trips out to visit and tour Ross Revenge, which is now moored on the River Blackwater.

Radio Caroline now broadcasts 24 hours a day from land-based studios on 648 AM, on DAB and online.

One weekend a month the DJs return to the Ross Revenge for a live broadcast.

Around 50 visitors go out to the ship during these weekends to meet the DJs, tour the ship and experience a live broadcast.

For more information about the tours, go to radiocaroline.co.uk.