Northeast series: Local Radio Drogheda/Boyneside Radio

Northeast series: Local Radio Drogheda/Boyneside Radio
Early Boyneside Radio sticker, courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

Today we resume our series on the pirates of the northeast from the late 1970s to the end of 1988, beginning with a series of recordings of Boyneside Radio from Drogheda. We thank Ian Biggar for writing a history of the station and both Ian and Eddie Caffrey for donating recordings.

After the success of Radio Carousel in Dundalk from 1978 it was no surprise when a radio station started in the busy town of Drogheda in the south of Co. Louth. Local businessman Eobain McDonnell along with other investors like Frank Buckley made plans to start Local Radio Drogheda (LRD) in the town. The location was on top of the imposing Donaghy’s Mill sitting on the banks of the River Boyne. Studios were set up and a low power transmitter of only 9 watts was installed.

The station came on air in late November 1978 and was an immediate success with the local population. Initial transmissions were logged around 1310 kHz, but the station soon settled on its mainstay frequency of 1305 kHz, always announced as 225 metres.

In January 1979, LRD increased power to 50 watts and a couple of weeks later to 160 watts using an ex-IBA 2Kw rig, although it was not properly loaded into the aerial. However, in May the station suffered some technical problems along with an attempted raid. Despite this and the arrival of RTÉ Radio 2, listeners remained loyal to their local station. Another power increase in July 1979 to 400 watts eliminated some of the technical problems and the station was being heard well within a 45-mile radius of Drogheda.

By now LRD was employing 10 full time DJs covering the daily schedule from 0730-2100, along with two newsreaders and an NUJ news editor. Gavin Duffy and ‘Heady’ Eddie Caffrey joined the station from Radio Dundalk, as well as Eric Vaughan from Radio Carousel and Dara Nelson from NER. Later in 1980 Peter Madison, who was working as a chef in the Boyne Valley Hotel joined, initially presenting a weekly oldies show before going full time on breakfast.

Northeast series: Local Radio Drogheda/Boyneside Radio
Compliments slip for Eobain McDonnell who was also a builder and estate agent (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

As the station coverage grew beyond Drogheda, the station began to identify as Boyneside Radio, before dropping the LRD call sign all together by late summer 1979. The station was now well established and seen as one of the pioneers of local radio in Ireland. Despite Radio Carousel moving into the town in early 1980, Boyneside Radio was now established as the local station in Drogheda and was not impacted by the new arrival. It is likely that Carousel was viewed as a Dundalk station and therefore not particularly accepted in Drogheda. 

In the latter half of 1980 listeners were surprised to hear a loop tape on 1071 kHz identifying as Boyneside Radio 2. This was heard far and wide during the night. Eddie Caffrey has said that this was really just to hold the frequency as he had heard that Carousel might be planning to put a transmitter on there. Boyneside entered 1981 broadcasting 24 hours a day on 1305 kHz with around 1.5kW, as well as an FM frequency for the town on 99.2 MHz and another on 98.1 MHz. The latter was located on high ground to the north of Drogheda and gave good reception as far as south Co. Dublin.

In July 1981 Eobain McDonnell made an offer to Gavin Duffy and Eddie Caffrey that they could run the station for a weekly fee and that he would take no part in the operations of Boyneside. This was agreed and implemented, but very shortly Eobain had a change of heart and wanted to withdraw the offer. This was unacceptable for the team and resulted in a split in the station. Gavin, Eddie, Richard Crowley and others broke away with the intention of starting their own station. They took the high power transmitter, leaving Boyneside Radio only on FM. The studio equipment and records remained at Mill Lane, along with staff like Eric Vaughan, Dara Nelson and Áine Ní Ghuidhir (Ní Chairbre). What happened next was an interesting time for radio in Drogheda.

This recording is of Heady Eddie presenting the Top 30 on Boyneside on a Sunday afternoon from 1503-1600 in August 1979. Many thanks to Ian Biggar for the recording.

Full recording: County Sound (Galway)

Full recording: County Sound (Galway)
County Sound logo (thanks to Shane Martin for the enhancement).

This is the second part of a recording of Galway pirate County Sound, recorded from 101 FM on 2nd August 1988. From 0305-0600 the last few hours of Jon Richards can be heard on his overnight show. This is followed from 0600-0900 by the breakfast show presented by Tommy Kaye and by Jeff Collins from 0900-0930. This long recording gives a good sense of the popular Galway station and the styles of various presenters in the last few months of its existence.

For more recordings of this station, click on the County Sound tab. We thank Ian Biggar for his donation of this recording.

Full recording: County Sound (Galway)

Full recording: County Sound (Galway)
Jon Richards in the County Sound studio in 1988 (photo courtesy of Big Sam).

County Sound was one of the bigger Galway pirate stations and built up a considerable listenership during its relatively short period on air. County Sound began broadcasting on St. Patrick’s Day 1987 in the town of Tuam north of Galway before moving into the city in January 1988 where it continued until the end of 1988. There was fierce competition between County Sound and another large station Coast 103, which was located just a short distance away in the city centre. Both were professional operations and covered large areas of Co. Galway and beyond.

Jon Richards was County Sound’s overnight presenter and this recording features a segment of his show from midnight to 0240 on 2nd August 1988. Jon’s voice was also heard on many of the station’s ads and he went on to build a career in local radio from 1989 when Radio West (now Galway Bay FM) was licensed. Jon is currently Programme Director at Galway Bay FM and an interview with him can be heard here. Click on the County Sound tab if you want to hear other recordings of this station.

Tomorrow we’ll bring you the rest of this overnight programme and the breakfast show afterwards. Thanks to Ian Biggar for donating the recording.

Full recording: Dublin Broadcasting Corporation

Full recording: Dublin Broadcasting Corporation

The Dublin Broadcasting Corporation (sometimes Dublin Broadcasting Company) appeared briefly in 1984, broadcasting music and apparently fake adverts and promos. This recording was made from 98 FM from 1925-2010 on 5th March 1984 and features spoof promos sending up Radio Nova voiced by Nova staff as well as repeated use of an ad for Philips audio. The 98 FM frequency is the only one announced but the cassette box also logs 233 metres (1287 kHz). However, no pirate would dare to place itself right next to RTÉ Radio 2, then putting out high power on 1278 kHz. We have no further information about the Dublin Broadcasting Corporation but given the inconsistency with the name and the unusual content, it seems to have been a purely hobby station having a bit of fun in the crowded radio scene of the time.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.

Full recording: Radio West (Mullingar)

Full recording: Radio West (Mullingar)
Radio West compliments slip, courtesy of DX Archive.

Radio West was one of the large regional stations of the pirate era and even renamed itself ‘West National Radio 3’ in 1988 as it claimed to be broadcasting nationwide. Its 10kW transmitter on 765 kHz (later 702) gave it good coverage over a wide area and an infill AM on 711 kW was added for Galway in 1988. Radio West also had a chain of low-powered FM relays from Dublin to Galway but it was stretching the imagination to claim national coverage.

This recording is of the end of the Mike Young breakfast show from 0918-1003 on 2nd February 1984, recorded from 765 kHz in Dublin. There is some electrical interference with audio dropout from time to time and there seems to be some drift off channel by the end of the recording. Ads are heard from across the midland counties, some of which feature the voice of station owner Shaun Coyne. Idents are voiced by Tony Allan and interestingly the 10.00 news is a relay of Bob Gallico on Radio Nova in Dublin. We don’t know if there was ever a formal agreement with Nova to rebroadcast its news or if this is an example of piracy by one pirate from another – smaller stations were known to relay news from bigger stations and Radio Dublin infamously rebroadcast bulletins from RTÉ for a time.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.