Aircheck: remix of Gay Byrne Show announcing legalisation of radio

This recording is a remix of the Gay Byrne Show on RTÉ Radio 1 from 17 October 1988, the day that the newly-established Independent Radio and Television Commission published advertisements for the first independent radio licences designed to put the pirates off the air. Byrne seems dismissive of the initiative which would of course threaten his show’s dominance in the market, and appears to be imitating a folksy but clumsy pirate radio presenter. His kitsch portrayal of an amateur local pirate is part of Byrne’s theatre of the mind and evokes stereotypical illegal broadcasters of an earlier era. 

Gay Byrne’s voice, remixed by Brian Greene with Queen’s Radio Gaga, was broadcast on Centre Radio in Bayside, Dublin 13 at the end of 1988 up to the closedown.

RIP Gay. Your voice was part of the soundtrack of our youth during the pirate era.

Interview: Paul Kelly (Radio Clare, Radio Munster, Hits 954)

The corner of Parnell Street and Shannon Street in Limerick. One of the bigger Limerick pirates of the 1980s, City Centre Radio (CCR), was located in the yellow building.

In this interview, Paul Kelly remembers working as a presenter on pirate radio stations in Clare and Limerick in 1987 and 1988. He began at Radio Clare in Ennis in 1987 and recalls the very basic studio and transmitter set-up before better equipment was installed with the assistance of Big L in Limerick. Paul then moved on to Limerick city stations Radio Munster and the more formatted Hits 954. He also discusses the bandscans that he did in Limerick in the final weeks and days of the pirates in December 1988. The interviewer is Mary Ryan.

Full recording – South Coast Radio (Cork)

South Coast Radio sticker (courtesy of DX Archive)

We are grateful to Ken O’Sullivan for his donation of this recording from the final days of the first incarnation of South Coast Radio in Cork.

The first South Coast began in 1982 and broadcast from studios above Henchy’s pub in St. Luke’s, Cork only to close on Friday 13th July 1984. This is a recording from the previous Sunday, 8th July. The station was revived temporarily in studios on North Main Street shortly afterwards but this was mostly a rebranding of another station and didn’t last long. There was a third generation when the station known as WBEN which broadcast from Cook Street changed its name to South Coast in 1987. They used some of the original equipment (record decks, cart machines and desk) and kept the name until closedown in December 1988. This was the final incarnation of South Coast Radio.

The disc jockey on this recording is Ken O’Sullivan under his pirate name Ken Regis with jingles and stings made by the late Keith York. Tony Allan and Rob Allen (still with Cork’s 96FM) provided voiceovers for the ads and promos.

You can listen to jingles from South Coast Radio here and WBEN here.

Interview: Ken Murray (LRD, Boyneside Radio, Radio Leinster)

The former site of Boyneside Radio in Mill Lane, Drogheda

In this interview, journalist Ken Murray recalls his memories of pirate radio in Louth and Dublin in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1979, he began working with Local Radio Drogheda which evolved into Boyneside Radio.

While in Drogheda, Ken set up ‘The Green Scene’ which is now the longest running programme on Irish commercial radio, presented on LMFM by Eddie Caffrey. Ken then moved to the Dublin station Radio Leinster which closed down suddenly in 1983 during the period of raids against the larger stations Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova. He went on to work as a journalist for RTÉ, LMFM and Independent Radio News and is now editor of EC Radio Ireland. Ken is interviewed by Mary Ryan.

Eddie Caffrey was himself a leading figure in the Louth pirates of the 1970s and 1980s. Listen here to him in a panel about the Louth pirates and here to an individual interview about his involvement in shortwave pirates.

Documentary: history of Community Radio Youghal

This summer, Community Radio Youghal celebrated 40 years since it began broadcasting as a pirate from the east Cork town. CRY was licensed as a community radio station in 1995 but its history stretches back to 1979 when it began broadcasting as a pirate.

See the DX Archive site for photos and history of CRY’s pirate days. You can listen to the current CRY here.

A special documentary, ‘Born in the USA’, aired by CRY on July 4th 2019 to mark its 40th birthday, was funded by Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

We thank CRY Manager Darragh Parker and Programme Director Justin Maher for granting us permission to share this.

Interview: Declan Meehan (part 2: 1982-1989)

Declan Meehan and John Walsh at East Coast FM in Bray where Declan has worked since 1994.

In the second part of our extended interview, long-time broadcaster Declan Meehan discusses his move from Sunshine to Radio Nova in 1982 which was by then the biggest station in Dublin. He tells us how Chris Cary copied the sound of KIIS FM in Los Angeles to bring a new broadcasting style to Ireland. Despite his love for Radio Nova, Declan left the station because of the bitter NUJ strike in 1984. Although he moved into licensed radio in the UK and Ireland after that, Declan’s involvement with the pirates didn’t quite end there. The interview concludes with Declan’s thoughts on the pirate legacy and his views on the state of radio today.

You can hear the first part of this interview here.

Interview: Declan Meehan (part 1: 1970-1982)

Declan Meehan and John Walsh at the studios of East Coast FM in Bray, where Declan has worked since 1994.

We met one of Ireland’s most experienced broadcasters Declan Meehan recently to discuss his significant contribution to Irish pirate radio history and Irish radio in general over the past 50 years.

In the first part of a long interview, Declan discusses the early years of his involvement in the Dublin pirate scene spanning small stations such as Radio Vanessa and Radio Milinda and larger, more professional operations like ARD. He describes his unhappy move to the new RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979 and how he went on to work for the first of the superpirates, Sunshine Radio, where he met Chris Cary.

The interview includes references to many of the best-known names in Irish radio over the past half-century.

Interview: Gareth O’Connor (KITS)

Gareth O’Connor in the KITS studio in 1988. Thanks to Gareth for the photo.

We interview journalist Gareth O’Connor about his memories of KITS (837 AM and 101 FM) in Monaghan Town in 1987 and 1988. KITS came on the air towards the end of the pirate era and, like other border stations, gained listeners and advertisers both north and south. Gareth tells us about how he became interested in radio and how a decisive Christmas Day phone call launched his broadcasting career. He also pays tribute to station owner the late Frank McCarthy and discusses the impact of the pirates on Monaghan and further afield.

Gareth went on to work as a journalist with many broadcasters including Northern Sound, Century Radio, RTÉ, 98FM, Today FM, East Coast FM, LMFM and Radio Nova. He has also contributed to temporary station Walk in My Shoes Radio and is a regular on Christmas FM. Gareth currently works as an Executive Producer at Virgin Media Ireland.

You can listen to KITS jingles here.

Documentary: Limerick a Radio City – Episode 1

‘Limerick a Radio City’ documents the history and development of radio in limerick city, from the ground-breaking broadcasts of Jim O’Carroll in the 1930s, the pirate heyday of the 70s and 80s, to the current licensed stations that exist there today.

The story is told by the pirates themselves most of whom progressed to legal licensed stations and some who still currently work in the licensed radio industry. Their anecdotal accounts are both factual as well as entertaining, as they describe the characters and incidents, especially throughout the 70s and 80s pirate era. Brushes with the law, the freedom and fun of alternative radio, the flamboyant talent and the positive impact pirate radio had on modern broadcasting, ‘Limerick a Radio City’ has got it all.

Documentary by Martin Ryan.

Aircheck: Pirates co-operate in charity marathon

Image courtesy of DX Archive

In 1986, three large pirate stations – Sunshine Radio in Dublin, ERI in Cork and ABC in Waterford – co-operated to jointly organise a 250-mile maxi-marathon between the three cities.

Here are two promos – the first from ERI and the second from ABC – voiced by Mark Byrne of Sunshine Radio. They are fascinating on so many levels: co-operation between pirate stations, a campaign backed by big commercial sponsors and funds raised going to a major charity, the Central Remedial Clinic.

This is a good example of how the archive can give us a more global view of what was happening in the 1980s. Listeners to each station did not know that all three stations were involved but the archive can tell us that. The level of co-operation surpasses what exists today between stations in the same large radio groups.

It also reminds us that despite often fierce local competition, stations from different parts of the country were willing to co-operate for charitable causes. No doubt they also had an eye to the impeding legalisation and wanted to position themselves as socially responsible.