Aircheck: Christian Community Radio

St. Andrew’s Church, Westland Row where Christian Community Radio often recorded prayers. Photo credit: Wikipedia/DubhEire/CC0.

This is a recording of one of the more eccentric pirate stations in Dublin in the 1980s, Christian Community Radio which operated from the leafy Merrion Square district in the south city centre. Christian Community Radio was run by the Catholic solicitor Gerry O’Mahony who was a leading campaigner against the liberalisation of Irish society in the conservative 1980s. The recording from sometime in 1985 begins with a quick bandscan down the dial to 90.2 MHz FM, where Christian Community Radio could just about be picked up in our corner of the northeast of Dublin. O’Mahony can be heard leading prayers and then introducing the rosary from a city centre church with a large crowd providing the responses. Even allowing for the weak FM signal the sound quality is very poor but low production standards were one of the hallmarks of the station.

The recording is as much a reminder of the terrible technical standards of some of the pirates as it is of the socially conservative nature of Irish society during that time. Most of the Dublin pirates challenged that status quo but some like Christian Community Radio wanted to maintain it. We’re not sure when Christian Community Radio closed down but an infamous row live on air between O’Mahony and Ireland’s foremost radio broadcaster Gay Byrne late in 1987 may have hastened the station’s demise.

Aircheck: Liberties Local Community Radio

Car sticker for LLCR courtesy of DX Archive

This is a recording of the first day of Liberties Local Community Radio (LLCR) from April 4 1986. The presenter is Paul Barrett and this is aircheck includes jingles and a helpful interjection from Brian Greene who informs us that the FM transmitter on 96.7 was running 50 watts. There’s a change in sound quality half-way through, when it seems the source was switched from FM to the AM transmitter on 1035 kHz.

LLCR broadcast from Weaver Square in the Liberties until 1988 during which time it changed format and name several times. You can hear LLCR jingles here.

Aircheck: Radio Nova from 1985

Jessie Brandon on offshore pirate Laser 558 in 1984. Courtesy offshoreradio.co.uk and Offshore Echoes magazine.

This is an aircheck of Radio Nova from September 29th 1985, featuring legendary American DJ Jessie Brandon who took up a job with the new offshore pirate Laser 558 in 1984. Jessie moved to Nova in 1985 and was one of only a handful of female presenters on the commercial pirates of the era. In this recording she plays ‘the JAM song’, a selection of jingles made by JAM Creative Productions in Dallas, Texas whose clients included Radio Nova. There’s an interesting interview with Jessie in Charlie Connelly’s excellent book Last Train to Hilversum.

The recording also includes a promo for the new ‘Zoo Crew’, presented by Colm Hayes and Bob Gallico, a riotous breakfast show which ran from October 7th 1985 to January 24th 1986. Sybil Fennell is also heard on news but a bitter dispute between Nova and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) had resumed by this time and contributed to the demise of the station in March 1986.

According to Nova fan Kevin Branigan, September 1985 was a pivotal month for the station. At the start of the month, Nova was powerful and untouchable, was giving away £10,000 in cash, still running easy listening station Magic 103 and packing out club night Disco Nova. By the end of September Chris Cary had closed Magic 103, fired the journalists, the NUJ was back on strike and big name DJs were departing for other stations such as the rival Q102. Magic 103 transmitters and studio equipment were sold by Cary to Q102, allowing it to surround Nova on the FM Band and with the help of ex-Nova talent, move into the big league. It was the beginning of the end.

We thank Kevin Branigan and Ian Biggar for help with information and analysis.

Aircheck: Chris Cary on Radio Nova

Chris Cary in a Radio Nova promotional photo. Courtesy offshoreradio.co.uk

This is a recording of Radio Nova boss Chris Cary presenting the European Top 40 on Sunday August 4th 1985. The hits included songs by Sister Sledge, Opus, Eurythmics and Tina Turner while Madonna was at Number 1.

The European Top 40 was broadcast weekly on Nova and compiled from record sales and radio airplay across Europe. The fact that Nova was involved was evidence of its influence in radio circles beyond Ireland. Cary credits Sybil Fennell as researcher and producer of the show.

The aircheck also includes news with Bernie Jameson.

Aircheck: Munster Broadcasting Corporation (Limerick)

An advertisment for MBC from Phoenix Magazine in 1986, courtesy of Eddie Bohan

Limerick really punched above its weight in the golden age of pirate radio prior to 1989. There is some good material online about the Limerick stations including a blog about Big L, Liam Byrne’s radio site, the DX Archive Limerick pages and our own entries featuring Limerick. This recording from July 1986 provides a snapshot of one of the city’s lesser-known pirates at the time, the Munster Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) which despite the grandiose name operated from a tiny attic studio on Catherine Street in the city centre.

17 Catherine Street, Limerick today. MBC broadcast from the attic.

MBC was linked to earlier Limerick stations Radio Vera and Radio Munster. A corporation it wasn’t, and it certainly didn’t broadcast to the whole of Munster, although there were some ads from Tipperary and they claimed to have three FM frequencies covering Limerick, Clare and Tipperary. There was nothing remarkable about the music on MBC – it was the usual diet of the Top 40 – but it was a presenter calling himself Will Rogers who made an impact during our short visit to Limerick in 1986. He did a lunchtime show and also voiced most of the ads and jingles in one of the stranger mid-Atlantic accents of pirate radio in the 1980s.

Interview: Jimmy St. Ledger (Premier Radio International)

Premier Radio International logo (courtesy of DX Archive)

We bring you an interview with Jimmy St. Ledger (Jimmy Howlett) of Premier Radio International, a long-running shortwave pirate station from Ireland. Premier began broadcasting on medium wave in 1976 and went on shortwave soon after. Jimmy’s first transmitter was used to broadcast Radio Cill Dara from Naas. He was also involved with Radio Dublin before the splits of the late 1970s. The interviewer is Eolann Aitken.

Premier continued on and off over the years and was among a small number to return to the air following the closedowns of 1988. It continues to broadcast today on shortwave as a hobby station. Further information is available on its website.

Interview: Ger Sweeney (Raidió Luimní, City Centre Radio, Hits 954, Coast 103)

John ‘The Man’ Frawley of Raidió Luimní. Image courtesy of Eddie Bohan.

We’ve covered the Limerick pirate scene regularly in this archive and there’s no doubt that despite its size, Limerick punched above its weight in radio terms during the pirate era. We’re delighted to bring you an interview with Ger Sweeney who worked in many of the city’s stations from the early 1980s.

Programme schedule from 1984 for Raidió Luimní. Image courtesy of Ger Sweeney.

Ger began broadcasting when only 13 years old on Raidió Luimní run by the popular character John ‘The Man’ Frawley from 1978 to 1988. Raidió Luimní was a community station with a difference featuring local characters, death notices and all sorts of eclectic programming.

Ger Sweeney in CCR in 1985 or 1986. Image courtesy of Ger Sweeney.

Ger moved to City Centre Radio (CCR) in 1985 where production standards were higher and the emphasis was on pop music. He switched to Hits 954 in 1987, a slicker station featuring many former Radio Caroline presenters. His final stint with pirate radio was with Coast 103 in Galway up to the closedown at the end of 1988. The interviewer is John Walsh.

Ger in Hits 954 in 1987 or 1988. Image courtesy of Ger Sweeney.

Ger went on to work in licensed local stations Clare FM and Radio Limerick One. You can hear a documentary about the Limerick pirates here and another interview about Limerick pirate history here.

Interview: Dave Reddy (Radio Sandymount)

In this interview, Dave Reddy recalls his involvement in ARD (Alternative Radio Dublin) and Radio 257 at the end of the 1970s. Dave would go to to establish what would today be called ‘pop-up’ community stations, starting with Radio Sandymount in 1984.

Radio Sandymount went on air as part of a community festival in that area and Dave Reddy explains that the model was soon to be requested by community groups elsewhere, leading to similar short-term stations in Ringsend, Donnybrook and Wicklow. Dave was also founder of the first Christmas station Radio Snowflake, which is now run by David Baker who himself broadcast on the 1980s pop-up stations and many other pirates.

The interviewer is Eolann Aitken. You can listen to a recording of Radio Donnybrook here.

Panel: Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB)

BLB car sticker (courtesy DX Archive)

Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) was a pioneer in Irish community radio and spent almost ten years on air from 1979 to 1988. Based in the north Wicklow town, it focused on local speech content and specialist music in contrast with other stations broadcasting pop music. BLB’s innovative approach inspired other stations in Ireland and it also attracted interest in community radio circles abroad. The station broadcast on AM (837 kHz and later 657) and FM and could be heard well beyond Bray in its later years. You can read more about BLB here.

This fascinating panel discussion features three founding members of BLB: Mark Quinn, Michael Gray and Doug Bel-Maguire. The interviewer is Eolann Aitken.

Interview: Kildare pirates

Despite its proximity to Dublin, Kildare had its own pirate stations down the years, including Radio Cill Dara (Naas) and KLB Community Radio (Newbridge). In this interview, Liam Kett and Anthony McAllister recall their involvement in both stations as well as a stint spent at Radio Dublin.

Radio Cill Dara broadcast from 1978-1983 on AM only (270m/1107 kHz). KLB was on air from 1983-1988 and broadcast on both AM (1224 kHz) and FM.

Liam and Anthony recall in the early years that there were fall-back transmitters and premises across the county in the case of raids. They also tell us that high-profile current RTÉ broadcasters Ray D’Arcy and Ronan Collins both cut their teeth in the Kildare stations. Liam Kett is now a presenter on the local Kildare station KFM. The interviewer is Eolann Aitken.