Interview: Ian Biggar (part 2: ERI, Zee 103)

John Walsh interviewing Ian Biggar

Here is the second part of our interview with one-time broadcaster and long-time Irish pirate radio enthusiast Ian Biggar, recorded at his home in Harrogate in England.

In this part, Ian remembers his involvement with ERI in Cork and Zee 103 in Omeath, Co. Louth in the 1980s. He also tells us how he recorded thousands of hours of Irish pirates over the past 40 years and gives his views on the radio scene today.

Interview: Ian Biggar (part 1: Boyneside Radio, Radio Carousel)

We met one time broadcaster and long time enthusiast of Irish pirate radio Ian Biggar in Harrogate recently to discuss his love of the medium and his involvement in Irish stations.

John Walsh interviewing Ian Biggar

In the first part of a long interview, Ian talks about how he first got into pirate radio while still a child in Scotland. He then describes how he discovered the Irish scene and went on to work in the Co. Louth stations Boyneside Radio and Radio Carousel.

Doing some MW DXing with the help of a loop

Ian recorded thousands of hours of valuable Irish pirate radio and has contributed significantly to the DX Archive site. We’re very grateful to Ian for his time and hospitality during our visit to Harrogate and for his life-long dedication to preserving Irish pirate radio memories.

Full recording: KLAS 98.5 FM

Image courtesy of DX Archive

The Dublin pirates were not all about pop and some stations served niche audiences or specific demographics. One station playing easy listening and classical music was KLAS which broadcast on 98.5 FM from November 1986 until the end of 1988. The station was established by Radio Carousel boss Hugh Hardy from his home in the suburb of Sutton but after a change in management it changed its name slightly to Class Radio and moved to the city centre.

This recording is from early 1987 (we don’t have an exact date) and features David Baker on air. There are also agency ads and jingles. Thanks to David for the recording.

You can hear an interview with David Baker about his involvement in KLAS here. Co-founder of this site John Walsh was also involved in KLAS and has recorded his memories here.

Full recording: Centre Radio 94 FM

Centre Radio began as a hobby station on December 19th 1986 from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin and came on air during school holidays. Brian Greene of pirate.ie was one of the original founders and John Walsh was also involved. By 1987 the station had developed into a youth project and was training up to 80 young people in radio. From February 1988 Centre was on air every evening and weekend from Bayside. It was one of the last stations in Dublin to closedown at midnight on New Year’s Eve 1988.

This recording is of an oldies show presented by Bobby Gibbson (aka Brian Greene) on 25.09.88. It includes community news and stations idents by Richard Taylor (aka John Walsh). Despite the claims in the idents, Centre broadcast in mono only, with the exception of its overnight stereo relay of the Radio Nova satellite service via the former Southside Radio FM TX in Dublin. You can read more about the history of Centre here.

Feature: Pirate.ie discussed on Radio Survivor

On January 29th 2019 we were honoured to take part in a special edition of the Radio Survivor podcast dedicated to this archive. You can listen back here to an hour of discussion with Brian Greene and John Walsh about the story of Irish pirate radio, the aims behind the archive and the plans for the future.

Aircheck: Christian Community Radio

Dublin had a number of Catholic pirate radio stations during the 1980s. The Irish Christian Broadcasting Service (ICBS) broadcast mostly pre-recorded programmes on 1071 and later 981 kHz from Chapelizod from west Dublin. A more conservative outfit was Christian Community Radio operated by Catholic solicitor Gerry O’Mahony from Merrion Square in Dublin 2. O’Mahony was a leading campaigner against the liberalisation of Irish society in the 1980s and used his station to oppose gay rights, abortion and divorce. In 2008 he was banned by the Archbishop of Dublin from distributing leaflets in churches as part of a ‘prayer crusade’ against the Lisbon Treaty being debated at the time. Mr O’Mahony died that year aged 90.

Christian Community Radio is listed on 1512 kHz AM and 90.2 FM by Anoraks Ireland in November 1986. By July 1987, it was on 90.2 only. Sound quality and production standards were poor, the programmes consisting mostly of recordings of prayers and masses. The proximity of the Christian Community Radio frequency to a BBC Radio 1/2 transmitter on 90.1 MHz from Belfast prompted complaints from listeners and brought greater notoriety to the station. In October 1987 Gerry O’Mahony was interviewed on Ireland’s most-listened to radio programme, the Gay Byrne Show on RTÉ. He argued that the BBC signal was freak reception and even claimed brazenly that he had been licensed to broadcast. We’re not sure when Christian Community Radio closed down but there is no mention of the station in Anoraks Ireland lists from early 1988 and it is possible that the nationwide publicity provided by Gay Byrne could have sounded its death knell.

Airchecks: Radio West

Image courtesy of DX Archive

Radio West was a popular station which began broadcasting from Mullingar in Co. Westmeath in 1982. On low power initially on 1071 kHz, it bought Radio Nova’s original 10 kW transmitter and moved to 765 and then 702 kHz where it remained until the end of 1988.

By 1988, it also had a series of low-power FM transmitters and was boasting that it could be heard in 23 of the 26 counties. It even re-branded itself as ‘West National Radio 3’ and perhaps saw itself as a contender for a national commercial station as the licensed era approached. West also had an AM relay on 711 kHz covering Co. Galway and this promo from 1988 is aimed at attracting Galway businesses to advertise. Its owner Seán Coyne was involved in the licensed Galway station of the same name in the early 1990s. Radio West was eventually re-branded as Galway Bay FM.

Here is the introduction to the 6pm news from 30.08.88 including the end of an ad for Dunnes Stores, the top of the hour ident voiced by Derek Flood and the start of the news with Kevin Palmer.

The end of the 6pm news of the same date including part of the mart report for Tullamore. Radio West took its rural audience seriously and had regular mart reports for farmers.

More airchecks from 1988 including ads and jingles.

A jingle and news sting from 1987. 96.3 FM was just one of many FM frequencies used by Radio West.

A Tony Allan ident emphasising the ‘national’ coverage.

In this fascinating interview with engineer Gerry O’Reilly, the Radio West 10 kW transmitter is discussed.

Jingles: WBEN

Image courtesy of DX Archive

WBEN was founded in October 1985 by Peter O’Neill and Romano Macari. O’Neill had helped set up Radio City Cork in 1980 and later the original South Coast Radio. WBEN specialised in playing mainly American Top 40 and initially had no presenters. It broadcast on low-power FM in the city centre and therefore coverage was limited, although the station gained a following from shops looking for background music. In summer 1986 they replaced the automated style with presenters and introduced a medium wave transmitter on 1386 kHz.

O’Neill left Ireland temporarily in late 1986 and the station continued under Macari but changed format to mixed oldies, pop, showbands and an infamous late-night phone show presented by Macari himself. WBEN was eventually changed to South Coast Radio using the jingle package from the original station of that name and the station continued until December 31st 1988. O’Neill remains influential in Cork radio circles, having recently put Juice FM on the trial DAB service. He works as a lecturer in radio at CSN College of Further Education, Cork. This jingle package came from the original WBEN in Buffalo, New York.

With thanks to Martin O’Brien for the donation and Gearóid Quill for background information.  

Jingles: Liberties Local Community Radio

Image courtesy of DX Archive

Liberties Local Community Radio (LLCR) began broadcasting in March 1986 from Weaver Square in Dublin 8. It was run by Sammy Prendergast who was well known for installing aerials for pirate stations. LLCR broadcast on 1035 kHz AM using the old Capitol Radio rig which had been on 1017 kHz until shortly before then. It was also heard on 104 FM at a later stage.

Although LLCR began by emphasising its community roots in the Liberties, it never sounded like long-standing community stations such as BLB and NDCR. There was a lot of chopping and changing in Weaver Square during its two years on air but the station had its followers nonetheless. One of its most popular programmes was a hip-hop show presented by Tony Christie.

There was a lot of variation in the station’s name as these jingles and idents indicate, from LLCR to Liberties Radio to Liberty Radio. The station also announced Liberty 104 for a while and had jingles for Super Rock 104.

Various LLCR jingles from 1986
Top of the hour ident (1987) announcing Liberties Radio
Top of the hour ident (1988) announcing Liberty Radio

You can hear an aircheck of Teena Gates reading news on Liberty 104 here.

Full recording: Centre Radio 94 FM

Centre Radio began as a hobby station on December 19th 1986 from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin and came on air during school holidays. Brian Greene of pirate.ie was one of the original founders and John Walsh was also involved. By 1987 the station had developed into a youth project and was training up to 80 young people in radio. From February 1988 Centre was on air every evening and weekend from Bayside. It was one of the last stations in Dublin to closedown at midnight on New Year’s Eve 1988.

This recording is from 94 FM a few days prior to closedown, 27.12.88, and features a youthful Stephen Davitt (aka Daragh O’Sullivan) on air. You can read more about the history of Centre here.