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.

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.