Northeast series: Boyneside Radio

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio
Boyneside Radio flyer from 1981 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Today we bring you two recordings of Boyneside Radio from spring 1981, not long before the station split. The first extract above is an aircheck of Daire Nelson, a well-known presenter on Boyneside and other stations in the northeast, on his overnight programme in May 1981. Although it sounds like a live show, the overnight tapes at Boyneside were pre-recorded. At the end, Daire hands over to Eric Vaughan on the breakfast show. Sound quality is excellent so this is either a studio copy or was recorded from 99.2 FM in the town. Daire cut his radio teeth at Midland Radio in Athlone in 1979 before moving to North East Radio in Dundalk. He also worked in Radio Carousel, East Coast Radio in Ardee, Radio West in Mullingar and was a familiar voice on the northeast’s licensed station LMFM after 1989.

The second recording below is an airchecked version of Eric Vaughan on an overnight show on Boyneside, also from May 1981.

Many thanks to Eddie Caffrey for donating these recordings and to Ian Biggar for additional information.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio
L-R: Ken Murray, Eric Vaughan, Gavin Duffy & Eddie Caffrey at Boyneside in 1981 (photo courtesy Eddie Caffrey)

Today we bring you three short recordings of Boyneside Radio in 1980 and 1981. The first recording above is a bit of a scoop – an interview by Ken Murray with Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich on 19th March 1980. The Catholic Primate of All Ireland was in Drogheda to accept the award of freeman of the town. Cardinal Ó Fiaich was well aware of the importance of local radio but stopped short of calling for it to be licensed!

The second recording below is an airchecked version of Eddie Caffrey’s afternoon show with Áine Ní Ghuidhir on news on April 14th 1980.

Finally, from sometime in 1981, a recording of Gavin Duffy announcing a meeting in Drogheda to discuss the future of local radio, presumably called after the publication of the Independent Local Radio Authority Bill on 1st May that year.

We thank Eddie Caffrey for donating these recordings.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Local Radio Drogheda

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Local Radio Drogheda
Eric Vaughan in Boyneside Radio in 1980 (photo courtesy of Eddie Caffrey).

This is a day-long airchecked recording of Local Radio Drogheda from August 1979 when it was beginning to identify as Boyneside Radio. The programme opens with the end of David Browne’s breakfast show which is followed by David (aka Michael Comyn, now of RTÉ) reading the 10am news which includes the tragedy of the Fastnet yacht race off Co. Cork in which 19 people were killed. Eric Vaughan (aka Griffin) is then heard on the mid-morning show which is followed at 12 noon by a religious reflection (in later years, Boyneside would broadcast the Angelus at 12 and 6pm). Future Irish presidential candidate Gavin Duffy is next, followed by Heady Eddie Caffrey from 2-4pm. Main lunchtime news is read by Áine Ní Ghuidhir who refers to the ‘LRD newsdesk’, and Áine herself is to take over as presenter at 4pm following Eddie.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Local Radio Drogheda
A photograph of the Boyneside transmitter at Donaghy’s Mill from the Swedish magazine DX Gnisten (photo courtesy of Eddie Caffrey).

This is a unique opportunity to experience the early sound of Local Radio Drogheda as it transformed itself into Boyneside Radio. The recording was made from 0942-1600 on 14th August 1979 and is courtesy of Ian Biggar.

Airchecks: Northern Radio

Airchecks: Northern Radio
A Northern Radio letterhead (courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

Northern Radio broadcast from 1980 to 1982 from Omeath, just a few kilometres south of the border. We bring you a synopsis of the station’s history written by Ian Biggar.

Northern Radio was set up to serve listeners in the northeast border counties and attract advertisers from those areas. Most of the advertising seemed to come from Newry and Rostrevor. The man behind the station was Marty Donnan, who later went on to work for Downtown Radio and BBC Radio Ulster. Disc jockeys included Andrew Gold and Davy Hamill, both of whom subsequently worked for other stations around this part of the border.

The first note we have of the station is from January 1980 when it was announced as operating on 1278 kHz or 230 metres. However, any logs I have seen of the station have given the actual frequency as 1296 or 1298 kHz. The transmitter was built by Bill Ebrill from Dublin and would give around 300 watts output. The station was located in what was described as a ‘ramshackle caravan’ beside the Park Hotel in Omeath, a location that according to some was not the best for getting a signal out.

Airchecks: Northern Radio
A distant shot of the Park Hotel on a wet day, from the main road (photo by John Walsh).

In the early days Northern Radio seemed to have quite a full schedule, including a country and western programme. The schedule became more erratic with the passage of time, if and when someone turned up to do a programme. Anoraks Ireland visited the station in February 1982, only to find it deserted with a pre-recorded tape running. Northern Radio may have been off the air for a period as in the July 1982 edition of Short Wave News, Paul Davidson notes the station on 1314 kHz and asks: ‘is it back on air?’

On a further visit in August 1982, Paul Davidson was told that programmes were live whenever transport was laid on for the DJs to come from Rostrevor, otherwise it was tapes from 0800-1800. This August visit was probably towards the end of the station’s life because in the October edition of Short Wave News, Paul Davidson reported that Northern Radio had closed. Marty Donnan and other staff joined Boyneside Radio’s new border station which started broadcasting on 1233 kHz in early autumn 1982.

Airchecks: Northern Radio
A sign indicating renovations to the Park Hotel in 2020 (photo by John Walsh).

The recording above is an aircheck of Andrew Gold’s show on 30th January 1980 from 1410-1615. It features ads from Newry and Warrenpoint and Andrew with plenty of chatter, birthday requests, horoscopes and even references to dogs and cattle in and around the studio. As darkness falls, co-channel interference from an overseas station is heard. The shorter recording below is an aircheck from 2nd February 1980 and features Hugh Farrell with news, Des Carson’s country music show and Andrew Gold with music and sports results.

Various presenters on Northern Radio, 2nd February 1980.

Airchecks: North East Radio

Airchecks: North East Radio
North East Radio’s mobile studio (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

North East Radio (NER) was a short-lived station in Dundalk in 1979-1980. We thank Ian Biggar of DX Archive for the recording and for writing this account of the station’s history.

As it became clear that the days of Radio Dundalk were numbered, a man called Gerry Duffy began looking for investors for a new station in the town. Seeing the prospects of local commercial radio, it did not take too long before some local businessmen were willing to invest in the project and provide secure financial backing, along with Dr. Don Moore of Dublin pirate radio fame. Studios were built in the Imperial Hotel and aerial masts erected on the building roof. A transmitter was obtained, built by Declan Kane from Dublin, who had done similar work for ARD. The rig was allegedly running some 800 watts of power.

The station went on air in October 1979 on 1196 kHz (off channel), announced as 257 metres. From the start the station broadcast nonstop, 24 hours a day with slogans like ‘North East Radio – the station that never sleeps’ and ‘Your slice of heaven on 257’. NER was set up in direct competition to Radio Carousel which by this time had become rather stale. It was hoped that the new station could gain a share in the lucrative advertising market in the area. Listeners found the programming a refreshing change from Carousel and the station’s future looked bright. Crispian St. John, a well known broadcaster on the offshore stations Radio Nordsee International and Radio Caroline joined NER, as well as local talent such as Owen Larkin, Alec Fennell and Daire Nelson.

Airchecks: North East Radio
The NER aerial at the original Imperial Hotel in Dundalk (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

However, as 1980 progressed, technical problems beset the station. Disagreements between station staff and the engineer caused the latter to depart. This left the transmitter in the hands of the station staff, resulting in a deterioration of audio quality. Meantime management-staff relations were growing sour, as a result of presenters claiming they were not being paid for work done.

In June 1980, FRC Ireland reported that a mobile CB operator just outside the hotel caused the NER transmitter to blow up. This put the station off air for almost a week while the damaged transmitter was repaired. Eddie Caffrey also recalls an incident where a staff member attempted to change the off-channel 1196 kHz crystal for the new channel 1197. Because the individual did this while the rig was switched on, it caused damage. The station engineer constructed a new transmitter employing parts of the original rig with parts of the standby transmitter.

While this combination of transmitters worked satisfactorily, it produced some harmonics on the trawler band. Anglesey lifeboat radio in north Wales noted interference to their transmissions and the source was named as North East Radio. In fact, in the August 1980 issue of Short Wave News, two DXers in England reported reception of NER on 2394 kHz, the second harmonic of the fundamental 1197 kHz. An official complaint was sent to the Irish Department of Posts and Telegraphs and they in turn contacted NER. The station was given 24 hours to sort out the problem. The staff decided to switch the transmitter off until the problems could be fixed.

Airchecks: North East Radio
The late Alec Evans (Alec Fennell) in the NER studio (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

Meantime the hotel owners were growing unhappy with the presence of the station and the financial backers were becoming disillusioned. In late August 1980 the hotel indicated that NER would have to vacate the studios and remove the twin 100-foot aerial towers within a week. We don’t have an exact date of closure of North East Radio, but assume it was sometime during August 1980. It was a sad ending to a station that started with such positive prospects.

The recording consists of airchecks of the station on 31st January 1980 and features Dara Nelson, Crispian St. John, Gerry D., Phil Llewelyn and Alec Evans. There is a fresh sound with plenty of ads, professional links and station idents voiced by Tony Allen.