This recording of County Sound is from 101 FM on the 23rd or 24th of July 1988 and features Ciaran Wilson (Brannelly) on air. Charley Anderson of the Irish reggae group Century Steel Band, who are in town for Galway Race Week, is in studio and livens up proceedings. Century Steel Band’s version of the popular ballad ‘The Fields of Athenry’ is played and there’s a competition for listeners to win a 12-inch by the band.
Evidence of the success of County Sound is provided by the large number of adverts, many voiced by Jon Richards, now of Galway Bay FM, who was the overnight presenter. A temporary offshoot of County Sound, Tuam Festival Radio, is also mentioned. Thanks to Ciaran Brannelly for this donation.
Over the coming days we’ll bring you recordings of the popular Galway station County Sound which broadcast first from Tuam and then Galway City in 1987 and 1988. This recording is from 1607-1707 on the 3rd of April 1988, Easter Sunday, and features Ciaran Wilson (Brannelly) on air. Ciaran interviews Dave West of the Coventry band The Bonediggers who were busking in Galway at the time, as well as the band manager Gerard Joyce who is Irish. The programme contains an interesting discussion of the independent Irish and UK music scene and focuses on the challenges of being a band from the English midlands when so much of the scene is based in London. There are references to the importance of radio play for small bands of the 1980s attempting to break through. The Bonediggers also express their desire to meet the Galway singer Mary Coughlan, who was enjoying national success at the time.
County Sound broadcast on 101 FM to Galway and also had transmitters covering the county on 96.4 and Ballinasloe on 95.8. We thank Ciaran Brannelly for his donation of this recording.
Radio Renmore was one of a number of short-lived low-powered Galway pirates in the early 1980s. It broadcast from August 1983 until early 1985 from a converted garage in the eastern suburb of Renmore with a power of 5 watts on 101 FM. Set up by three teenagers, Gary Hardiman, Tom Breen and Brendan Mee, Radio Renmore broadcast from Brendan’s garage during the school holidays. It was known as Radio Snowflake when it returned at Christmas 1983. The station moved to the house of Brian Walsh in the summer of 1984 and changed its name to Renmore Local Radio. The better site next to Lough Atalia boosted its signal into the city. These undated recordings are from 1983 and 1984 and include station promos, news and adverts for local businesses.
We thanks Brendan Mee for background information and for the recording and Gary Hardiman for photos. Tomorrow we bring you an interview with Tom Breen about his memories of this and other small Galway hobby stations.
Independent Radio Galway (IRG) was arguably the closest Galway got to having a full-time community station during the pirate era. Some of the larger Galway stations of the 1980s provided variety in their schedule and carried community news. However, there was no long-term station embedded firmly in the community radio ethos represented by the National Association of Community Broadcasters which included pioneering stations such as BLB and NDCR.
IRG began test transmissions on the 15th of April 1978 with a full service planned from the 17th of April. Similar to many other similar stations, the pirate venture followed an RTÉ local radio experiment in Galway and in fact planned to use the same frequency, 202 metres (1485 kHz). According to the Connacht Tribune of the 14th of April, IRG was planning a light entertainment service with no news bulletins and a minimal amount of interviews due to a lack of equipment. The start-up cost was only £400 and IRG initially broadcast for just four hours a day from a one-room studio in a shopping centre in William Street in the city centre. In the end the frequency was 199 metres and jingles including ‘199’ were famously sung by the choir of University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland, Galway).
In June 1978 IRG was raided and equipment confiscated by officials of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs but the station soon returned with a standby transmitter. On the 20th of July 1979 the Tribune reported financial problems at IRG and the threat of closure was mooted, with the owners attributing a major loss in advertising revenue to the arrival of RTÉ Radio 2 the previous May. IRG closed officially at 8pm on the 29th of July 1979, thereby ending Galway’s short-lived community radio experiment.
This partially airchecked recording is possibly from two separate undated days in May 1979 from around 11.00am. The presenter is Chris Williams and ‘Auntie Mamie’ dispenses advice to expectant mothers, recommends discipline for children and promotes buying Irish produce. There are references to other presenters Paul Jones (Mike Mulkerrins) and Billy McCoy (Liam Stenson). We thank Ian Biggar for his donation of this recording (originally made by Dave Small, Liam Stenson for information and Joe O’Shaughnessy for the photographs.
Women’s Scéal Radio was an intermittent pirate station broadcasting in Galway from 1986 to 1988. It was run by the peace activist and feminist campaigner Margaretta D’Arcy from her home at Woodquay in Galway City. ‘Scéal’ is the Irish for ‘story’ and the aims were to allow women free access to tell their stories on radio and to campaign against censorship. The station continued in 1989 under the name of Radio Pirate Woman and continued to operate intermittently until about 2010. In 1996 Margaretta D’Arcy wrote about her radio philosophy in a book called Galway’s Pirate Women: a Global Trawl. This video, produced by Radio Pirate Woman, gives a flavour of an anarchic and unique station, undoubtedly the most distinctive in Galway pirate radio history. The voice of Margaretta D’Arcy announcing both stations can be heard on the audio track above.
Technical standards were not important and equipment consisted mostly of a microphone and tape recorder with women sitting around the kitchen table. One of those involved, Maureen Maguire, can be heard here. Margaretta D’Arcy boasted to the City Tribune in 1988 that it had cost her only £50 to go on air. The station generally broadcast for a few hours during the day and again from midnight, and also played tapes from or linked up with women’s radio stations around the world. As well as defying broadcasting legislation, particularly after 1989, it also gave out information about abortion and interviewed members of Sinn Féin, both of which were also prohibited at the time. Flyers for Radio Pirate Woman said it could be picked up only over a two-mile radius of Galway city centre. Frequencies mentioned over the years were 102 and 106 FM.
In 2014, Margaretta D’Arcy, then aged 80, served two prison sentences over her opposition to use by the US of Shannon Airport for military purposes. In 2017 she donated her papers and those of her late husband, playwright John Arden to the National University of Ireland, Galway. These included hundreds of cassettes containing recordings of Radio Pirate Woman. The launch was featured on the December 2017 edition of Wireless on Flirt FM which included an extract from D’Arcy’s speech describing the importance of pirate radio to the women’s movement.