ABC Radio was one of the smaller Dublin stations in the early 1980s, on air from November 1st 1981 until the end of May 1984. It was an offshoot of Radio Dublin Channel 2 and began broadcasting from the Ivy Rooms Hotel (now the Gate Hotel) on Parnell Street. The frequency was 1386 kHz (announced as 1385 or 217 metres) but there were problems with another pirate on the same frequency. In April 1982, ABC moved to 963 kHz (312 metres) but was again jammed by another pirate operator, causing a further move to 981 kHz although 963 continued to be announced. ABC was one of only two stations to remain on air following the raids on Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio in May 1983 when it began 24-hour broadcasting in response to listener demand.
There is a tribute site to ABC with more history and some images but lacking in audio. Recordings of the station are not widely available so we’re glad to bring you a selection of station IDs and promos from 1981-3. Sound quality isn’t great, reflecting poor AM transmitters and old cassettes, but the IDs feature the voice of Tony Allan and the aircheck includes Radio Nova’s news bulletin which was being rebroadcast by ABC for a while – a pirate pirating news from another pirate! ABC closed in May 1984 following an unsuccessful move to the disused State Cinema in Phibsboro. Another station, Radio Annabel, broadcast from the Ivy Rooms Hotel after ABC left.
This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
thanks to Martin O’Brien for the donation and Gearóid Quill for background information.
Liberties Local Community Radio (LLCR) began broadcasting in April 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.
You can hear an aircheck of Teena Gates reading news on Liberty 104 here.
Boyneside Radio from Co. Louth was one of the largest and most successful regional stations in Ireland during the 1980s. It broadcast for 10 years from 1978 to 1988 from Drogheda. During that decade Boyneside developed a series of additional transmitters and opt-out services in Navan, Kells, north Dublin and along the border aiming into Northern Ireland. Here’s a selection of jingles including a series of cuts introduced by station engineer Eddie Caffrey.
You can hear a panel discussion on the Louth pirates here and a separate interview with local veteran broadcaster Eddie Caffrey here. We also have a recording of how Boyneside covered the controversy about Radio Tara (to become Atlantic 252) in Co. Meath.
Another big Cork station from the early 1980s was South Coast Radio of which there were three incarnations between 1982 to 1988. The original South Coast (1982-1984) broadcast from above a pub in St. Luke’s in Cork on 1557 kHz (announced as 194 metres) and also 104 FM. During its existence the station had many high-profile broadcasters including Tony Allan, Nick Richards, John Kenny, Peter Madison, Henry Owens and Hugh Browne. Here are some of the South Coast jingles.
You can hear an interview with Nick Richards here about his involvement in other stations.
ERI (Eastside Radio Ireland) became Cork’s biggest pirate in the late 1980s. Beginning in the village of Ballycotton east of Cork City in 1982, it broadcast on 1305 kHz and 102 FM. This jingle package includes several references to 225 metres which corresponds to 1332 kHz, another frequency used for a while. ERI’s dominance in Cork was assured when it installed a powerful 5kW AM transmitter on the outskirts of the city and boosted its FM signal. It closed down at the end of 1988.
There were several stations calling themselves Capital or Capitol Radio at various times during the pirate era but one favourite of ours was Capitol Radio/Nitesky 96 which evolved from playing album tracks to indie and alternative music. Nitesky 96 was launched as a ‘sister station’ to Capitol in April 1986 and initially featured specialist programmes before settling into its own style of niche music drawing on the lively Dublin band scene. Its ‘Alternative Night’ at McGonagle’s nightclub in South Anne Street was highly popular towards the end of the station’s existence in 1988.
Capitol broadcast on 1017 kHz until early 1986 before selling its AM TX to the new Liberties Local Community Radio which took up position on 1035 kHz. For the remainder of its existence Capitol/Nitesky broadcast on 94.1 and 95.8 FM. Capitol’s jingle package was from the station of the same name in South Africa. Here’s a selection of those jingles along with some idents featuring Tony Allan and a Bill Mitchell ident for Nitesky.
Here is Capitol’s news sting. Like many others, Capitol downgraded its news service in later years and read a weather forecast at the top of the hour, using this sting. Other stations using this sting also included CBC in Clonmel and City Centre Radio in Limerick.