We’re delighted to bring you an interview with Tom Breen about his memories of the early years of the Galway pirates from 1980-1984. Following the closure of IRG in 1979, Galway relied on small, low-powered pirates such as Claddagh Community Radio (in the Claddagh just west of the city centre) and Tom’s own Radio Ballybane located in the eastern suburb of the same name. He also recalls another short-lived station calling itself Radio Eyre (named after Galway’s Eyre Square), involving Liam Stenson and others formerly involved with Independent Radio Galway. The Connacht Sentinel reported that Radio Eyre came on the air at the beginning of June 1982.
Tom remembers his involvement with West Coast Community Radio (WCCR) which broadcast from March 1982 until July 1983, first from near Cloonacauneen Castle north of Galway and then from a frozen chicken factory in the eastern suburb of Roscam. WCCR was the largest station in Galway since the closure of IRG and became a full-time operation. It received its AM transmitter from a station called WKRC in Newbridge, Co. Kildare and while quite low-powered (80-100 watts), managed to boost its signal to cover the city and beyond. Tom was also one of those who set up Radio Renmore/Renmore Local Radio, which broadcast on very low power on 101 FM from the Renmore area to the east. Thanks to Ian Biggar for additional information.
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.
KFM, also known as Galway County Radio, broadcast from 1986 to 1988 from a village west of Galway before moving into the city itself. It was set up by Shane Martin and John Browne in November 1986 and broadcast initially on 99 FM for 12 and a half hours a day, from 7.30am to 8.00pm. The transmitter site was over 130 metres above sea level in Moycullen, a village 12 kilometres west of Galway, and this gave it a large coverage area. An entry from KFM in the Anoraks UK Weekly Report of February the 1st 1987 claimed that the station was covering an 80-kilometre radius and that it would soon be extended to specialist programming and community information. An AM channel was also promised although this never materialised.
By June 1987, KFM was broadcasting 24 hours a day and claiming to cover both Galway City and Co. Galway, including Connemara. The station told Weekly Report that it was aimed at the 20-50 audience and had a minimum of 15 percent programming in Irish and English, reflecting the fact that part of the Connemara is a Gaeltacht area. KFM also produced a bilingual leaflet, in which it announced its intention to seek a licence.
At this stage KFM was on 95, 99 and 99.3 FM and was reported to be listenable as far east as Ballinasloe. There were also reception reports from as far south as Ennis in Co. Clare. In November 1987, KFM moved into Galway City, adding to the competition between the pirates there. Coast 103 were the most successful city station at the time but in early 1988 the Tuam station County Sound would also move into Galway. Like most other stations, KFM closed down on the 31st of December 1988.
This recording of KFM was made from 96 FM on the 24th of September 1988 from 2222-2310 and features Shane Keating on air. There are requests for ‘madly in love’ couples and a mixture of pop music and oldies. Keating was clearly a bit of an anorak: he mentions listening to RTÉ Radio 2 on AM in Birmingham and promises a new programme for DXers, with a special focus on shortwave. We thank Ian Biggar for the donation. This was originally recorded by John Breslin in Co. Clare and being outside the core coverage area, audio quality is fair. Thanks also to Shane Martin for further information.
Emerald Radio was a part-time hobby station broadcasting on 97.5 FM from the Shantalla area of Galway City in 1986 and 1987. It came on the air in June 1986 and was run by the 20-year-old Dónal Mahon. According to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report, Emerald was a summer operation running from June to September and closed down at the end of the school holidays. It described Emerald Radio as ‘surprisingly professional’ with ‘nice equipment and pleasant audio’. Emerald FM was included as an irregular operator by Anoraks Ireland in their listing of November 1986, with a plan to return at Christmas.
In February 1987, the Galway City Tribune reported that Dónal Mahon (named in the report as Dónal Murphy) intended to relaunch Emerald commercially following the success of the previous summer, but that 97.5 FM was being used by a country music pirate called WMAQ. When Emerald moved to other frequencies, Mahon complained that they were followed each time and jammed by WMAQ. According to the Tribune, he traced the offending signal to the address of the main Galway pirate WLS but the owner denied any involvement.
These jingles for Emerald Radio were unusual in that they were professionally produced by Alfasound with specific reference to the west of Ireland. There are also some generic jingles and idents for presenters including Gary Hardiman, one of the founders of Radio Renmore, and Dónal Mahon himself. We thank Brendan Mee for donating these jingles to the archive.