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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We met one of Ireland’s most experienced broadcasters Declan Meehan recently to discuss his significant contribution to Irish pirate radio history and Irish radio in general over the past 50 years.
In the first part of a long interview, Declan discusses the early years of his involvement in the Dublin pirate scene spanning small stations such as Radio Vanessa and Radio Milinda and larger, more professional operations like ARD. He describes his unhappy move to the new RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979 and how he went on to work for the first of the superpirates, Sunshine Radio, where he met Chris Cary.
The interview includes references to many of the best-known names in Irish radio over the past half-century.
We interview journalist Gareth O’Connor about his memories of KITS (837 AM and 101 FM) in Monaghan Town in 1987 and 1988. KITS came on the air towards the end of the pirate era and, like other border stations, gained listeners and advertisers both north and south. Gareth tells us about how he became interested in radio and how a decisive Christmas Day phone call launched his broadcasting career. He also pays tribute to station owner the late Frank McCarthy and discusses the impact of the pirates on Monaghan and further afield.
Gareth went on to work as a journalist with many broadcasters including Northern Sound, Century Radio, RTÉ, 98FM, Today FM, East Coast FM, LMFM and Radio Nova. He has also contributed to temporary station Walk in My Shoes Radio and is a regular on Christmas FM. Gareth currently works as an Executive Producer at Virgin Media Ireland.