Dublin had a number of Catholic pirate radio stations during the 1980s. The Irish Christian Broadcasting Service (ICBS) broadcast mostly pre-recorded programmes on 1071 and later 981 kHz from Chapelizod from west Dublin. A more conservative outfit was Christian Community Radio operated by Catholic solicitor Gerry O’Mahony from Merrion Square in Dublin 2. O’Mahony was a leading campaigner against the liberalisation of Irish society in the 1980s and used his station to oppose gay rights, abortion and divorce. In 2008 he was banned by the Archbishop of Dublin from distributing leaflets in churches as part of a ‘prayer crusade’ against the Lisbon Treaty being debated at the time. Mr O’Mahony died that year aged 90.
Christian Community Radio is listed on 1512 kHz AM and 90.2 FM by Anoraks Ireland in November 1986. By July 1987, it was on 90.2 only. Sound quality and production standards were poor, the programmes consisting mostly of recordings of prayers and masses. The proximity of the Christian Community Radio frequency to a BBC Radio 1/2 transmitter on 90.1 MHz from Belfast prompted complaints from listeners and brought greater notoriety to the station. In October 1987 Gerry O’Mahony was interviewed on Ireland’s most-listened to radio programme, the Gay Byrne Show on RTÉ. He argued that the BBC signal was freak reception and even claimed brazenly that he had been licensed to broadcast. We’re not sure when Christian Community Radio closed down but there is no mention of the station in Anoraks Ireland lists from early 1988 and it is possible that the nationwide publicity provided by Gay Byrne could have sounded its death knell.
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.
With thanks to Martin O’Brien for the donation and Gearóid Quill for background information.
Liberties Local Community Radio (LLCR) began broadcasting in March 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.
Centre Radio began as a hobby station on December 19th 1986 from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin and came on air during school holidays. Brian Greene of pirate.ie was one of the original founders and John Walsh was also involved. By 1987 the station had developed into a youth project and was training up to 80 young people in radio. From February 1988 Centre was on air every evening and weekend from Bayside. It was one of the last stations in Dublin to closedown at midnight on New Year’s Eve 1988.
This recording is from 94 FM a few days prior to closedown, 27.12.88, and features a youthful Stephen Davitt (aka Daragh O’Sullivan) on air. You can read more about the history of Centre 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.
In January 2019 Wireless on Flirt FM did an hour-long special feature on the archive, including highlights of the historical recordings and extracts from some of the interviews with those involved.
CAU FM was a short-lived station broadcasting on 103.5 and later 104.2 FM from Foxrock in south Dublin from mid-1987 until mid-1988. It had its origins in low-power hobby stations set up by Locky Butler and evolved into Phoenix FM. Phoenix began on 25 watts but grew to a 250 watt transmitter before being ordered to close down by the Department of Communications in 1987. Within an hour of the order being delivered, the TX was moved to a site on Three Rock overlooking Dublin and CAU FM was born.
CAU had a good signal all over Dublin, professional sound and slick jingle package. We’re reliably informed that CAU stands for ‘clutterfree and you’ and certainly the station played a lot of uninterrupted music. This full-length recording from 1988 (unfortunately we don’t have a date) includes jingles, ads and links from Locky Butler’s show and gives a good flavour of the sharp on air sound. There’s also a promo for a holiday giveaway! CAU was sold to the religious station Hope FM in the summer of 1988.
Thanks to Locky Butler for additional background information. You can listen to an aircheck of this recording here.
Another big Cork station from the early 1980s was South Coast Radio which broadcast from 1982 to 1984. Its AM frequency was 1557 kHz (announced as 194 metres), using a powerful 10kW transmitter situated near Cork airport. 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.