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 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.
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.
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.
Treble TR was Dublin’s country and Irish music station and broadcast from 1981 until the end of 1988 on 945 kHz and 99.5 FM. This recording is from the 30th of December 1988, the station’s final day of broadcast. It begins just after 6pm with Aidan Cooney referring to the fact that Q102 had just gone off the air. The aircheck also includes a recording of Simon Dee of Radio Caroline fame criticising the Dutch & British governments’ approach to pirate radio and Aidan reminiscing about other Dublin stations. Aidan also talks to two people who had been involved in radio in Wicklow. Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) had closed down earlier that week.
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.