Feature: Pirate.ie discussed on Galway Bay FM

Feature: Pirate.ie discussed on Galway Bay FM
Galway Bay FM on-air studio (photo by John Walsh)

On the 12th of June 2020, John Walsh spoke to Keith Finnegan of Galway Bay FM about the recent series about Galway pirates on Pirate.ie. The interview includes a rare jingle from Independent Radio Galway (1978-1979), sung by the choir of University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland, Galway). Keith, now CEO of Galway Bay FM, remembers his own involvement in West Coast Community Radio (WCCR). The interview finishes with a montage of jingles and idents from the Pirate.ie series on Galway.

Feature: Pirate.ie discussed on Galway Bay FM
Galway Bay FM headquarters at Sandy Road (photo by John Walsh).

Many of those at Galway Bay FM cut their teeth in the Galway pirates of the era. Licensed in 1989 as Radio West, one group involved in the successful consortium was the original pirate Radio West from Mullingar. The station changed its name to Galway Bay FM in 1993.

We thank Galway Bay FM for their interest in Pirate.ie and hope that the interview will encourage more people in Galway to come forward to memories and recordings.

Aircheck: Twiggs FM (Galway)

Aircheck: Twiggs FM (Galway)
Twiggs FM flyer courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

Twiggs FM was a short-lived radio station broadcasting from the Galway suburb of Salthill for about six months in 1987 and 1988. It was set up in August 1987 and backed by two returned emigrant Galway businessmen who had purchased the Eglinton Hotel on Salthill promenade. According to an Anoraks UK Weekly Report from October 1987, Mike Richardson, formerly of Big L Radio in Limerick and Horizon Radio in Killorglin, Co. Kerry, was also involved.

The hotel was a busy entertainment venue with a large 1,500-capacity nightclub called Twiggs and a popular student venue in the basement. The backers’ idea was to create a professional station to advertise their business interests as well as other services. A professional studio was installed on the first floor overlooking Galway Bay and hired pirate operators from Dublin, including Alan Russell (who had set up an earlier Galway station Atlantic Sound) and Roland Burke (RIP) to run Twiggs FM. The station regularly broadcast gigs from the nightclub and DJs were paid for radio shift work and topped up their income with gigs at the Twiggs venue and other clubs run by the owners. Presenters included Roland Burke, Alan Russell, Ciaran Wilson (Brannelly), Robert Ashley, Shane Martin and Daragh Murphy as well as student DJs and guest DJs from Dublin. In January 1988 it was taken over by Mike Richardson and renamed West Coast Radio but the station closed by March because of the backers’ impatience with poor advertising revenue.

Aircheck: Twiggs FM (Galway)
A current view of the former Eglinton Hotel in Salthill, now a direct provision centre (photo by John Walsh).

Twiggs FM broadcast on 98.5 from Salthill and later added an additional relay on 100.1 in the city. This recording is an undated aircheck of two shows by Ciaran Wilson (Brannelly) in the autumn/winter of 1987. The first is from a Thursday at about 1645 and the second from Friday at 1515. There was a definite student vibe to the station, with notices from the Law Society at University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland, Galway) and reference to a programme by the Regional Technical College (now Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology). There’s also a competition to win a bale of briquettes so the Galway winter must have been approaching! Thanks to Ciaran for this recording and additional background information.

Full recording: Coast 103 (Galway)

Full recording: Coast 103 (Galway)
Coast 103 compliments slip courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

Coast 103 was on air for 18 months in 1987 and 1988 and was the last of the large commercial Galway stations of the era. It emerged from WLS Music Radio and began testing on the 10th of July 1987 as Coast 100. The station was set up by Steve Marshall and Keith York (RIP) who had been involved in both WLS and an earlier station, Atlantic Sound. Coast was located at 24 Prospect Hill, the same address as WLS. It soon moved to 103 FM and added a 1 kW transmitter on 1566 kHz AM. According to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report, the backers were Keith York himself, another pirate station WKLR in Bandon and a number of Galway businessmen.

In April 1988 the Limerick station Hits 954 closed and merged with Coast 103, calling itself Coast Hot Hits and covering Galway, Clare and Limerick. The original Hits 954 AM transmitter was used to relay the Galway signal although there were problems with the antenna and power was never too high. There is poor audio quality on this promo for the new station, voiced by Stuart Clark, recorded from AM in Limerick.  

Promo for the merged Coast Hot Hits, courtesy of Liam Byrne.

A chain of FM transmitters was installed between Galway and Limerick allowing FM reception to the south almost as far as Cork city and well into counties Kerry, Tipperary. The Galway FM transmitter, with an estimated maximum power of 3 kW ERP was brought to a higher location to allow improved reception to the north into Counties Mayo and Roscommon. The AM signal could be heard in Scotland but FM was the priority in the station’s last year. Coast Hot Hits was one of a number of stations to carry the satellite service Radio Nova International on overnights in 1988. It also made a number of successful outside broadcasts from Limerick and Galway. In the competitive Galway pirate scene of 1988, there was intense rivalry with the other big station County Sound. Coast presenters included Tony Allan, Steve Marshall, Stuart Clark, Brian Walsh, Ger Sweeney and Shane Martin. The station closed at the end of 1988 in line with the new broadcasting legislation. You can listen here to an interview with Ger Sweeney in which he remembers his time at Coast.

This recording, courtesy of Ian Biggar of DX Archive, is from the 1st of November 1988 from 1113-1200 and features Steve Marshall on air with the great Tony Allan’s voice on many ads and promos.

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)
WLS letterhead courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

Here’s a second recording of WLS Music Radio from Galway, in the early months of the station in 1985. At this stage WLS was broadcasting from Kiltartan House on Forster Street, just across the road from its rival Atlantic Sound. Leading Atlantic DJs Keith York (RIP) and Don Stevens left Atlantic in March 1985 to set up WLS.

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)
A current view of Kiltartan House, Forster Street, Galway from where WLS Music Radio broadcast in 1985 (photo by John Walsh).

WLS broadcast initially on 846 kHz AM and 104 FM. This recording is of Ritchie O’Shea from 1303-1427 (with Sarah Myers on news) on the 28th of May 1985. This was just a few days after RTÉ was granted a temporary injunction against Don Stevens and Keith York of WLS preventing them from causing interference to television reception in Galway. According to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report, WLS moved to 102.7 FM before the court case in order to stop the interference. In June 1986 a permanent injunction was granted to RTÉ preventing WLS from interfering with television reception of RTÉ 2. RTÉ were claiming a £30,000 loss in advertising revenue due to WLS.

Despite the audio processing and clear FM signal on this recording there are a few on-air glitches and adverts are pretty thin on the ground, possibly as a result of adverse publicity around the interference. However following the closure of Atlantic in June 1985, WLS quickly mopped up local advertising revenue and went on to become Galway’s largest commercial station until its closure in 1987. More recordings of WLS are available here.

Our thanks to Ian Biggar of DX Archive for sharing this recording.

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)
WLS Music Radio compliments slip, courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

WLS Music Radio was a successful and professional pirate broadcasting to Galway for more than two years from March 1985 to June 1987. WLS stood for ‘West Local Station’ and was set up by former offshore DJs Don Stevens and Keith York (RIP) who came to Galway from Cork and joined the existing pirate, Atlantic Sound in 1984. WLS was launched around the 17th of March 1985 and broadcast on 846 kHz AM and 104 FM in stereo, later adding shortwave on 6240 kHz.

From the beginning, WLS Music Radio meant business and broadcast 24 hours a day with an hourly news service from 7am to midnight and it wasn’t long until Atlantic folded. The technical set-up was impressive from the start with high quality Gates turntables and Spotmaster cart machines, according to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report in March 1985. There was a setback in May when RTÉ was granted a temporary injunction in the High Court against Don Stevens and Keith York preventing WLS from causing interference to television transmissions in Galway. In advance of the court hearing, WLS had moved to 102.7 FM to avoid interference. They also increased power to 520 watts ERP, claiming to be the largest FM transmitter ever heard in Galway. AM power was increased to 300 watts and reception reports came from as far away as Wales and Devon. By June 1986, Anoraks UK described WLS as ‘one of the best equipped stations in Ireland, with a sound to go with it’ and reported that it had many local and national advertisers. Presenters included Keith York, another former offshore DJ Steve Marshall and a veteran of the Dublin scene, Tony Allan, who joined in 1986. RTÉ claimed loss of £30,000 in advertising revenue in Galway and in June 1986 the High Court granted a permanent injunction preventing WLS from causing interference to television reception of RTÉ 2.

In June 1987 the Free Radio Show on Radio West reported that WLS had gone off the air after an irate investor unhappy with his return arrived at the station and dismantled equipment. WLS presenters could be heard on other Galway stations such as KFM and County Sound. In July, Steve Marshall and Keith York set up another successful Galway station Coast 103 which lasted until the end of 1988.

This recording is from 0850-0955 on the 27th of April 1985, during the early days of WLS. It features Don Stevens on the breakfast show and Laura Landers on news. The audio and presentation style is professional and reminiscent of the larger commercial stations in Dublin and Cork. There’s even a reference to the weather forecast ‘for the bay area’, borrowed from Radio Nova! Many thanks to Ian Biggar of DX Archive for the recording.