We’ve already covered the fascinating story of the first pirate jingles in Ireland, the American package used by Radio Dublin from the early 1970s. The jingles, made by a company called SPOT Productions in Texas, referred to ‘WDEE – The Big D’ and at that time, Radio Dublin used the Big D tagline. It was probably the first of many cases of a station calling itself after whatever jingle package it could find.
Of course, the infamous split in Radio Dublin led to a separate station calling itself Big D, which came on air in April 1978. The SPOT jingle package surfaced again and can be heard in this selection of idents for DJ Bryan Lambert, voiced by the legendary Tony Allan.
We thank Kieran Murray for his donation of this recording.
There was plenty of frequency congestion in Dublin in the late 1970s as the pirates upped their gain and became full-time operations. Stations congregated around the same part of the AM band between 1100-1200 kHz often interfering with each other or hopping onto each other’s favourite spot. We heard already how ARD switched frequency at night to avoid co-channel interference with overseas stations.
This discussion on the FRC show on Big D from 13th November 1980 gives a sense of the problem. The unidentified presenter takes a call from a listener who has a lot to say on the topic and veteran of the pirate scene Ken Sheehan (Edwards) comments that the new Sunshine Radio has set an example by choosing the other end of the band. The recording ends with the Big D song, which was recorded by one of the DJs, John Paul.
Hear a better quality version of the song here, courtesy of Kieran Murray.
This is a recording of part of a bandscan of stations from Dublin as heard on Sunday, 23rd April 1978 in Drogheda, Co. Louth. It includes Davitt Kelly (RIP) presenting ‘The Soul Service’ on the Big D, followed by John Paul and part of the sponsored Chariot Inn programme. The recording ends with DJs Johnny Casey and Pat Stewart on Radio Dublin, who announce the address of 3, Sarsfield Road, Dublin 10 for letters.
Big D was formed as a result of a staff mutiny at Radio Dublin in April 1978 and there was great rivalry between both stations. This bandscan, which also includes snippets of British stations heard on the east coast, gives a great sense of the AM radio scene at the time. We thank Eddie Caffrey for his donation.
This is a recording of Marty Hall (Marty Whelan) on the Dublin station Big D on 23rd April 1978. Along with many other DJs from stations such as Big D, Marty went on to become one of the stars of the new RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979. Apart from a brief spell at the failed national station Century Radio (1989-1991), he has spent most of his career with RTÉ and currently presents the breakfast programme on RTÉ Lyric FM.
Big D was formed as a result of a split in Radio Dublin in April 1978 when most staff walked out in a protest against station owner Eamonn Cooke, who was in Spain on holidays at the time. The ringleader was DJ James Dillon who acted following allegations that Cooke was involved in child abuse. This is a snippet from an interview with Dillon telling another pirate Capitol Radio about the split.
There is a long description of the reasons for the staff mutiny in Peter Mulryan’s book Radio Radio (1988). Cooke was convicted in 2002 for sexually abusing children, jailed in 2003 and again in 2007 and died in 2016 while on temporary release.
Big D began broadcasting officially from Chapel Lane on April 10th 1978. Run by Dillon, it was backed financially by businessman Noel Kirwan who had been an advertiser on Radio Dublin. Big D broadcast around the clock and attracted many DJs who defected from ARD. Big D was raided on June 15th and equipment and transmitter taken but returned to the air in a short time. At the suggestion of ex-ARD staff, Big D Weekend was initiated as a niche service with Davitt Kelly in charge. Many DJs who would become big names were heard including Marty Whelan, Gerry Ryan, John Clarke, Dave Heffernan, Declan Meehan, Dave Fanning and Neil O’Shea.
Disaster struck Big D on 2nd January 1979 when the studios in Chapel Lane were burned to the ground. The station moved location and returned to the air within days. Many Big D and ARD DJs were poached by the new RTÉ Radio 2 that came on the air on 31st May 1979, but Big D soldiered on into the new decade before closing down in December 1981 in the face of stiff competition in the Dublin pirate radio market. It returned as an automated service in 1982 but closed down for good just before Christmas that year.
This airchecked recording begins at about 1245 and includes links, music and ads. Audio is low in places, particularly on the links and there is co-channel interference from other stations as the recording was made in Co. Louth. Many thanks to Eddie Caffrey for his donation of this rare recording.
In this special episode #4 of the Pirate.ie podcast, we’re delighted to bring you an interview with one of the most familiar voices on Dublin pirate radio in the 1980s, David Baker. David worked in a long list of stations ranging from Radio City, Big D and ARD to KISS FM, Radio Leinster, Heartbeat and KLAS 98. He was also heavily involved in the temporary stations set up by the Community Broadcasting Co-operative and the original Christmas station, Radio Snowflake.
In this interview with John Walsh and Brian Greene, David looks back on his pirate days in Ireland and recalls the many stations where he worked from the late 1970s until 1988. Based in the UK for many years, he also gives his views on the radio scene today and talks about his latest project Chelmer Radio.
Many thanks to David for sharing his memories with us in this special podcast.
Pirate.ie would like to thank all of our followers and contributors for their support in 2020. We will you all a very happy Christmas and hope for a better 2021 for everyone.