Full recording: Bray Local Broadcasting

Full recording: Bray Local Broadcasting
BLB car sticker (courtesy of DX Archive).

Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) was one of the pioneers in local community broadcasting during the pirate era and was a leading member of the National Association of Community Broadcasters (NACB) which lobbied for licensed community radio. It began broadcasting in 1979 and continued until the closedowns at the end of 1988, making it one of the country’s longest-running pirate stations.

As a community station, BLB prided itself on catering for minority groups and audiences served poorly by mainstream radio, including Irish speakers in its catchment area of north Wicklow and south Dublin. Irish was marginal on pirate radio, particularly among commercial stations, but community radio across the country regularly broadcast programmes in Irish. There were also Irish language pirate stations such as Saor-Raidió Chonamara in the Connemara Gaeltacht in 1970 (which led to the establishment of Raidió na Gaeltachta) and Raidió an Phobail in Dublin in 1979.

Mar stáisiún pobail, chuir BLB roimhe freastal ar ghrúpaí mionlaigh agus daoine nach raibh freastal mar is ceart á dhéanamh orthu ag na stáisiúin mhóra raidió, ina measc cainteoirí Gaeilge i dtuaisceart Chill Mhantáin agus deisceart Bhaile Átha Cliath. Bhí an Ghaeilge imeallach ar an raidió bradach, go háirithe ar na stáisiúin tráchtála, ach craoladh cláracha Gaeilge ar stáisiúin raidió pobail ar fud na tíre. Bhí stáisiúin bhradacha Ghaeilge ann chomh maith, ina measc Saor-Raidió Chonamara i nGaeltacht Chonamara in 1970 (a thug ann do Raidió na Gaeltachta) agus Raidió an Phobail i mBaile Átha Cliath in 1979.

Full recording: Bray Local Broadcasting
9 Prince of Wales Terrace, Quinsboro Road, Bray from where BLB broadcast in its later years. Horizon Radio was also based here (photo by John Walsh).

This is an extract from the final half hour (2030-2100) of one of BLB’s Irish language programmes Timchuairt Bhré (a trip around Bray), presented by Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh on 9th November 1983. Rónán went on to present Irish language programmes on the successor licensed station to BLB, Horizon Radio. John Walsh of Pirate.ie also worked on those programmes. The recording features Irish traditional and folk music and is followed by the station closedown at 2100.

Seo í an leathuair an chloig deireanach (2030-2100) de cheann de chláracha Gaeilge BLB, Timchuairt Bhré, á chur i láthair ag Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh ar 9 Samhain 1983. Lean Rónán air ag cur cláracha Gaeilge i láthair ar Horizon Radio, an stáisiún ceadúnaithe a tháinig i gcomharbacht ar BLB. D’oibrigh John Walsh ó Pirate.ie ar na cláracha sin chomh maith. Ar an taifeadadh seo, cloistear ceol Gaelach agus traidisiúnta agus ina dhiaidh sin dúntar an stáisiún ar 2100.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.

Background: other Galway City pirates

We’ve just completed a week-long series of recordings of the pirate stations based in and around Galway City in the 1980s, including Atlantic Sound, WLS, Coast 103, County Sound and Radio Pirate Woman. These were all from the final part of the Irish pirate radio era from 1984 to 1988 with the exception of Radio Pirate Woman which defied the new legislation and carried on into the 1990s and beyond. Like Dublin, Galway also had an earlier wave of pirates which paved the way for the larger commercial stations. Among those were Independent Radio Galway and Atlantic Radio.

Background: other Galway City pirates
Entry about IRG in FRC Ireland Newsletter, issue 5, August/September 1978 (courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

Independent Radio Galway, broadcasting in the late 1970s on 199 metres (1503 kHz) was the closest that Galway came to a community radio station. Set up by Tom O’Connor of O’Connor’s television repair shop, it began on April 15th 1978 and was one of major pirates that emerged from the RTÉ local radio experiment of that period. IRG closed on July 28th 1979 following the establishment of RTÉ Radio 2. More information is available here. Surprisingly for a city with a long tradition of the arts and community development, Galway never developed community radio in the mould of well-known stations such as Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) and North Dublin Community Radio (NDCR). Another early station was Atlantic Radio (no relation to the later Atlantic Sound as far as we know), which was due to begin broadcasting on February 25th 1978. As the report below indicates, they had big plans including transmitters in North Galway and Mayo and a separate city service, Galway Community Radio. The station gave an address in Renmore on the east side of the city.

Background: other Galway City pirates
Entry about Atlantic Radio in FRC Ireland Newsletter, issue 3, February/March 1978 (courtesy Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

County Sound was an example of a station situated outside Galway city which moved eventually into the city centre. Another county station, KFM, was set up in 1986 in the village of Moycullen 12 km northwest of Galway. Later it opened a studio in the city centre and announced two FM frequencies, one for the city (99 MHz) and another for the county (95 MHz). AM was planned but never materialised.

Background: other Galway City pirates
Rate card for KFM (c. 1986) courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

There was a remarkable similarity between the design of the KFM rate card and the one used previously by Atlantic Sound!

Background: other Galway City pirates
Atlantic Sound rate card c. 1986 (courtesy Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

Other stations included West Coast Community Radio (WCCR) which broadcast from spring 1982 until July 1983 on AM only, with its aerial running along the terrace of Cloonacauneen Castle north of Galway before moving to a frozen meat factory in Roscam on the east side of the city. Among those involved with WCCR were the current CEO of Galway Bay FM, Keith Finnegan. Radio Renmore was a low-powered station (approximately 5 watts) on 100 FM which operated from August 1983 until early 1985 from the eastern suburb of Renmore. Set up by three teenagers, Gary Hardiman, Tom Breen and Brendan Mee, it broadcast during the school holidays and was known as Radio Snowflake at Christmas 1984. Emerald FM was an irregular pirate from Shantalla in 1986 as was WHYT which gave an address in Eglinton Street in the city centre. In 1987 another hobby station, Radio Impulse, was logged mainly at weekends.

Stations in Co. Galway included the very early pirate Saor-Raidió Chonamara which broadcast on two separate occasions in 1970 from Ros Muc, a village in the Gaeltacht area of Connemara. It was a pioneer in Irish language broadcasting and led to the establishment of RTÉ’s Irish language service Raidió na Gaeltachta in 1972. Further to the northwest, Connemara Community Radio came on the air in 1988 in the village of Letterfrack. It is now a licensed station of the same name. In the east of the county, Kandy Radio broadcast from Ballinasloe from 1986 to 1988 and Galway District Radio was a short-lived station in Loughrea.

Thanks to Brendan Mee for background details. We plan to bring you further information about these and other stations, as well as more recordings, in another Galway series in the future.

Full recording: Wonderland Radio (Dublin)

Full recording: Wonderland Radio (Dublin)
Flyer for Wonderland Radio courtesy of Ian Biggar, DX Archive.

Wonderland Radio was a community station broadcasting to the suburb of Tallaght in southwest Dublin from 1984 to 1988. According to local newspaper The Tallaght Echo, it was launched on the 12th of May 1984. One of those involved in setting up the station was the late Fr. Joe Cullen, a Dominican priest from Tallaght and Wonderland is yet another example of a community pirate established after the departure of RTÉ’s local radio experiment from the area. The address for most of Wonderland’s existence was a cottage at 3 Greenhills Road but it famously broadcast from the back of an ambulance at one stage. Wonderland was first noted by Anoraks UK on their Ireland tour in October 1984 and is logged a few times on 1359 kHz/220 metres over the following year although the signal on the west coast of England suffered from splatter from Manx Radio on 1368 kHz.

Wonderland’s promotional material used the strapline ‘Tallaght Community Broadcasting’ and changed its name to Tallaght Community Radio in the summer of 1986. The station continued until the end of 1988 on both AM and FM (91.8 MHz) and as the advert below illustrates, shared the ethos of other community broadcasters such as BLB and NDCR. ‘TCR’ was not supposed to be used on air because the full title emphasised the station’s community credentials. Wonderland and Tallaght Community Radio were also popular with radio anoraks because of the Friday night Free Radio Show hosted by Bernard Evans from late 1986. Many of those involved in the station went on to set up the licensed Tallaght FM which was on air from 1999 to 2008. Thanks to Ralph McGarry and Bernard Evans for assistance with research.

Full recording: Wonderland Radio (Dublin)
Advert for Wonderland Radio in the Sunday World, 8th December 1985. Courtesy Alan MacSimoin collection.

This recording from 1206-1252 on the 11th of December 1985 features the American-sounding presenter John Gummin (possibly an on-air name) with a mixed contemporary and 1960s music style. The recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin. 

Full recording: Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB)

Full recording: Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB)
BLB car sticker courtesy of DX Archive.

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 carried specialist music shows in contrast with other stations broadcasting mostly pop music. You can hear a panel discussion about the history of BLB here or read a newspaper report here.

This recording, made from 657 kHz AM from 6.53pm on 18 May 1983 is significant because of its date, not its content: this was the same day as the infamous raid by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs on Dublin super-pirate Radio Nova. Sunshine Radio was raided the follow day, prompting panic among pirates throughout the country. On 19 May many, including BLB, closed down temporarily as a result of the raids and some such as Radio Leinster were never to return.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.

Interview: Dave Reddy (Radio Sandymount)

Interview: Dave Reddy (Radio Sandymount)

In this interview, Dave Reddy recalls his involvement in ARD (Alternative Radio Dublin) and Radio 257 at the end of the 1970s. Dave would go to to establish what would today be called ‘pop-up’ community stations, starting with Radio Sandymount in 1984.

Radio Sandymount went on air as part of a community festival in that area and Dave Reddy explains that the model was soon to be requested by community groups elsewhere, leading to similar short-term stations in Ringsend, Donnybrook and Wicklow. Dave was also founder of the first Christmas station Radio Snowflake, which is now run by David Baker who himself broadcast on the 1980s pop-up stations and many other pirates.

The interviewer is Eolann Aitken. You can listen to a recording of Radio Donnybrook here.