Full recording: Radio Nova (Dublin)

L-R: Sybil Fennell, Declan Meehan and Bob Gallico on 19th May 1983,the day of Nova’s official closedown (photo courtesy Joe King).

This is the well-known recording of Radio Nova on the morning of the infamous raid on the 18th of May 1983. Gardaí and officials from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs arrived at about 9.30am and requested that both Nova and KISS FM cease transmission at once. Keys were sought for the transmission site and just over an hour later, the plug was pulled. Nova returned at about 4.15am the following morning but on lower power and at lunchtime the station announced that it would close officially at 6.00pm that evening.

Crowds at Herbert Street in anticipation of the 6pm closedown on May 19th 1983 (photo courtesy Joe King).

This recording from 819 kHz AM begins on May 18th during the 10am news with Bob Gallico. After the news, DJ Declan Meehan asks station owner Chris Cary to come to the studios in Herbert Street immediately. During the following 30 minutes, Declan makes several references to the fact that Nova may go off the air and back to back jingles are played during records. Bob Gallico joins Declan throughout the hour for live versions of their inimitable two-handers, responding to unfolding events. At the same time another DJ Tom Hardy was bringing the P&T officials to the transmitter site in Rathfarnham in order to put Nova off the air. During out interviews with former Nova staff, many recalled their memories of the 1983 raids including Tom Hardy and Dennis Murray. Declan Meehan recalls his Nova days here.

Some of the crowd at Herbert Street for the Nova closedown on 19th May 1983. Photo courtesy of Gary Hogg/Ian Biggar.

This recording is courtesy of DX Archive where more information about and recordings of the 1983 raids can be found.

Full recording: Magic 103 (Dublin)

Magic 103 car sticker, courtesy of DX Archive

Magic 103 (103.5 FM and 1521 kHz AM) was one of the many short-lived sister stations of Radio Nova, and was on air from Leeson Street in Dublin for a few months in 1985. The station began broadcasting on April 29th and promised ‘easy listening and information for Dublin’. Presenters were journalists, most of whom were in dispute with station owner Chris Cary, and ‘ABC Network News’ was shared between the two stations. Magic 103 was gone by September 22nd, as the Radio Nova empire began to unravel.

This recording is of Mark Weller (Mark Costigan) from 3.25pm on 19 June 1985, featuring a studio discussion about stock car racing, including a forthcoming competition between teams from Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio! There’s also a comedy extract featuring iconic Nova voices such as Bob Gallico, John Clarke and Tony Allan. The 4pm news bulletin shared by both stations features international, Irish and British news. When the simulcast ends there is additional Irish news on Magic 103, evidence that Nova catered to a much larger broadcast area than just Dublin. Mark Costigan went on to work as a journalist for national independent station Radio Ireland/Today FM in the 1990s and 2000s and was eventually appointed Head of Government Information Services.

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

Aircheck: Radio Nova from 1985

Jessie Brandon on offshore pirate Laser 558 in 1984. Courtesy offshoreradio.co.uk and Offshore Echoes magazine.

This is an aircheck of Radio Nova from September 29th 1985, featuring legendary American DJ Jessie Brandon who took up a job with the new offshore pirate Laser 558 in 1984. Jessie moved to Nova in October 1985 and was one of only a handful of female presenters on the commercial pirates of the era. In this recording she plays ‘the JAM song’, a selection of jingles made by JAM Creative Productions in Dallas, Texas whose clients included Radio Nova. There’s an interesting interview with Jessie in Charlie Connelly’s excellent book Last Train to Hilversum.

The recording also includes a promo for the new ‘Zoo Crew’, presented by Colm Hayes and Bob Gallico, a riotous breakfast show which ran from October 7th 1985 to January 24th 1986. Sybil Fennell is also heard on news but a bitter dispute between Nova and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) had resumed by this time and contributed to the demise of the station in March 1986.

According to Nova fan Kevin Branigan, September 1985 was a pivotal month for the station. At the start of the month, Nova was powerful and untouchable, was giving away £10,000 in cash, still running easy listening station Magic 103 and packing out club night Disco Nova. By the end of September Chris Cary had closed Magic 103, fired the journalists, the NUJ was back on strike and big name DJs were departing for other stations such as the rival Q102. Magic 103 transmitters and studio equipment were sold by Cary to Q102, allowing it to surround Nova on the FM Band and with the help of ex-Nova talent, move into the big league. It was the beginning of the end.

We thank Kevin Branigan and Ian Biggar for help with information and analysis.

Aircheck: Chris Cary on Radio Nova

Chris Cary in a Radio Nova promotional photo. Courtesy offshoreradio.co.uk

This is a recording of Radio Nova boss Chris Cary presenting the European Top 40 on Sunday August 4th 1985. The hits included songs by Sister Sledge, Opus, Eurythmics and Tina Turner while Madonna was at Number 1.

The European Top 40 was broadcast weekly on Nova and compiled from record sales and radio airplay across Europe. The fact that Nova was involved was evidence of its influence in radio circles beyond Ireland. Cary credits Sybil Fennell as researcher and producer of the show.

The aircheck also includes news with Bernie Jameson.

Interview: Declan Meehan (part 2: 1982-1989)

Declan Meehan and John Walsh at East Coast FM in Bray where Declan has worked since 1994.

In the second part of our extended interview, long-time broadcaster Declan Meehan discusses his move from Sunshine to Radio Nova in 1982 which was by then the biggest station in Dublin. He tells us how Chris Cary copied the sound of KIIS FM in Los Angeles to bring a new broadcasting style to Ireland. Despite his love for Radio Nova, Declan left the station because of the bitter NUJ strike in 1984. Although he moved into licensed radio in the UK and Ireland after that, Declan’s involvement with the pirates didn’t quite end there. The interview concludes with Declan’s thoughts on the pirate legacy and his views on the state of radio today.

You can hear the first part of this interview here.

Interview: Declan Meehan (part 1: 1970-1982)

Declan Meehan and John Walsh at the studios of East Coast FM in Bray, where Declan has worked since 1994.

We met one of Ireland’s most experienced broadcasters Declan Meehan recently to discuss his significant contribution to Irish pirate radio history and Irish radio in general over the past 50 years.

In the first part of a long interview, Declan discusses the early years of his involvement in the Dublin pirate scene spanning small stations such as Radio Vanessa and Radio Milinda and larger, more professional operations like ARD. He describes his unhappy move to the new RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979 and how he went on to work for the first of the superpirates, Sunshine Radio, where he met Chris Cary.

The interview includes references to many of the best-known names in Irish radio over the past half-century.

Aircheck: Magic 103 (Dublin)

Image courtesy of DX Archive

Magic 103 (103.5 FM and 1521 kHz although AM was never announced on air) was set up by Radio Nova in 1985 and was one of many examples of Chris Cary’s innovation in splitting AM/FM services to expand programming. Magic, which began broadcasting on April 29th, was a mostly easy-listening and talk service in contrast to the chart music format of Nova.

‘ABC Network News’ was broadcast on both Nova and Magic, and the journalists also presented programmes on Magic. This airchecked recording is from the first evening of the service. Dave Johnson (aka Andrew Hanlon) is both presenter and newscaster. He reads out a request from a listener in Co. Down, evidence of how far the FM signal travelled on a relatively uncrowded band. Sound quality is variable on this recording and some of it may have been recorded from AM.

Magic 103 was short-lived and closed in September 1985.

Aircheck: Radio Annabel FRC

Dublin station Radio Annabel featured a popular weekly Free Radio Campaign programme presented by Gerard Roe. This recording from 1985 features an interview with Chris Cary taken from Radio Nova in which he criticises the notion of community radio. It is followed by a reference to a newspaper article about one of the failed attempts to introduce legislation to regulate the radio sector during the 1980s.

Interview: Dennis Murray (Big D/KISS FM (102.7)/Radio Nova/KISS FM Monaghan)

On October 20th 2018 over 100 radio anoraks gathered in the Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin. The purpose was to meet and record oral history of the pirate radio era. 

John Walsh interviewed Dennis Murray about his pirate radio past including the early days of Big D, Radio Nova, KISS FM (102.7) in Dublin and another KISS FM (103.7) in Monaghan.