Full recording: KFM (Galway)

Full recording: KFM (Galway)
KFM flyer, courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

KFM, also known as Galway County Radio, broadcast from 1986 to 1988 from a village west of Galway before moving into the city itself. It was set up by Shane Martin and John Browne in November 1986 and broadcast initially on 99 FM for 12 and a half hours a day, from 7.30am to 8.00pm. The transmitter site was over 130 metres above sea level in Moycullen, a village 12 kilometres west of Galway, and this gave it a large coverage area. An entry from KFM in the Anoraks UK Weekly Report of February the 1st 1987 claimed that the station was covering an 80-kilometre radius and that it would soon be extended to specialist programming and community information. An AM channel was also promised although this never materialised.

By June 1987, KFM was broadcasting 24 hours a day and claiming to cover both Galway City and Co. Galway, including Connemara. The station told Weekly Report that it was aimed at the 20-50 audience and had a minimum of 15 percent programming in Irish and English, reflecting the fact that part of the Connemara is a Gaeltacht area. KFM also produced a bilingual leaflet, in which it announced its intention to seek a licence.

Full recording: KFM (Galway)
Bilingual KFM flyer, courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

At this stage KFM was on 95, 99 and 99.3 FM and was reported to be listenable as far east as Ballinasloe. There were also reception reports from as far south as Ennis in Co. Clare. In November 1987, KFM moved into Galway City, adding to the competition between the pirates there. Coast 103 were the most successful city station at the time but in early 1988 the Tuam station County Sound would also move into Galway. Like most other stations, KFM closed down on the 31st of December 1988.

This recording of KFM was made from 96 FM on the 24th of September 1988 from 2222-2310 and features Shane Keating on air. There are requests for ‘madly in love’ couples and a mixture of pop music and oldies. Keating was clearly a bit of an anorak: he mentions listening to RTÉ Radio 2 on AM in Birmingham and promises a new programme for DXers, with a special focus on shortwave. We thank Ian Biggar for the donation. This was originally recorded by John Breslin in Co. Clare and being outside the core coverage area, audio quality is fair. Thanks also to Shane Martin for further information.

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: County Sound (Galway)

Full recording: County Sound (Galway)
Eyre Square in Galway city centre. Both County Sound and Coast 103 broadcast from nearby in 1987-88 (photo by John Walsh).

County Sound went on the air on St. Patrick’s Day 1987 from Tuam, 30km north of Galway City on 98.5 FM. In January 1987 it moved to Prospect Hill near Eyre Square in Galway City, just across the road from rival station Coast 103. After the move, County Sound broadcast to Galway on 101 FM, on 96.4 FM from Abbeyknockmoy in the east (from where it covered the county) and on 98.5 FM to the town of Ballinasloe. The Galway market was highly competitive in 1988 with both Coast and County Sound dominating, ahead of the smaller KFM. Radio West from Mullingar, which had been rebranded as West National Radio 3, also had AM and FM relays in the city. On the 30th of September 1988, the local City Tribune reported on a row between County Sound and Coast 103 over use of FM frequencies. When Coast began broadcasting on 100.1 FM, County Sound Managing Director Benen Tierney accused them of jamming County Sound on 101. This was denied by Keith York of Coast who said there was enough space between the two stations. Gardaí were reportedly alerted after Coast alleged that they received threatening phone calls from their competitors.

County Sound closed at midnight on the 31st of December 1988. It was an unsuccessful applicant for the local Galway licence which was awarded in 1989. The successful bid was made by a consortium of local businesses, community groups and newspapers as well as the former Mullingar pirate Radio West which had already gained a foothold in Galway. The new licensed station was also called Radio West and came on the air on the 18th of August 1989. It was relaunched as Galway Bay FM in 1993.

Full recording: County Sound (Galway)
County Sound business card (DX Archive)

This recording is an aircheck of Ciaran Wilson (Brannelly) on air on the 24th of July 1988. There are adverts for businesses in Tuam and Galway City, many voiced by Jon Richards who would go on to work for Radio West/Galway Bay FM. There is a promo for Tuam Festival Radio on 106 FM, a pop-up station run by County Sound in the town where it originated, from the 26th of July to the 10th of August 1988. There is also a competition for tickets to a Michael Jackson concert. Many thanks to Ciaran Brannelly for donating 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.