Centre Radio on Christmas Eve 1986

Centre Radio on Christmas Eve 1986
Centre Radio, Christmas 1986. L-R behind: Mark McGuinness, Frank Decker. L-R front: John Walsh, Peter Walsh, Dónal Greene, Liam Ward.

Of the many pirates in the decade 1978-1988, Centre Radio was not well known beyond its immediate area in northeast Dublin but it is an important part of the history of Pirate.ie because both co-founders of this site were involved with it. Brian Greene, known as Bobby Gibbson on air, was one of those who started Centre Radio on 19th December 1986 at the Baldoyle Youth Club in Dublin 13 and John Walsh was also involved. Reflecting the young age of the DJs, Centre Radio was only on air during school holidays in 1986 and 1987 but began daily broadcasting in spring 1988. It closed at midnight on New Year’s Eve that year.

Centre Radio broadcast on several frequencies on the FM band during its two years on air, beginning with 88 MHz during its first outing at the end of 1986. In this recording from Christmas Eve that year, Eric Delaney is on air and is followed by Brian Greene at 9pm. Adverts for local businesses are also heard. Another familiar name on radio in this part of Dublin, Derek Jones, is to take over from 11pm.

Our tape was recorded from 2020-2105 on December 24th 1986 and is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

RTÉ coverage of 1983 pirate raids

RTÉ coverage of 1983 pirate raids
Equipment removed from Sunshine Radio, 19 May 1983, with RTÉ crew filming (courtesy Joe King).

There was extensive coverage on RTÉ of the raids on Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio on 18th and 19th May 1983. This was unsurprising given that RTÉ’s income and standing was threatened by the popularity of the pirates. British radio enthusiast Leon Tipler recorded RTÉ coverage of the raids from Radio 1, listening on its medium wave transmitter on 567 kHz which got reasonably well into the English midlands.

This recording consists of several RTÉ news bulletins during that fateful week in 1983: the 6.30pm news and 10.00pm headlines on Wednesday 18th May; the newspaper review at 8.10am on 19th May followed by news from 1.00pm, 1.30pm and 6.30pm that day; the newspaper review at 9.05am on Saturday 21st May and the 1.00pm news programme on Sunday 22nd May. The final extract includes an interview with the Minister of State for Posts and Telegraphs, Ted Nealon, promising new radio legislation by the autumn of 1983. Optimistically, he predicted that local radio in the 1980s would be similar to rural electrification 40 years earlier. In fact, it would be another 5 and a half years before the pirates would be closed down and licensed radio introduced.

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

Weekend sports show on Radio West

Weekend sports show on Radio West
Radio West car sticker (Anoraks Ireland Collection).

Despite the claims of its opponents, the Irish pirate radio era was about so much more than pop stations playing nothing but the Top 40. Around the country, many pirates became popular and credible sources of news and information in their own regions, offering a real local alternative to RTÉ. One area where pirate radio really had the edge was sports coverage, especially of local GAA matches.

This recording of popular midlands station Radio West was made in the summer of 1983 and is of a Saturday afternoon sports show with local results and interviews. One such interview features a GAA club in Longford and the recording is a good example of how many pirates, particularly outside Dublin, were templates for the licensed local radio of today. The presenters are unidentified and there are no timechecks but we know that the recording was made on Saturday 13th August 1983 from 765 kHz AM in Aberystwyth on the west Wales coast. The transmitter was capable of running up to 10kW of power at the time, and with Aberystwyth about 250 km from the Radio West site in Co. Westmeath, the recording shows that the station’s groundwave reception was good well beyond its core coverage area.

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

Pirate.ie in three minutes – transnational radio

Pirate.ie in three minutes - transnational radio
Boyneside Radio North AM mast just on the border (courtesy of Eddie Caffrey).

This three-minute clip includes highlights related to the transnational nature of Irish pirate radio in the late 1970s and 1980s. By accident or design, stations were heard beyond the borders of the Irish state on FM and especially on AM and there were also part-time shortwave operators aimed at international DXers.

Pirate.ie in three minutes - transnational radio
Constitution Hill in Aberystwyth where Leon Tipler recorded Irish radio (photo by John Walsh).

The first segment is of Arklow Community Radio as heard by the late British radio enthusiast Leon Tipler on FM in Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast on 13th August 1983. This is followed by a night-time recording of Radio Nova playing a request for Leon at his home in Kidderminster in the English midlands on 17th September 1982.

Pirate.ie in three minutes - transnational radio
Radio Nova sticker from the 50 kW days (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The third segment is the iconic top-of-the-hour ident of Radio Nova recorded on 17th July 1984. This is voiced by station boss Chris Cary who stresses that Nova broadcasts from and not to Dublin on 738 kHz. The AM transmitter was using 50 kW at the time in order to reach the British market.

Pirate.ie in three minutes - transnational radio
KISS FM sticker (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The fourth segment is of KISS FM, a high-powered FM and AM station based in Monaghan on the border and aiming its signal at the lucrative Belfast market. This was recorded in Scotland on 13th June 1988. The firth extract is an advert on the Louth station Boyneside Radio promoting a céilí in an Irish centre in Lankashire. Although recorded in Ireland, it is evidence that Boyneside had listeners across the Irish Sea. The final extract is from August 1985 and features one of the many Irish shortwave stations that aimed at international audiences. Radio Rainbow International broadcast on 6240 kHz but this is a studio recording.

Pirate.ie in three minutes - transnational radio
Radio Rainbow letter from 1986 (courtesy Ian Biggar).

These recordings are from our various collections and are discussed in more detail in our podcast focusing on the transnational nature of Irish pirate radio.

More Radio Nova as heard in Cumbria

More Radio Nova as heard in Cumbria
Tom Hardy on the day of the Radio Nova raid, 18th May 1983 (courtesy Joe King).

This is another recording of Radio Nova as heard in Cumbria on 828 kHz AM from 0915-0945 on 30th June 1983. Tom Hardy is on air and features include the Nova Jobspot advertising current employment vacancies around town. The late Bob Gallico reads news headlines at half past the hour. There are plenty of agency ads and promos for the Radio Nova Puma 10K race and for a Nova news hotline which has just been launched. Reception is fair but Nova was operating on reduced power at this time following the raid the previous month.

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.