Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 1)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 1)
Some of the hundreds of cassettes in the Leon Tipler collection (photo by Brian Greene).

In May 2020, we were delighted to receive a large donation of cassettes belonging to the late Leon Tipler (1942-2013), a British pirate radio enthusiast and broadcaster who recorded thousands of hours of Irish pirate stations in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You can read a tribute here. We thank Steve England for sending us this important collection, which provides a unique insight into a critical period in Irish pirate radio, the years just before and after the arrival of the ‘super-pirates’ in the form of Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio.

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 1)
Leon Tipler (photo courtesy of

We’ll be featuring this collection over the coming months, but we begin with Tipler’s well-known series of documentaries covering the period 1979-1982, ‘The Irish Pirates’ by Alfasound Tapetrix Productions. These eight hour-long recordings are reference copies from the documentary maker himself and are in high quality audio.

Volume 1 documents Tipler’s first visits to Dublin in 1979 and 1980 and includes recordings of and interviews with stations on the air in the capital at the time.

These include ARD, Big D, Radio Dublin, Radio City, Radio 257, Southside Radio and Capitol Radio. Tony Allan can be heard reading news and presenting a talk programme on ARD. There’s an interview with Robbie Robinson of the new Sunshine Radio about the loophole in the 1926 Wireless Telegraphy Act although Sunshine itself is not discussed until a later episode. Tipler also covers the launch of RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979 which, although forced by the pirates, did nothing to quell the success of the illegal broadcasters. As Tipler says, the best was yet to come.

Index of Volume 1

00:00 signature tune
00:42 intro
00:55 Nova name check for Leon
02:32 Discover Ireland Radio Advert
03:01 The flight
03:35 Aer Lingus
05:03 RTE Radio 1 Weather
06:26 Aircheck 1 Capitol
07:34 ARD Radio
07:46 Big D Simon Young
08:58 Radio Dublin politics
11:02 Phone in Quiz
12:29 ARD Radio News
13:33 ARD Radio News
14:19 Big D News
15:17 RTE Radio 2 launches
17:32 Irish Radio History
19:10 Larry Gogan
19:40 The expansion of RTE
20:50 Visit 1 leads to visit 2
21:34 Tony Allan
22:16 Tony Allan ARD News
23:15 Dublin is where the action is
26:31 Not all pop music
27:06 ARD visit
29:16 ARD aircheck / jingles / promos
32:25 Radio Dublin – Aidan J
37:59 Land Pirates and the law
38:39 Robbie Robinson explains the loophole
40:40 Radio Dublin 1966
45:07 Visit #3 1980 bandscan
58:32 Hotels and Pirates

Full recording: World Music Radio via Radio Dublin

World Music Radio started as a land-based pirate in the north of the Netherlands in the mid 1960s. It continued broadcasting most Sundays on shortwave until it was raided in August 1973. Our colleague Ian Biggar of DX Archive remembers listening to the station: ‘I missed the original WMR, but first heard it in 1976 on 6230 kHz legally, via the transmitters of Radio Andorra. It tried to be a commercial station on shortwave, but the sponsors were just not there and programmes became sporadic as funds run out. There were religious programmes on shortwave, but regular advertisers just did not seem interested in a worldwide audience’.

Full recording: World Music Radio via Radio Dublin

Ian describes how WMR was broadcast on Radio Dublin: ‘Eventually they tried to get stations to pay for their programming, but I doubt if this brought in much cash either. I am not sure what the arrangement was with Radio Dublin, but doubt if Eamon Cooke paid for the programmes. Originally the arrangement was that WMR was aired early Sunday mornings on shortwave, but programmes were slotted in on other occasions’.

Full recording: World Music Radio via Radio Dublin

As well as Andorra and Ireland, over the years WMR was heard via transmitters in Italy, South Africa and nowadays in Denmark. You can learn more here. Ian heard WMR many times on both shortwave and medium wave via Radio Dublin and as the QSLs show, both before and after the 1988 act. The recording features DJ Lee Alvin. This professional broadcaster was very much an influence for some young would-be broadcasters in the 1970s with his programmes on WMR as well as Radio Kaleidoscope and Radio Jackie in London.  

This recording was made from 1100-1145 on the 7th of February 1984 from Radio Dublin’s Channel 2 on 98.7 FM. It is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.

Full recording: Radio Dublin

Full recording: Radio Dublin
Radio Dublin badge courtesy of Brian Greene.

Here’s a short recording of the late Seán Day (Murphy) on Radio Dublin on the 18th of May 1983 from 1639-1651. There are plenty of requests and dedications but no mention of the raid on Radio Nova that morning. Radio Dublin was one of only two Dublin stations to continue broadcasting after most of the pirates left the air voluntarily the following day. Many DJs from those stations flocked to the cramped Radio Dublin studio in Inchicore and the station’s popularity soared as listeners re-tuned their radios. In 1981, Seán Day set up Double R Radio, a small Dublin pirate, from his house also in Inchicore.

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

Full recording: Radio Dublin

Full recording: Radio Dublin
Radio Dublin badge courtesy of Alan MacSimoin (RIP)

Here’s a recording of some vintage Radio Dublin from the days when 7 days a week broadcasting was still a dream. This is part of their 36 hour marathon over the 17th and 18th of September 1977 with DJs John Paul, Jimmy St. Ledger, Sylvia and Johnny Day. Transmission quality left a little to be desired at times, but there’s no doubt that this was the big one in Dublin. The recording is courtesy of Kieran Murray and was given to us by Ian Biggar.

Interview: Jimmy St. Ledger (Premier Radio International)

Interview: Jimmy St. Ledger (Premier Radio International)
Premier Radio International logo (courtesy of DX Archive)

We bring you an interview with Jimmy St. Ledger (Jimmy Howlett) of Premier Radio International, a long-running shortwave pirate station from Ireland. Premier began broadcasting on medium wave in 1976 and went on shortwave soon after. Jimmy’s first transmitter was used to broadcast Radio Cill Dara from Naas. He was also involved with Radio Dublin before the splits of the late 1970s. The interviewer is Eolann Aitken.

Premier continued on and off over the years and was among a small number to return to the air following the closedowns of 1988. It continues to broadcast today on shortwave as a hobby station. Further information is available on its website.