The Pirate.ie Podcast #2

The Pirate.ie Podcast #2

We’re delighted to announce episode #2 of the Pirate.ie podcast which explores themes covered in our growing archive of Irish pirate radio.

AM broadcasting, widely used by the pirates up to the end of the 1980s, allowed radio signals to travel far and wide beyond the borders of the state. Even small stations could be carried long distances thanks to the magic of night-time AM propagation but dozens of pirates along the border deliberately beamed their signals northwards. With 50 kW of power at its peak, the Dublin super-pirate Radio Nova aimed specifically at the northwest coast of Britain. Ireland also had many hobby shortwave pirates which could be heard thousands of miles from home.

In episode #2, John Walsh and Brian Greene explore how AM spillover, both accidental and deliberate, brought the Irish pirates to a bigger audience.

Panel discussion: Pirate.ie at conference on media archives

Panel discussion: Pirate.ie at conference on media archives

Pirate.ie took today took part in an international conference about media and audiovisual archives hosted by the International Federation of Television Archives and the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. Due to be held at Trinity College Dublin, the conference took place online due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Panel discussion: Pirate.ie at conference on media archives

John Walsh and Brian Greene of Pirate.ie took part in a panel discussion entitled ‘Crystals in the Transmitter: Pirate Radio Archives in Ireland’. Also participating was Sybil Fennell of the great Radio Nova of the 1980s who has written a book about her memories of that exciting time. The panel was convened by Jennifer Vaughn, Senior Digital Librarian at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Carolyn Birdsall, Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. There was strong interest in the session, with up to 70 people in attendance.

This is an audio version of the panel discussion.

Full recording: Radio West (Mullingar)

Full recording: Radio West (Mullingar)
Radio West compliments slip, courtesy of DX Archive.

Radio West was one of the large regional stations of the pirate era and even renamed itself ‘West National Radio 3’ in 1988 as it claimed to be broadcasting nationwide. Its 10kW transmitter on 765 kHz (later 702) gave it good coverage over a wide area and an infill AM on 711 kW was added for Galway in 1988. Radio West also had a chain of low-powered FM relays from Dublin to Galway but it was stretching the imagination to claim national coverage.

This recording is of the end of the Mike Young breakfast show from 0918-1003 on 2nd February 1984, recorded from 765 kHz in Dublin. There is some electrical interference with audio dropout from time to time and there seems to be some drift off channel by the end of the recording. Ads are heard from across the midland counties, some of which feature the voice of station owner Shaun Coyne. Idents are voiced by Tony Allan and interestingly the 10.00 news is a relay of Bob Gallico on Radio Nova in Dublin. We don’t know if there was ever a formal agreement with Nova to rebroadcast its news or if this is an example of piracy by one pirate from another – smaller stations were known to relay news from bigger stations and Radio Dublin infamously rebroadcast bulletins from RTÉ for a time.

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

Full recording: Radio Nova

Full recording: Radio Nova
Sybil Fennell, Declan Meehan and Bob Gallico when Nova closed down officially in May 1983 (photo courtesy of Joe King).

Radio Nova was renowned for many things including its powerful signal, slick formatting and innovative content. Another aspect which drew attention to the station and boosted its audience were the regular cash prizes which were occasionally very generous. On 30th August 1983, Nova gave away £6,000 in cash, a fortune in the cash-strapped times, to Dolores Carney from Trim in Co. Meath. This recording was made from 1857-1930 that evening and features part of the ‘Dublin Today’ talk programme which of course gives prominence to the giveaway, replaying the moment when Dolores heard that she had won and her subsequent interview with Declan Meehan.

The presenter is Sybil Fennell, one of the best known newsreaders on Nova and interestingly, the recording gives an example of how Nova sometimes split its service between AM and FM in order to maximise its audience. On this occasion, ‘Dublin Today’ was broadcast on 828 kHz AM only, while 88 FM carried a rock music show. It’s hard to believe that this was just five months after Nova was raided and shut down by the authorities but by August 1983, Ireland’s biggest pirate station was back with a vengeance.

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

Feature: Radio Carousel history

Feature: Radio Carousel history
Radio Carousel staff in 1981. Information below (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar).

This is a feature programme about the first five-and-a-half years of the Radio Carousel network, broadcast in December 1983. It was compiled by Kieran Murray who was the first voice to be heard on the station on 20th May 1978. There are also interviews with station founder and owner Hugh Hardy, information about listenership surveys and extracts from shows featuring presenters such as Dave Scott (Joe Reilly), Mike Ahern (Richard McCullen) and Tina Anderson. Kieran describes the satellite stations in Navan, Drogheda and on the border and there are also extracts from news programmes and outside broadcasts. Hugh Hardy’s interview with BBC Radio Ulster following the 1983 raids on Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio is included. The programme also includes a flavour of Radio Carousel Dundalk’s 5th birthday on 20th May 1983 and of Radio Carousel Navan’s 2nd birthday on 22nd October 1983.

Feature: Radio Carousel history
Kieran Murray in the original Radio Carousel studio in 1978 (photo courtesy of Eddie Caffrey).

Kieran Murray announces the programme as a two-hour special but this recording contains only one hour so is presumably an edited version. A full version of the station’s theme tune ‘Don’t stop the carousel’ by Roy Taylor and the Nevada is heard at the end. We thank Eddie Caffrey for donating the recording.

Full photo information

Back row: Richard Crowley, Kieran Murray, Shay Breslin, Ray Stone, Hugh Hardy, Dave Scott, Mike Ahern, Frank Mitchell.

Front row: Shane Mullen, Hugh Sands, Penny Palmer, Tony Farrelly.