Interview: Tom Breen (WCCR, Radio Renmore)

Interview: Tom Breen (WCCR, Radio Renmore)
Tom Breen (Ieft) with Brendan Mee and Gary Hardiman in Radio Renmore, 1983 (photo thanks to Gary Hardiman).

We’re delighted to bring you an interview with Tom Breen about his memories of the early years of the Galway pirates from 1980-1984. Following the closure of IRG in 1979, Galway relied on small, low-powered pirates such as Claddagh Community Radio (in the Claddagh just west of the city centre) and Tom’s own Radio Ballybane located in the eastern suburb of the same name. He also recalls another short-lived station calling itself Radio Eyre (named after Galway’s Eyre Square), involving Liam Stenson and others formerly involved with Independent Radio Galway. The Connacht Sentinel reported that Radio Eyre came on the air at the beginning of June 1982.

Tom remembers his involvement with West Coast Community Radio (WCCR) which broadcast from March 1982 until July 1983, first from near Cloonacauneen Castle north of Galway and then from a frozen chicken factory in the eastern suburb of Roscam. WCCR was the largest station in Galway since the closure of IRG and became a full-time operation. It received its AM transmitter from a station called WKRC in Newbridge, Co. Kildare and while quite low-powered (80-100 watts), managed to boost its signal to cover the city and beyond. Tom was also one of those who set up Radio Renmore/Renmore Local Radio, which broadcast on very low power on 101 FM from the Renmore area to the east. Thanks to Ian Biggar for additional information.

Aircheck: Radio Renmore

Aircheck: Radio Renmore
Gary Hardiman at Radio Renmore, 1983 (photo courtesy of Gary Hardiman).

Radio Renmore was one of a number of short-lived low-powered Galway pirates in the early 1980s. It broadcast from August 1983 until early 1985 from a converted garage in the eastern suburb of Renmore with a power of 5 watts on 101 FM. Set up by three teenagers, Gary Hardiman, Tom Breen and Brendan Mee, Radio Renmore broadcast from Brendan’s garage during the school holidays. It was known as Radio Snowflake when it returned at Christmas 1983. The station moved to the house of Brian Walsh in the summer of 1984 and changed its name to Renmore Local Radio. The better site next to Lough Atalia boosted its signal into the city. These undated recordings are from 1983 and 1984 and include station promos, news and adverts for local businesses.

Aircheck: Radio Renmore
Renmore at Lough Atalia (photo by John Walsh).

We thanks Brendan Mee for background information and for the recording and Gary Hardiman for photos. Tomorrow we bring you an interview with Tom Breen about his memories of this and other small Galway hobby stations.

Aircheck: Radio Renmore
Brendan Mee at the decks on Radio Renmore, c. 1984 (photo courtesy of Brendan Mee).

Jingles: Emerald Radio (Galway)

Jingles: Emerald Radio (Galway)
Shantalla near Galway city centre from where Emerald Radio broadcast (photo by John Walsh).

Emerald Radio was a part-time hobby station broadcasting on 97.5 FM from the Shantalla area of Galway City in 1986 and 1987. It came on the air in June 1986 and was run by the 20-year-old Dónal Mahon. According to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report, Emerald was a summer operation running from June to September and closed down at the end of the school holidays. It described Emerald Radio as ‘surprisingly professional’ with ‘nice equipment and pleasant audio’. Emerald FM was included as an irregular operator by Anoraks Ireland in their listing of November 1986, with a plan to return at Christmas.

In February 1987, the Galway City Tribune reported that Dónal Mahon (named in the report as Dónal Murphy) intended to relaunch Emerald commercially following the success of the previous summer, but that 97.5 FM was being used by a country music pirate called WMAQ. When Emerald moved to other frequencies, Mahon complained that they were followed each time and jammed by WMAQ. According to the Tribune, he traced the offending signal to the address of the main Galway pirate WLS but the owner denied any involvement.

These jingles for Emerald Radio were unusual in that they were professionally produced by Alfasound with specific reference to the west of Ireland. There are also some generic jingles and idents for presenters including Gary Hardiman, one of the founders of Radio Renmore, and Dónal Mahon himself. We thank Brendan Mee for donating these jingles to the archive.

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.