Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)

Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)
Radio Carousel owner Hugh Hardy complete with cowboy hat in 1980 (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

The owner and operator of the Radio Carousel network was country music impresario Hugh Hardy from Omeath in Co. Louth. He presented the popular lunchtime Country Call programme which was relayed from Dundalk to the other satellite stations at the height of Carousel’s operations. Hugh lived in Dublin and commuted to Dundalk but in November 1986 he set up KLAS, an easy listening station aimed at the Dublin market, in a garage complex at the back of his home.

Radio Carousel Dundalk closed on Friday 23rd January 1987 after a surprise visit from officials of the Department of Communications who complained about interference to mobiles and directed the station to close down. Carousel left the air the following day at 1pm but its other stations in Navan and at the border continued.

Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)
An advertisement for one of Hugh Hardy’s programmes in the Sunday World from 1985 (Alan MacSimoin Collection).

This recording features a renowned interview with Hugh Hardy on the Radio West Anoraks Programme on Sunday 25th January. The weekly show was always unpredictable and relied heavily on rumour and hearsay, as station owner Shaun Coyne openly admitted. The recording opens with a heated argument between Hugh and Shaun with both trading accusations. Hugh then explains the reasons for Carousel Dundalk leaving the air and announces that given the success of KLAS, he is to concentrate on the easy listening station from then on. Both station owners compare notes about their experience of presenters down the years, with Hugh Hardy recounting how one of his newsreaders resigned live on air the previous week. The other presenter Don Allen tries to get a word in from time to time without much success but the interview ends amicably.

Radio Carousel Dundalk would in fact return in mid-February 1987 but by early 1988 both the Dundalk and border stations were in decline, leaving only Radio Carousel Navan. Hugh Hardy did not get involved in the licensed stations after 1989 but developed his video production business instead. He died in 2008.

There is a strong whiff of the drama of 1980s pirate radio in this recording: pirates encroaching on each other’s frequencies, RTÉ ordering pirates to move, stations being forced to close down and rumours circulating about those working in the business. We thank Ian Biggar for sharing this recording.

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 5)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 5)
Just some of the hundreds of cassettes in the Leon Tipler Collection (photo by Brian Greene)

Part 3 of Leon Tipler’s documentary ‘The Irish Pirates’ is entitled ‘Hello Again’, and features a return visit to Ireland in September 1983. In this episode, Volume 5 of the 8-part series, Tipler begins with a bandscan of Irish AM and FM from Aberystwyth on the west-Wales coast in August 1983. Returning to Dublin a month later, he comments on the improved sound of Treble TR before boarding a train to Kilkenny and Waterford. Kilkenny Community Radio and Suirside Radio are featured in depth and as usual there are several interesting bandscans.

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

Index to Volume 5

00:00 Irish bandscan from Aberystwyth August 1983
00:30 1983 raids
01:23 ERI
02:00 Radio West
04:10 South Coast Radio
06:00 FM DXing from Aberystwyth
07:00 Arklow Community Radio
08:31 Radio West
09:05 Kilkenny Community Radio
11:00 September 1983 visit
12:00 Treble TR
15:50 Radio Carlow
16:30 Visit to Kilkenny
17:15 Kilkenny Community Radio
27:45 Visit to KCR – community radio ethos
41:00 Visit to Waterford
42:05 WLR
42:50 Suirside Radio
43:25 ABC Tramore
46:00 Suirside Radio
48:30 Visit to Suirside Radio

Feature: discussed on Galway Bay FM

Feature: discussed on Galway Bay FM
Galway Bay FM on-air studio (photo by John Walsh)

On the 12th of June 2020, John Walsh spoke to Keith Finnegan of Galway Bay FM about the recent series about Galway pirates on The interview includes a rare jingle from Independent Radio Galway (1978-1979), sung by the choir of University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland, Galway). Keith, now CEO of Galway Bay FM, remembers his own involvement in West Coast Community Radio (WCCR). The interview finishes with a montage of jingles and idents from the series on Galway.

Feature: discussed on Galway Bay FM
Galway Bay FM headquarters at Sandy Road (photo by John Walsh).

Many of those at Galway Bay FM cut their teeth in the Galway pirates of the era. Licensed in 1989 as Radio West, one group involved in the successful consortium was the original pirate Radio West from Mullingar. The station changed its name to Galway Bay FM in 1993.

We thank Galway Bay FM for their interest in and hope that the interview will encourage more people in Galway to come forward to memories and recordings.

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: Radio West (Mullingar)

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

Radio West was a large station broadcasting to the midlands from 1982, first on 1071 kHz and then on 765 kHz as in the compliments slip. Acquiring the old Radio Nova 10kW transmitter, it could be heard far and wide especially when it moved to the clearer channel of 702 kHz. By 1988 Radio West was styling itself as ‘West National Radio 3’ and claiming to be nationwide, based on the 10kW AM rig and a chain of FM transmitters stretching from Dublin to Galway.

This recording is from the 18th of May 1983 from 1908-1925 and features Davina Carr on air with a country programme, a style of music popularised by rural stations such as Radio West. There is no mention of the raid on Radio Nova that morning, although Davina explains that the station had been off the air earlier due to technical issues. Radio West was among those stations to close down temporarily following the other raid on Sunshine Radio on the 19th of May. You can hear airchecks and jingles from Radio West here.