Full recording: Q102 (Dublin)

Q102 rate card from Alan MacSimoin collection.

Q102 shook up the Dublin scene when it came on the air on the 23rd of January 1985. In contrast to Radio Nova which had been plagued by union problems for some time, Q102 marketed itself as ‘Irish owned and operated’ in the early years. The station attracted big names or launched many radio careers and was one of Dublin’s most successful pirates of the 1980s. It broadcast initially on 828 kHz AM and 102 FM, later adding 103.5. In October 1985 it moved to the clearer channel of 819 kHz, causing problems for Cavan Community Radio which was on the same frequency.

Among the successful initiatives was the ‘Eye in the Sky’ traffic news service, broadcast by station manager Mike Hogan from a helicopter circling Dublin. The helicopter was piloted by Ciaran Haughey, son of the Fianna Fáil leader and future Taoiseach Charles Haughey. ‘Eye in the Sky’ was sponsored by Fiat Ireland, and gave commuters an up-to-the-minute morning traffic report four years ahead of a similar service on RTÉ. This recording from 0815-0900 on the 23rd of January 1986 (the station’s first birthday) is of the breakfast programme presented by Greg Gaughran with traffic reports from Mike Hogan and Gary Hamill (Seán McCarthy) on news.

A photo of Mike Hogan from an Irish Times report about the new Eye in the Sky service, January 1986 (Alan MacSimoin collection).

In March 1988, Q102 bought the equipment of its rival Energy 103 after its sudden closure and took over all its frequencies, giving it prominence on the AM and FM bands. In June 1988, the station was relaunched as ‘Super Q’ by the American radio consultant Bill Cunningham who had transformed the sound of Sunshine previously. It broadcast until the 30th of December 1988. You can read more about the history of Q102 and hear further recordings here.

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: Sunshine Radio (Dublin)

Sunshine boss Robbie Robinson at the Portmarnock studios on the day of the radio, 19th May 1983. Photo courtesy of Gary Hogg and Ian Biggar.

This is a recording of Sunshine Radio from the 18th of May 1983 from 1722-1738 recorded from 531 kHz AM. The presenter is Eugene Higgins. News headlines at 5.30 are read by Emer Dolan (Woodful) and refer to the Radio Nova raid that morning and plans by the opposition Fianna Fáil party to press once again for legislation on local radio. The following morning Sunshine Radio would itself be raided and put off the air.

Sunshine engineer the late Peter Gibney works on a new AM transmitter after the main one is confiscated in the raid. Photo courtesy of Gary Hogg/Ian Biggar.

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: ABC Radio (Dublin)

A photo of the studio courtesy of abcradio-dublin.com – location unknown.

ABC Radio was one of the smaller Dublin stations on air from 1981 to 1984. This recording is from the 18th of May 1983 from 1436-1451 and features Gerry Williams on air, who says that all the pirates could be in jeopardy following the raid on Radio Nova that morning. ABC was in fact one of only two stations in Dublin to remain on air following the 19th of May 1983. ABC was based for a while at the Ivy Rooms Hotel (now the Gate Hotel) on Parnell Street in the north inner-city. In 1984 it merged with another small station Westside Radio to become Radio Annabel, which also broadcast from the Ivy Rooms Hotel.

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 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.

Full recording: Boyneside Radio (Drogheda)

The former Boyneside Radio studios at Mill Lane in Drogheda (pic John Walsh).

This is a snippet from Eddie Caffrey’s ‘Afternoon Delight’ programme on Boyneside Radio from Drogheda on the 18th of May 1983 from 1614-1632, recorded from 1332 kHz/225 metres. There is no mention of the raid on Radio Nova that morning but pirates throughout the country were becoming nervous. Many Dublin stations closed voluntarily the following day following another raid on Sunshine Radio but Boyneside stayed on the air.

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 Leinster (Dublin)

Radio Leinster logo courtesy of DX Archive.

Radio Leinster was one of Dublin’s niche pirates, featuring an easy listening and chat format in contrast with the chart music played on many stations. It began in April or May 1981 from central Dublin before moving to an elevated site in Sandyford overlooking the city. A professional 1 kW transmitter on 738 kHz travelled well by day but was subject to interference at night. Radio Leinster presenters included Gavin Duffy who led the consortium to be awarded the local radio licence for counties Meath and Louth in 1989. Peter Mulryan’s book Radio Radio (1988) reports that in 1982 Duffy announced that he would interview senior Sinn Féin figures including Gerry Adams, in breach of Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act. The station received a warning from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and Duffy was fired.

This recording is of interest because it is from the last day of Radio Leinster, the 19th of March 1983. Like many other stations, Radio Leinster was spooked by the raids on Radio Nova and Sunshine and closed down suddenly at lunchtime. This recording which begins at 10.20am gives no impression of a crisis, and presenter Mike Moran even announces a competition. The recording is from 93 FM. Radio Leinster was never to return but future stations in the same easy listening vein would be Magic 103, KISS FM (managed by David Baker) and KLAS.

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: Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB)

BLB car sticker courtesy of DX Archive.

Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) was a pioneer in Irish community radio and spent almost ten years on air from 1979 to 1988. Based in the north Wicklow town, it focused on local speech content and carried specialist music shows in contrast with other stations broadcasting mostly pop music. You can hear a panel discussion about the history of BLB here or read a newspaper report here.

This recording, made from 657 kHz AM from 6.53pm on 18 May 1983 is significant because of its date, not its content: this was the same day as the infamous raid by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs on Dublin super-pirate Radio Nova. Sunshine Radio was raided the follow day, prompting panic among pirates throughout the country. On 19 May many, including BLB, closed down temporarily as a result of the raids and some such as Radio Leinster were never to return.

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

Interview: Declan Meehan (part 2: 1982-1989)

Declan Meehan and John Walsh at East Coast FM in Bray where Declan has worked since 1994.

In the second part of our extended interview, long-time broadcaster Declan Meehan discusses his move from Sunshine to Radio Nova in 1982 which was by then the biggest station in Dublin. He tells us how Chris Cary copied the sound of KIIS FM in Los Angeles to bring a new broadcasting style to Ireland. Despite his love for Radio Nova, Declan left the station because of the bitter NUJ strike in 1984. Although he moved into licensed radio in the UK and Ireland after that, Declan’s involvement with the pirates didn’t quite end there. The interview concludes with Declan’s thoughts on the pirate legacy and his views on the state of radio today.

You can hear the first part of this interview here.

Interview: Declan Meehan (part 1: 1970-1982)

Declan Meehan and John Walsh at the studios of East Coast FM in Bray, where Declan has worked since 1994.

We met one of Ireland’s most experienced broadcasters Declan Meehan recently to discuss his significant contribution to Irish pirate radio history and Irish radio in general over the past 50 years.

In the first part of a long interview, Declan discusses the early years of his involvement in the Dublin pirate scene spanning small stations such as Radio Vanessa and Radio Milinda and larger, more professional operations like ARD. He describes his unhappy move to the new RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979 and how he went on to work for the first of the superpirates, Sunshine Radio, where he met Chris Cary.

The interview includes references to many of the best-known names in Irish radio over the past half-century.