Radio Dublin on Easter Sunday 1978

Radio Dublin on Easter Sunday 1978
Early Radio Dublin badge (Alan MacSiomoin collection).

Kieran Murray presented FRC (Free Radio Campaign) programmes on various pirates down the years, including in the early days of Radio Dublin as a full-time station. Here’s a recording of part of the FRC show presented by Kieran on Radio Dublin on Easter Sunday, 24th March 1978. This was just before the split that led to the breakaway station Big D. An ad is heard for FRC Ireland and its magazine Sounds Alternative, and new stations in Kildare and Galway are mentioned. There are also long lists of requests, reflecting the strong listenership enjoyed by Radio Dublin at the time.

The recording was made by Eddie Caffrey in Co. Louth, and there is some interference. Thanks to Eddie and Ian Biggar for sharing it with us.

Radio Dublin announces full-time broadcasting

Radio Dublin announces full-time broadcasting
Photo of Radio Dublin march from Sounds Alternative, February 1978 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Back when pirate stations were part-time hobbyists, Radio Dublin broke the mould on the 17th and 18th September 1977 when it broadcast non-stop for 36 hours. This was a key period in the development of the pirates as stations went full-time for the first time, with Radio Dublin pioneering round the clock broadcasting.

Over the Christmas and New Year period 1977/78, Radio Dublin broadcast continuously for 300 hours. According to Sounds Alternative magazine edited by Kieran Murray, it was the only station in Ireland to ring in the New Year, with the Lord Mayor of Dublin doing the honours. On Monday 2nd January 1978, the station announced that it would begin full-time daily broadcasting and unveiled a new schedule of DJs including Gerry Campbell, James Dillon, Sylvie, Mike Eastwood, Shay West, Dennis Murray and John Clarke.

This recording is of the last 40 minutes of Radio Dublin’s festive marathon from 0020-0100 on 2nd January. The presenter is unidentified but the voice of Shay West is heard with a message in basic French asking an overseas listener to phone home. The broadcast is closed by Radio Dublin’s owner Eamonn Cooke who announces that full-time programming will start later that morning at 8am. This recording was made in Leeds by Gary Hogg, so is very much DX reception, but it is an important piece of history as it marked the start of a new era in Irish radio history. Thanks to Ian Biggar for sharing it with us.

Radio Dublin announces full-time broadcasting
Early Radio Dublin letterhead (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The non-stop broadcasts attracted the attention of the authorities, and Radio Dublin was raided early on 17th January, only to return to the airwaves by midnight. On 21st January, a march in support of Radio Dublin was held in the city centre, attracting between 8,000-10,000 people, according to Sounds Alternative. The station’s aerial was cut down by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs on 24th January but returned within a few weeks. Radio Dublin closed down permanently in 2002 following the conviction of Eamonn Cooke for sexually abusing children. He was jailed in 2003 and again in 2007 and died in 2016 while on temporary release. If you require support with this issue, you can contact the organisation One in Four.

Big D station idents

Big D station idents
Big D poster from c. 1979 (courtesy of DX Archive).

We’ve already covered the fascinating story of the first pirate jingles in Ireland, the American package used by Radio Dublin from the early 1970s. The jingles, made by a company called SPOT Productions in Texas, referred to ‘WDEE – The Big D’ and at that time, Radio Dublin used the Big D tagline. It was probably the first of many cases of a station calling itself after whatever jingle package it could find.

Of course, the infamous split in Radio Dublin led to a separate station calling itself Big D, which came on air in April 1978. The SPOT jingle package surfaced again and can be heard in this selection of idents for DJ Bryan Lambert, voiced by the legendary Tony Allan.

We thank Kieran Murray for his donation of this recording.

Big D discusses frequency congestion in Dublin

Big D discusses frequency congestion in Dublin
Big D sticker (courtesy of Bill Ebrill).

There was plenty of frequency congestion in Dublin in the late 1970s as the pirates upped their gain and became full-time operations. Stations congregated around the same part of the AM band between 1100-1200 kHz often interfering with each other or hopping onto each other’s favourite spot. We heard already how ARD switched frequency at night to avoid co-channel interference with overseas stations.

This discussion on the FRC show on Big D from 13th November 1980 gives a sense of the problem. The unidentified presenter takes a call from a listener who has a lot to say on the topic and veteran of the pirate scene Ken Sheehan (Edwards) comments that the new Sunshine Radio has set an example by choosing the other end of the band. The recording ends with the Big D song, which was recorded by one of the DJs, John Paul.

Hear a better quality version of the song here, courtesy of Kieran Murray.

London pirate radio history and recordings

London pirate radio history and recordings
Stephen Hebditch’s book is available from Amazon and independent booksellers.

London has been a hotbed of pirate radio since the 1960s and has always had a strong connection with Ireland through emigration and cultural influences. The thousands of pirate stations in London across the decades have been documented on the website AMFM.org.uk and in the book London’s Pirate Pioneers (2015) by the site’s founder Stephen Hebditch. Recordings of the London pirates are posted regularly on the site’s Twitter account.

In this interview with John Walsh, Stephen explores the background to and growth of London pirate radio and includes audio clips from different eras and genres of stations. He also explains the book project and covers the relationship between London pirate radio and the Irish pirate scene.

This interview was broadcast originally on Wireless on Flirt FM in April 2021.