The economics and technology of pirate radio

The economics and technology of pirate radio
West National Radio 3 sticker from 1988 (courtesy DX Archive).

This is a recording of part the Anoraks Show on West National Radio 3 from December 1988, towards the end of the popular show’s run as the pirates prepared to close down. Station boss Shaun Coyne interviews radio engineer Gerry Reilly from Co. Cavan, who reckons that he set up between 30 and 40 pirate stations in the 1980s.

The economics and technology of pirate radio
Shaun Coyne pictured in 1986 (photo by Andy Carter, courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The discussion gives a fascinating insight into the economics and technology of the pirates and there are nuggets of information about how certain stations made big profits and provided much needed work in their areas. There’s also plenty of speculation about the new licensed era in 1989. Following the Anoraks Show we hear part of the final edition of the weekly farming programme Landlink.

This recording was made from 1052-1141 on Sunday 11th December 1988 from 100.1 FM. We thank John Breslin for the donation. Listen to our own interview with Gerry Reilly in 2018 here.

Don Allen on the Radio West Anoraks Show

Don Allen on the Radio West Anoraks Show
Landlink was heard after the Anoraks Show on Radio West every Sunday (courtesy Ian Biggar).

One of the presenters of the Radio West Anoraks Show was the late Don Allen, himself a veteran of the offshore pirate scene and an accomplished broadcaster on the Irish pirates of the 1980s. Here he is presenting the Anoraks Show in 1987 with station boss Shaun Coyne, who talks about the station’s expansion into Galway on both AM and FM. There are adverts for Anoraks Ireland and Anoraks UK and discussion of a pirate radio magazine that was being prepared at the time, although it seems it never materialised.

This recording was made from 1045-1145 on Sunday 19th July 1987 from an unspecified FM frequency. It was donated to us by Ian Biggar.

Radio West Anoraks Show from 1986

Radio West Anoraks Show from 1986
Radio West compliments slip from c. 1986 (courtesy DX Archive).

Radio West broadcast from Mullingar from 1982 until the end of 1988 and achieved wide coverage after it began using the former Radio Nova 10kW transmitter on 765 kHz and later 702 kHz. It was popular with radio watchers because of the lively and often unpredictable Sunday morning Anoraks Show presented by station owner Shaun Coyne and others. A diet of radio gossip, colourful rumours and regular updates from anoraks throughout the country made the show essential listening each week.

This edition of the Anoraks Show was recorded in Dublin from 765 kHz from 1100-1230 on 8th June 1986 and features Philip Hilton with Shaun Coyne. There’s a promise of link-ups with ABC in Waterford and WKLR in Cork but these don’t materialise and the presenters joke that these stations are blacklisted! The Anoraks Show is followed at midday by the first half hour of the traditional music programme Céilí Lár Tíre.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin. in three minutes – transnational radio in three minutes - transnational radio
Boyneside Radio North AM mast just on the border (courtesy of Eddie Caffrey).

This three-minute clip includes highlights related to the transnational nature of Irish pirate radio in the late 1970s and 1980s. By accident or design, stations were heard beyond the borders of the Irish state on FM and especially on AM and there were also part-time shortwave operators aimed at international DXers. in three minutes - transnational radio
Constitution Hill in Aberystwyth where Leon Tipler recorded Irish radio (photo by John Walsh).

The first segment is of Arklow Community Radio as heard by the late British radio enthusiast Leon Tipler on FM in Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast on 13th August 1983. This is followed by a night-time recording of Radio Nova playing a request for Leon at his home in Kidderminster in the English midlands on 17th September 1982. in three minutes - transnational radio
Radio Nova sticker from the 50 kW days (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The third segment is the iconic top-of-the-hour ident of Radio Nova recorded on 17th July 1984. This is voiced by station boss Chris Cary who stresses that Nova broadcasts from and not to Dublin on 738 kHz. The AM transmitter was using 50 kW at the time in order to reach the British market. in three minutes - transnational radio
KISS FM sticker (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The fourth segment is of KISS FM, a high-powered FM and AM station based in Monaghan on the border and aiming its signal at the lucrative Belfast market. This was recorded in Scotland on 13th June 1988. The firth extract is an advert on the Louth station Boyneside Radio promoting a céilí in an Irish centre in Lankashire. Although recorded in Ireland, it is evidence that Boyneside had listeners across the Irish Sea. The final extract is from August 1985 and features one of the many Irish shortwave stations that aimed at international audiences. Radio Rainbow International broadcast on 6240 kHz but this is a studio recording. in three minutes - transnational radio
Radio Rainbow letter from 1986 (courtesy Ian Biggar).

These recordings are from our various collections and are discussed in more detail in our podcast focusing on the transnational nature of Irish pirate radio.

Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh (RIP) on Bray Local Broadcasting

Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh (RIP) on Bray Local Broadcasting
Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh (top left) at the launch of Raidió na Life in 1993 (courtesy Saol/Raidió na Life).

We were saddened to learn of the death on 17th November 2021 of Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh, a pioneering broadcaster with Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) in the 1980s. After developing Irish language programmes on BLB, Rónán went on to be the manager of the licensed Irish language station Raidió na Life in 1993.

BLB was one of the leaders in local community broadcasting during the pirate era and played a key role in the National Association of Community Broadcasters (NACB) which lobbied for licensed community radio. It began broadcasting in 1979 and continued until the closedowns at the end of 1988, making it one of the country’s longest-running pirate stations. As a community station, BLB prided itself on catering for minority groups and audiences served poorly by mainstream radio, including Irish speakers in its catchment area of north Wicklow and south Dublin. Irish was marginal on pirate radio, particularly among commercial stations, but community radio across the country regularly broadcast programmes in Irish. There were also Irish language pirate stations such as Saor-Raidió Chonamara in the Connemara Gaeltacht in 1970 (which led to the establishment of Raidió na Gaeltachta) and Raidió an Phobail in Dublin in 1979.

Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh (RIP) on Bray Local Broadcasting
BLB car sticker (courtesy of DX Archive).

Mar stáisiún pobail, chuir BLB roimhe freastal ar ghrúpaí mionlaigh agus daoine nach raibh freastal mar is ceart á dhéanamh orthu ag na stáisiúin mhóra raidió, ina measc cainteoirí Gaeilge i dtuaisceart Chill Mhantáin agus deisceart Bhaile Átha Cliath. Bhí an Ghaeilge imeallach ar an raidió bradach, go háirithe ar na stáisiúin tráchtála, ach craoladh cláracha Gaeilge ar stáisiúin raidió pobail ar fud na tíre. Bhí stáisiúin bhradacha Ghaeilge ann chomh maith, ina measc Saor-Radio Chonamara i nGaeltacht Chonamara in 1970 (a thug ann do Raidió na Gaeltachta) agus Raidió an Phobail i mBaile Átha Cliath in 1979.

This is an extract from the final half hour (2030-2100) of one of BLB’s Irish language programmes Timchuairt Bhré (a trip around Bray), presented by Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh on 9th November 1983. Rónán went on to present Irish language programmes on the successor licensed station to BLB, Horizon Radio (John Walsh of also worked on those programmes) and he became the first manager of the licensed Raidió na Life in 1993. The recording features Irish traditional and folk music and is followed by the station closedown at 2100.

Seo í an leathuair an chloig deireanach (2030-2100) de cheann de chláracha Gaeilge BLB, Timchuairt Bhré, á chur i láthair ag Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh ar 9 Samhain 1983. Lean Rónán air ag cur cláracha Gaeilge i láthair ar Horizon Radio, an stáisiún ceadúnaithe a tháinig i gcomharbacht ar BLB. D’oibrigh John Walsh ó ar na cláracha sin chomh maith. Ceapadh Rónán ina chéad bhainisteoir ar an stáisiún ceadúnaithe Raidió na Life in 1993. Ar an taifeadadh seo, cloistear ceol Gaelach agus traidisiúnta agus ina dhiaidh sin dúntar an stáisiún ar 2100.

Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh (RIP) on Bray Local Broadcasting
9 Prince of Wales Terrace, Quinsboro Road, Bray from where BLB broadcast in its later years. Horizon Radio was also based here (photo by John Walsh).

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