Launch of new Dublin super-pirate Q102

Launch of new Dublin super-pirate Q102
Q102 Eye in the Sky car sticker (Anoraks Ireland Collection).

These recordings are of the launch of the new Dublin super-pirate Q102, that began broadcasting on Wednesday 23rd January 1985. The station shook up the competitive Dublin radio market, offering another professional music-based station for listeners and introducing innovative features such as Eye in the Sky, traffic news reported from a helicopter flying over the city. The first recording above starts at 1613 and is of the countdown to the launch, featuring continuous music and promos. The second part below is from 1701.

Part 2 from 1701.
Launch of new Dublin super-pirate Q102
Original label from Anoraks Ireland Collection.

The next recordings begin at 1850 and include the official launch at 1900 with a Cold War-style promo voiced by Lawrence John, one of the original station founders. He is followed by Jason Maine until 2000 and then John Kenny with the night-time show. There are some comedy-style commercials but no actual advertisements.

Part 3 from 1850 including launch.
Launch of new Dublin super-pirate Q102
Original label from Anoraks Ireland Collection.
Part 4 from 1935.

The next recording begins at 2018 and includes more of John Kenny’s programme. The cassette was damaged and only the first 40 minutes has been digitised.

Part 5 from 2018.

The final recording begins at 2302 and features John Kenny with a more relaxed late night sound.

Part 6 from 2302.
Launch of new Dublin super-pirate Q102
Original cassette label from Anoraks Ireland Collection.

These recordings were all made from 102 FM and are from the Anoraks Ireland Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson. The first 90 minutes of Q102, including the launch, were recorded originally by Kieran Murray. Q102 closed down on 30th December 1988 at 1800.

Border blasters: Radio Star Country thrives in 1989

Border blasters: Radio Star Country thrives in 1989
Isobel Byrne (RIP) in the Radio Star studios in 1988 (courtesy Andy Carter).

Having defied the new broadcasting laws that came into effect at the end of the 1988, Radio Star Country entered 1989 on a high. The Anoraks UK Weekly Report of 7th January commented that ‘Star Country carried many adverts and it was as if news of the legislation had not yet reached that quarter!’ On Friday 27th January, the station announced on-air that it was going to move AM frequency, from 891 kHz to 981 kHz. This latter frequency had been used by Hometown Radio in Castleblayney, County Monaghan until Saturday 31st December 1988. Radio Star Country moved frequency on Friday 3rd February 1989 at 3.37pm and station owner Gerry Byrne was heard on air.

Similar to Radio Dublin which also defied the new laws, Radio Star Country was issued with notices that its telephones and electricity supply would be cut off after 14 days. In possible anticipation of a raid, Anoraks UK reported on 21st January that the station had introduced a new sales number in Armagh where it was not illegal to take advertising.

Border blasters: Radio Star Country thrives in 1989
Isobel Byrne (RIP) in the Radio Star Country studio in 1988 (courtesy Andy Carter).

Despite the increased risks of pirate broadcasting, 1989 was a bumper year for Radio Star Country. In February, the veteran pirate DJ Don Allen (RIP) joined the station with his popular ‘Country and Western Jamboree’, taking over the breakfast slot. Station owner Gerry Byrne was heard at lunchtime and there were live shows all day with tapes overnight. Advertising revenue was strong and the verdict of Anoraks UK on 11th February was: ‘The station gets ten out of ten for its fighting spirit’. In March, Radio Star Country even advertised for additional sales staff, such was the demand from businesses wishing to buy time on the station.

This recording was made from 0832-1002 on 23rd January from the old frequency of 891 kHz. On air is Isobel Byrne (RIP), late wife of former station owner Gerry Byrne. There are long ad breaks featuring mostly Northern businesses but the Swan Lake Hotel has a spot also. Part 1 above runs from 0832 and Part 2 below from 0917.

Part 2 from 0917.

Reception is fair as the recording was made in Scotland. We thank Ian Biggar for the donation and Seán Brady for assistance with the text.

Second night on Nova replacement Zoom 103

Second night on Nova replacement Zoom 103
Sunday Tribune article from April 1986 about Nova, Zoom 103 and other pirates (Anoraks Ireland Collection).

Zoom 103 was a short-lived replacement for Dublin super-pirate Radio Nova after it went into receivership and closed on 19th March 1986. Zoom began identifying itself shortly after 10pm that evening and the following day’s programming featured the normal Nova presenters but without an AM service. Nova founder Chris Cary denied any involvement in the new station and said he was leaving Ireland. Zoom 103 was based at 144 Upper Leeson Street in the city centre but lasted only until 24th March, when the Nova receiver seized the transmitter. On 28th March, a new station called Energy 103 began broadcasting from the same location, continuing until 11th March 1988.

Second night on Nova replacement Zoom 103
Original cassette label from Anoraks Ireland Collection.

This recording of Zoom 103 features Richard Jackson with a late night show on the second day of the station. There are very few commercials and no jingles or idents, but listeners are reportedly hearing the station as far away as Belfast and Blackpool. Our tape was made on 20th and 21st March 1986 from 103.1 FM. Part 1 above is from 2246 and Part 2 below from 2359.

Part 2 from 2359.

The recording is from the Anoraks Ireland Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.

Eddie Coady on Crystal City Sound

Eddie Coady on Crystal City Sound
Profile of Eddie Coady from Waterford Magazine, 1986 (Anoraks Ireland Collection).

Crystal City Sound broadcast from Waterford city from 1985-1988, replacing an earlier station, Suirside Radio. Crystal City Sound retained the AM frequency of 1332 kHz and also broadcast on FM. It changed its name to NCR in April 1988, closing down at the deadline of 31st December. The station claimed to offer a broader range of programmes than other Waterford pirates WLR and ABC. In this recording from its early days in 1985, the final few minutes of Kevin McCarthy’s show are heard before station manager Sandra Penkert reads lunchtime news.

Eddie Coady on Crystal City Sound
Crystal City Sound car stickers (Anoraks Ireland Collection).

Sandra is followed by Eddie Coady (RIP) with his Saturday sports show, featuring plenty of racing results. Some adverts for local businesses are heard but Crystal City Sound clearly had yet to establish a stronger commercial base in the city. Eddie was a popular local DJ and huge Elvis fan who also ran a chip shop and he was well known in the city. He died tragically in a car crash in 1994.

Eddie Coady on Crystal City Sound
Original cassette label from Anoraks Ireland Collection.

The recording was made on 9th November 1985 from 97.8 FM between 1300-1347. It is from the Anoraks Ireland Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.

Border blasters: Radio Star Country continues into 1989

Border blasters: Radio Star Country continues into 1989
Radio Star Country sticker from 1988 (courtesy Ian Biggar).

Welcome to our special series on Monaghan station Radio Star Country, one of the longest-running Irish pirates ever. The country music station has been on the air more or less continuously since 1988 to the present day. It broadcast initially on 927 kHz, then 891 kHz, and finally (and today) 981 kHz. This first post concentrates on the period from the launch of the station until the end of 1988 when the vast majority of pirates closed down. 

Radio Star Country’s first test transmission took place on Wednesday 11th May 1988 at 1.30pm on 927 kHz AM (324 metres medium wave) and 103.2 MHz FM (locally), and consisted of continuous country music. The station was broadcasting from the Swan Lake Hotel in Monaghan Town, and announced a telephone number of (047) 81179. The man behind this new venture was Gerry Byrne, who had also worked on Telstar Community Radio (Dundalk), Big M Community Radio (Castleblayney) and Northern Star (Monaghan).

In early June 1988, Radio Star Country moved their FM frequency slightly to 103.3 MHz and also added 96.3 MHz. A number of local advertisements were noted, including one for the Swan Lake Hotel. News was noted on the hour, along with a new telephone number of (047) 82394 for requests. In late July 1988, the County Monaghan area suffered severe weather conditions. Radio Star Country suffered some damage, although its transmissions on 927 kHz continued and the signal increased in strength. It was strong during daylight hours, and at night when BRT Radio in Belgium vacated the channel. In early October 1988, Radio Star Country changed AM frequency from 927 kHz to 891 kHz and, as a result, found itself nestled between BBC Radio Wales on 882 kHz and BBC Radio 2 on 909 kHz.  However, the signal on 891 kHz was vastly improved.

Radio Star Country founder Gerry Byrne shares his memories of the first year of the station and into decision to continue into 1989:

I had in my head the name Radio Star for a radio station long before Radio Star was actually launched. Previously I had worked on Radio Carousel, Telstar and the small Skyline Radio and then fortunately or otherwise on Big M in Castleblayney. I always threw myself 120 percent into anything I did back then and I did the same in Big M, none of which was appreciated. I met my first wife Isobel there and we got married but the station owner Frank Morgan changed my time on air so myself and Isobel left. We then went to Northern Star to join other guys who had split away from Big M: Gerry Callen, Martin Maguire, and an English DJ Ian Acres. We started selling advertising, Isobel especially, but we didn’t get the money we were owed and we knew there was no point in continuing there.

We started with just recorded tapes playing over and on 20th May 1988, Radio Star began broadcasting live from the office of a furniture factory and we moved into the Swan Lake Hotel in Monaghan Town. The name was then changed to Radio Star Country to underline the country slant to the station. The early days were very tough and at one point I became ill as a result of the pressure. We were plodding along and both very worked hard and reached the end of the year. We had Tony Hughes, a well-known singer and musician and a stepson of mine Michael Hopkins using the surname Byrne. It was a tumultuous time generally because as you know the new broadcasting law came in but we decided to stay on air when the rest went off air except for Eamonn Cooke in Radio Dublin. We hadn’t anything to lose and the rest should have done the same instead of stupidly thinking they would get a licence. After staying on air, we gathered a huge audience and hence a huge amount of advertising. Other station presenters included Don Allen (RIP), Ray (Cathal) McSherry (RIP), Pio McCann (RIP), Doreen Mullen (RIP), Sean Brady and Tony West (Burke), who had been with us from before 1989.

Our first recordings are of Radio Star just after the deadline of New Year’s Eve 1988, when the station defied the new legislation and carried on regardless. The recording above was made from 891 kHz and features Gerry Byrne on 1st January 1989 from 1413-1505. It’s very much business as usual with little fuss about the historical nature of the broadcast. The second tape below is from 1025-1228 on 2nd January and consists of pre-recorded music. One track calls for Radio Star to be kept on air, in keeping with other country music songs supporting the pirates in 1988 and 1989.

Recording from 2nd January 1989.

Both recordings were made in Scotland and suffer from co-channel interference and fading due to the time of year and distance from the transmitter. Our thanks to Ken Baird for the audio, to Sean Brady for the text and to Ian Biggar for his assistance with the series. Radio Star Country continues to broadcast to this day on 981 kHz AM and online.