We’ve just completed a week-long series of recordings of the pirate stations based in and around Galway City in the 1980s, including Atlantic Sound, WLS, Coast 103, County Sound and Radio Pirate Woman. These were all from the final part of the Irish pirate radio era from 1984 to 1988 with the exception of Radio Pirate Woman which defied the new legislation and carried on into the 1990s and beyond. Like Dublin, Galway also had an earlier wave of pirates which paved the way for the larger commercial stations. Among those were Independent Radio Galway and Atlantic Radio.
Independent Radio Galway, broadcasting in the late 1970s on 199 metres (1503 kHz) was the closest that Galway came to a community radio station. Set up by Tom O’Connor of O’Connor’s television repair shop, it began on April 15th 1978 and was one of major pirates that emerged from the RTÉ local radio experiment of that period. IRG closed on July 28th 1979 following the establishment of RTÉ Radio 2. More information is available here. Surprisingly for a city with a long tradition of the arts and community development, Galway never developed community radio in the mould of well-known stations such as Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) and North Dublin Community Radio (NDCR). Another early station was Atlantic Radio (no relation to the later Atlantic Sound as far as we know), which was due to begin broadcasting on February 25th 1978. As the report below indicates, they had big plans including transmitters in North Galway and Mayo and a separate city service, Galway Community Radio. The station gave an address in Renmore on the east side of the city.
County Sound was an example of a station situated outside Galway city which moved eventually into the city centre. Another county station, KFM, was set up in 1986 in the village of Moycullen 12 km northwest of Galway. Later it opened a studio in the city centre and announced two FM frequencies, one for the city (99 MHz) and another for the county (95 MHz). AM was planned but never materialised.
There was a remarkable similarity between the design of the KFM rate card and the one used previously by Atlantic Sound!
Other stations included West Coast Community Radio (WCCR) which broadcast from spring 1982 until July 1983 on AM only, with its aerial running along the terrace of Cloonacauneen Castle north of Galway before moving to a frozen meat factory in Roscam on the east side of the city. Among those involved with WCCR were the current CEO of Galway Bay FM, Keith Finnegan. Radio Renmore was a low-powered station (approximately 5 watts) on 100 FM which operated from August 1983 until early 1985 from the eastern suburb of Renmore. Set up by three teenagers, Gary Hardiman, Tom Breen and Brendan Mee, it broadcast during the school holidays and was known as Radio Snowflake at Christmas 1984. Emerald FM was an irregular pirate from Shantalla in 1986 as was WHYT which gave an address in Eglinton Street in the city centre. In 1987 another hobby station, Radio Impulse, was logged mainly at weekends.
Stations in Co. Galway included the very early pirate Saor-Raidió Chonamara which broadcast on two separate occasions in 1970 from Ros Muc, a village in the Gaeltacht area of Connemara. It was a pioneer in Irish language broadcasting and led to the establishment of RTÉ’s Irish language service Raidió na Gaeltachta in 1972. Further to the northwest, Connemara Community Radio came on the air in 1988 in the village of Letterfrack. It is now a licensed station of the same name. In the east of the county, Kandy Radio broadcast from Ballinasloe from 1986 to 1988 and Galway District Radio was a short-lived station in Loughrea.
Thanks to Brendan Mee for background details. We plan to bring you further information about these and other stations, as well as more recordings, in another Galway series in the future.