Pirate pioneers: Radio Caroline Dublin from 1970

Pirate pioneers: Radio Caroline Dublin from 1970
Radio Caroline Dublin’s studio (photo courtesy of Bill Ebrill).

The renowned British offshore station’s name was popular with other pirates and several Irish stations called themselves Radio Caroline over the decades. The earliest use of the name was in 1969 when Radio Caroline Dublin started transmissions as Radio Romeo using 300 metres medium wave. By the following year the Caroline Dublin name had been adopted and regular transmissions commenced from Dalkey in south County Dublin to the city and beyond.

Pirate pioneers: Radio Caroline Dublin from 1970
Caroline Dublin QSL from 1970 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The station engineer was Bill Ebrill, who later went on to build transmitters for the likes of Radio Dublin, Big D and Radio Carousel. Caroline Dublin used a VFO controlled transmitter capable of 100 watts and was heard on frequencies between 1320 and 1360 kHz. Regular transmissions were on Friday and Saturday nights at midnight and consisted of pop music and a DX programme. DJs on the station included Mike Walker, Mick Wright and Ronan Collins (now of RTÉ). The station received reception reports from many European countries. In addition to Dalkey, Caroline also broadcast from Shankill, Bray and Terenure depending on the interest of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.

Pirate pioneers: Radio Caroline Dublin from 1970
Radio Caroline Dublin transmitter with scope monitor (photo courtesy of Bill Ebrill).

In late 1972 transmissions became more sporadic due to increased activity from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and the raid on Radio Milinda just before Christmas. Late night broadcasts were suspended but the station did continue on Sunday afternoons. These continued until summer 1973 when Radio Caroline Dublin disappeared from the air.

Pirate pioneers: Radio Caroline Dublin from 1970
Another shot of the Caroline Dublin studio (photo courtesy of Bill Ebrill).

The recording above is undated but is probably from November 1970. It features a professional sounding Mike Walker on a late night transmission followed by the Caroline theme tune before closedown. The studio picture was supplied to the DX Archive by Bill Ebrill and the recording was supplied by Roger Lloyd (Prince Terry). The short recording below is also undated and again features Mike Walker.

Thanks to Ian Biggar and Bill Ebrill for text, images and recordings. You can listen here to an interview with Bill about his pirate memories.

Pirate pioneers: the early days of Radio Dublin

Pirate pioneers: the early days of Radio Dublin
Radio Dublin leaflet from 1972 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Radio Dublin or ‘Radio Baile Átha Cliath’ started as a technical point to point experiment by Ken Sheehan (Kenneth Edwards) in 1966 from his home in Drimnigh in Dublin. At about 10 watts, power was too low to travel further than about a mile but over the next three years, the transmitter was modified and power doubled to 20 watts. A new transmitter was installed in 1969 and regular taped music programmes were broadcast, normally on Sunday afternoons. The above information sheet from 1972 gives a flavour of the early history of the station. It’s interesting to see ‘Big D’ being used, years before the split that led to the breakaway station of that name.

Our first recording above of the early days is undated but may be from 1969. It features Radio Baile Átha Cliath on its early 217 metre wavelength. We’re not certain who the DJ is, nor was Ken Sheehan when he heard the recording. The second recording is of Ken Sheehan himself and although again undated, is probably from 1971. By now Radio Dublin was the station name and the wavelength had changed to the well-known 253 metres. The address given was that of the Brighton Independent Radio Movement in England and was used by most of the Irish pirates of the period. There is a short taped insert from ‘Mark Welby’ who might be Mark T. Storey, later to be very involved in the early pirate scene, and a home-made sung jingle. This is pirate gold at its best!

These unique recordings were supplied by Roger Lloyd (Prince Terry) who was an integral part of the pioneering days of Radio Dublin. Thanks to Ian Biggar for the research and for sharing the recordings with us. You can hear an interview with Ken Sheehan here.

Radio Dublin raided twice in a week

Radio Dublin raided twice in a week
The aerial system to the rear of 58 Inchicore Road in 1988 (photo courtesy of DX Archive).

After more than a month defying the new broadcasting laws, the inevitable happened in February 1989 when Radio Dublin was raided not once, but twice. The longest-running pirate station in Ireland and indeed the world was visited by Gardaí and Telecom Éireann officials shortly after 6am on Tuesday 7th February and transmission and studio equipment removed. The previous day the Supreme Court had dismissed an appeal by station owner Eamonn Cooke to prevent the Minister for Communications from instructing ESB and Telecom officials from cutting off the electricity and telephone supply to Cooke’s home in Inchicore. Radio Dublin was back on the air by 3pm but on 101 FM only. Four days later on 11th February at 8.20am, the station was raided for a second time but again returned after a few hours.

We’ve edited together two short recordings from that dramatic week to give a sense of the raids and Radio Dublin’s determination to keep going no matter what. The first minute or so was recorded at 9.20pm on 7th February and features Mike Wilson explaining what happened that morning. In the second, from sometime on 11th February, Mike Wilson introduces Eamonn Cooke who says that the aerial system was dismantled in the second raid. Cooke adds that programming is mostly taped for now and that the station has changed location. We thank John Breslin for these recordings.

Radio Dublin continued for many more years, only closing down permanently in 2002 following the conviction of 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.

Radio Dublin fights attempt to cut off power and phones

Radio Dublin fights attempt to cut off power and phones
Brian Greene’s Radio Dublin badge from the mid-1980s

Radio Dublin was still on air in the second month of 1989 despite an attempt by the authorities to cut off its electricity and power. On 30th January, the High Court rejected an attempt by the station to extend an injunction against the Minister for Communications preventing the cut-off of supply but Radio Dublin was granted a stay of execution of a week.

In this recording of part of his weekly Station News slot on Sunday 5th February, Radio Dublin owner Eamonn Cooke said that the station would take a case to the Supreme Court the following day. He asked listeners to ‘say a few prayers for us’ and to call Minister Ray Burke at his home to complain. Radio Dublin would in fact suffer its first raid two days later. Sound quality is poor on this recording, but apparently modulation was very low that day. We thank John Breslin for the donation.

Radio Dublin continued for many more years, only closing down permanently in 2002 following the conviction of 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.

Radio Dublin still going after attempt to cut off power

Radio Dublin still going after attempt to cut off power
The rear of Radio Dublin at 58 Inchicore Road in 1988 (photo courtesy of DX Archive).

Radio Dublin was the most high-profile of the pirates to defy the new broadcasting laws that came into effect on at midnight on 31st December 1988. The station was served with a prohibition notice to cut off its electricity and phones and it left the air suddenly at 9.44am on 19th January 1989, returning within an hour using a generator. However, embarrassingly for the Minister for Communications, the station went to the High Court later that day and got an injunction obliging the authorities to restore services until the end of the month.

This is a recording of Radio Dublin owner Eamonn Cooke on his weekly Station News slot on Sunday 22nd January 1989, where he mentions the injunction and the upcoming High Court challenge to the constitutionality of the broadcasting laws. He says that Radio Dublin is still on AM, FM and shortwave and hopes to continue until April or May despite the uncertainty. Cooke also announces that 15 or 16 pirates are still on air or have returned, including Radio North in Donegal, Erneside Community Radio in Cavan, Radio Star in Monaghan and Zee 103 in Louth. There are some breaks in the recording and it seems to be an edited version. Thanks to John Breslin for the donation.

Radio Dublin continued for many more years, only closing down permanently in 2002 following the conviction of 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.