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.
This is a recording of part of a bandscan of stations from Dublin as heard on Sunday, 23rd April 1978 in Drogheda, Co. Louth. It includes Davitt Kelly (RIP) presenting ‘The Soul Service’ on the Big D, followed by John Paul and part of the sponsored Chariot Inn programme. The recording ends with DJs Johnny Casey and Pat Stewart on Radio Dublin, who announce the address of 3, Sarsfield Road, Dublin 10 for letters.
Big D was formed as a result of a staff mutiny at Radio Dublin in April 1978 and there was great rivalry between both stations. This bandscan, which also includes snippets of British stations heard on the east coast, gives a great sense of the AM radio scene at the time. We thank Eddie Caffrey for his donation.
This is a recording of Marty Hall (Marty Whelan) on the Dublin station Big D on 23rd April 1978. Along with many other DJs from stations such as Big D, Marty went on to become one of the stars of the new RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979. Apart from a brief spell at the failed national station Century Radio (1989-1991), he has spent most of his career with RTÉ and currently presents the breakfast programme on RTÉ Lyric FM.
Big D was formed as a result of a split in Radio Dublin in April 1978 when most staff walked out in a protest against station owner Eamonn Cooke, who was in Spain on holidays at the time. The ringleader was DJ James Dillon who acted following allegations that Cooke was involved in child abuse. This is a snippet from an interview with Dillon telling another pirate Capitol Radio about the split.
There is a long description of the reasons for the staff mutiny in Peter Mulryan’s book Radio Radio (1988). Cooke was convicted in 2002 for sexually abusing children, jailed in 2003 and again in 2007 and died in 2016 while on temporary release.
Big D began broadcasting officially from Chapel Lane on April 10th 1978. Run by Dillon, it was backed financially by businessman Noel Kirwan who had been an advertiser on Radio Dublin. Big D broadcast around the clock and attracted many DJs who defected from ARD. Big D was raided on June 15th and equipment and transmitter taken but returned to the air in a short time. At the suggestion of ex-ARD staff, Big D Weekend was initiated as a niche service with Davitt Kelly in charge. Many DJs who would become big names were heard including Marty Whelan, Gerry Ryan, John Clarke, Dave Heffernan, Declan Meehan, Dave Fanning and Neil O’Shea.
Disaster struck Big D on 2nd January 1979 when the studios in Chapel Lane were burned to the ground. The station moved location and returned to the air within days. Many Big D and ARD DJs were poached by the new RTÉ Radio 2 that came on the air on 31st May 1979, but Big D soldiered on into the new decade before closing down in December 1981 in the face of stiff competition in the Dublin pirate radio market. It returned as an automated service in 1982 but closed down for good just before Christmas that year.
This airchecked recording begins at about 1245 and includes links, music and ads. Audio is low in places, particularly on the links and there is co-channel interference from other stations as the recording was made in Co. Louth. Many thanks to Eddie Caffrey for his donation of this rare recording.
Finding a good spot on the crowded AM band was a challenge for all pirates, especially before the development of FM in the 1980s. With no formal process to regulate frequencies and the presence of powerful signals from Britain and across Europe, ensuring that the intended audience heard you was not simple. There were turf wars over the best frequencies, with smaller stations sometimes bullied out by larger operators and banished to less than ideal positions on the AM band. Night-time interference was common and stations were sometimes drowned out after dark by big European operators.
ARD was one station that suffered issues with its AM spot after its temporary closure on December 31st 1979 before it was relaunched as Radio 257. Rival station Radio City jumped on ARD’s original frequency of 1161 kHz when it closed and the new Radio 257 had to settle for 1152 kHz, an inferior channel due to interference from local stations in the UK. At some point in 1980, ARD/Radio 257 moved to 1143 kHz but due to poor night-time reception, it switched to 1134 kHz after dark and back to 1143 in the morning. This airchecked recording was made in Scotland on 7th June 1981 and begins at 0752. It features Owen Conroy followed by Derek Jones, who is standing in for Uncle Bren (Brendan O’Carroll). The change of frequency is announced at 0800 and the receiver is retuned. Co-channel interference can be heard due to the distance from the transmitter.
This recording is courtesy of Ken Baird. Thanks to Ian Biggar for background information and the copy of the letter.
ARD closed down on New Year’s Eve 1979 but returned a few hours later as Radio 257 on New Year’s from the Crofton Hotel near Dublin Airport. The station would revert to the ARD name by late 1980. Many household names of the future passed through the doors of ARD/257, one of whom was Brendan O’Carroll, now better known as Mrs Brown in the BBC and RTÉ comedy Mrs Brown’s Boys. Here he is as ‘Uncle Bren the kiddies’ friend’ presenting the breakfast show. The voices of the late Tony Allan and Dave C. are heard on ads.
This is an original recording made by British radio enthusiast Leon Tipler for his acclaimed documentary series ‘The Irish Pirates’. Part of the ARD recording is heard in the documentary here but the full original tape has not been published previously. Unfortunately the cassette isn’t dated but we estimate it to be from July 1981. The Leon Tipler Tapes Collection was donated to us by Steve England.