Excerpts from Galway pirate WLS Music Radio

Excerpts from Galway pirate WLS Music Radio
WLS flyer from 1985 (courtesy Ian Biggar).

WLS Music Radio was a commercial pirate station broadcasting from Galway City from March 1985 to June 1987. It was set up by former offshore DJs Keith York (RIP) and Don Stevens who moved from South Coast Radio in Cork after it closed down in the summer of 1984. They joined existing Galway station Atlantic Sound and were later followed by fellow ex-offshore DJ Steve Marshall. The three took over Atlantic Sound and changed its format to chart music and giveaways, but by St. Patrick’s Day 1985 had set up WLS from across the road on Forster Street in the city centre. WLS was supposed to stand for the clumsy ‘West Local Station’ but was in fact based on a jingle package from a longstanding Chicago station of the same name that continues to broadcast today.

WLS broadcast on 846 kHz AM and initially 104 FM and later added shortwave on 6240 kHz. WLS switched to 102.7 in May 1985 in advance of a court case involving RTÉ. The national broadcaster alleged that WLS was interfering with television reception in Galway and had taken advertising revenue. When it moved to new premises on Prospect Hill in December 1986, WLS was praised for its high technical standards by Anoraks UK, who described it as on a par with licensed local stations in Britain. A station newsletter from late 1986/early 1987 (see below) said that its AM signal was designed to cover south Co. Galway and north Co. Clare both day and night, while its ‘superior FM stereo signal’ was aimed at the city. It also claimed to be the first pirate to broadcast in stereo to Galway.

WLS went off the air in mysterious circumstances around June 15th 1987. The City Tribune of 3rd July reported that the station had been off the air for the previous two weeks and its offices at Prospect Hill deserted. Equipment had been removed, the lock broken and the door left open. Attempts to contact manager Don Stevens were unsuccessful and he had vacated his rented accommodation in the city. An edition of the Radio West Anoraks’ Show in July 1987 reported that WLS had gone off the air after an irate investor dismantled equipment because he was unhappy with his return. In the same month, Steve Marshall and Keith York set up another successful Galway station, Coast 103, which broadcast until the end of 1988.  

This recording of WLS was made on 23rd and 24th July 1985 and comprises airchecks of various programmes. The voice of Steve Marshall is heard on adverts for businesses in Galway and Castlebar. There are also agency adverts for larger national companies, a sign of the relative success of WLS just a few months after it started broadcasting. Presenters on the tape include Sarah Miles, Richie O’Shea and Brian Walsh. The 8am news is read by David Pollard and there’s also a promo for a Live Aid benefit concert to be held in Galway.

The recording was made from 101 FM in stereo and is from the Anoraks Ireland Tapes Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.  

Excerpts from Galway pirate WLS Music Radio
Page 1 of 1986/7 newsletter (courtesy Ian Biggar).
Excerpts from Galway pirate WLS Music Radio
Page 2
Excerpts from Galway pirate WLS Music Radio
Page 3
Excerpts from Galway pirate WLS Music Radio
Page 4
Excerpts from Galway pirate WLS Music Radio
Page 5

John Dolan on Sunshine Radio

John Dolan on Sunshine Radio
Early Sunshine sticker (courtesy DX Archive).

John Dolan (real name Tadhg Dolan) worked in the first Cork pirates CBC and CCLR in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He also did some shows on Sunshine Radio in Dublin as well as stints with RTÉ’s Cork Local Radio and licensed station Radio South (later Cork’s 96 FM).

This airchecked recording is of John’s first show on Sunshine Radio between 1955-2100 sometime in May 1981. Audio is fair as the recording was made by placing a cassette recorder up against a radio. John is introduced by the previous DJ, Tony Dixon (RIP) and the voice of Sunshine boss Robbie Robinson (RIP) is heard on some of the adverts. Broadcasting ends at 2100 with the iconic Desiderata song, which closed the station down each night.

Thanks to Lillian O’Donoghue for the donation.

First test broadcasts on Royal County Radio

First test broadcasts on Royal County Radio
RCR envelope (Anoraks Ireland Collection).

Royal County Radio broadcast from 1982 to 1984 from Navan in Co. Meath and was managed by the late Don Allen, a stalwart of the offshore and Irish pirate scene. The station launched on 8th October from the Trimgate Arcade in the centre of Navan, announcing 245 metres although the cassette label records the actual wavelength as 254 metres (1179 kHz although it is unlikely that the station was so close to Radio Dublin on 1188). Royal County Radio moved around the medium wave band before settling on 355 metres (846 kHz).

This recording is of the first test broadcasts of Royal County Radio and is undated but seems to be from more than one day, so we estimate 8th and possibly 9th October 1982. The voice of station manager Don Allen is heard on promos and a single advert and other DJs include Lynsey Shelbourne (Dolan), John Stevens and Fab Ollie. Audio levels are uneven and a heterodyne is heard at night, suggesting that the transmitter was slightly off channel. To the strains of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Don Allen closes down the station at midnight. RCR was in direct competition with Radio Carousel Navan and left the airwaves by the middle of 1984.

This recording was made by Kieran Murray and is from the Anoraks Ireland Tapes Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.

A day on Radio Dublin from 1978

A day on Radio Dublin from 1978
Radio Dublin sticker (courtesy DX Archive).

This unique recording is of an entire day’s programming on Radio Dublin from Monday 20th February 1978, including some DJs who would go on to become household names on local and national radio. Starting just after 8am, DJ Sarge comments on the cold weather and heavy snow outside. He is followed at 9.30 by Gerry Campbell and at 1pm by James Dillon. DJ Sylvie takes over at 4pm and the Mike Eastwood request show begins at 6pm. Denis Murray is on from 8-10pm and the night’s programming is completed by John Clarke from 10pm until midnight.

Radio Dublin had been broadcasting continuously since January 1978 and built up a loyal listenership across Dublin. This recording contains plenty of ads, some pre-recorded and some read live by DJs, and various segments of the day are sponsored by different businesses. The station’s iconic ‘253’ jingles are heard regularly also, an early branding exercise by Irish pirate radio. A separate recording of part of the James Dillon show, undated but also from February 1978, is heard below.

James Dillon show from February 1978.

Two months later, James Dillon led a walk-out of most Radio Dublin staff following allegations that station owner Eamonn Cooke was involved in child abuse. Dillon formed a breakaway station, the Big D, which lasted until 1982. Radio Dublin closed down permanently in 2002 following Cooke’s conviction 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.

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

Mid-morning on South Coast Radio

Mid-morning on South Coast Radio
Pete O’Neill with a furry friend at South Coast in 1982 (courtesy Lillian O’Donoghue).

This is part of Pete O’Neill’s popular mid-morning show on South Coast Radio in Cork on June 18th 1982. There’s the usual birthday file, which includes the news that Paul McCartney was 40 on that day. Other regular features include the What’s On In Munster slot. The recording begins after the 10am news and is partially airchecked. It was made from 104 FM but quality is only fair in places due to the age of the cassette. Thanks to Lillian O’Donoghue for the donation.