This snippet of Radio Nova from 1981 gives a sense of the super-pirate after its first few months on air. Beginning testing on FM only at the start of June that year, Nova shook up the Dublin market due to its distinctive sound, professional standards and most importantly the significant investment of station founder and owner Chris Cary. The tape includes station idents and jingles, an advert for upmarket newspaper The Sunday Tribune and the ’88 News’ presented by Sybil Fennell. The news branding reflected Nova’s prioritisation of high quality stereo FM at a time when RTÉ’s use of the superior quality band was limited. In fact, the station did not begin broadcasting on AM until just a few days before this tape was made, adding a 10 kW transmitter on 846 kHz.
This airchecked recording was made from 88.5 FM on 13th September 1981 by British radio enthusiast Leon Tipler during one of his many visits to Dublin in the early part of that decade. It is kindly donated by Steve England.
This recording of Radio Star Country was made in Solsvik in western Norway, northwest of Bergen and facing the North Sea. It features non-stop music in early 1989, not long after all the Irish pirates were suposed to leave the airwaves in the new era of licensed radio. The automated programme includes a promo voiced by the late Don Allen announcing the frequency of 981 kHz or 305 metres, to which Radio Star Country had moved a few weeks previously. The Swan Lake Hotel in Monaghan Town is referenced as the station’s address and a number in Armagh is given for advertising. After 25 minutes the tape changes to another recording featuring a male DJ and adverts for businesses north and south of the border. It is not clear if this was recorded on the same day or on another occasion.
The press photo is from the newspaper Vestnytt on September 4th 1996 and shows the donor of this recording, Svenn Martinsen with his receivers ESKA RX33 DX, Drake SPR-4, Hammarlund SP600 JX21 and Autophon E627. The headline translates as ‘Radioactive priest’, reflecting Svenn’s profession. He recalls: ‘I mostly used the Drake SPR-4 for listening to Radio Star Country 981, Radio North 846, North Atlantic 846, 954 and 1116 and other Irish stations’.
Due to the distance between the transmitter and receiver, there is deep fading at various points in the tape, with the Algerian station on the same frequency coming through underneath. The recording was made on 16th February 1989 from 0745-0813 on a Drake SPR-4 receiver with a 200-metre Beverage antenna aimed towards the southwest from the western Norwegian coast. Many thanks to Svenn for the donation.
Radio Leinster was a specialist Dublin station with an easy listening and talk format in contrast with the diet of pop preferred by most pirates. It broadcast from 29th April 1981 until 19th May 1983, closing down suddenly as panic spread following the raids on super-pirates Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio. Radio Leinster was situated on an elevated site in Sandyford with an excellent view of the city from its studios. The professionally-made 1 kW transmitter on 738 kHz (406 metres) gave good coverage by day but suffered co-channel interference after dark.
This short recording from Sunday 13th September 1981 features part of a religious programme presented by Fr. Michael Conaghty, who reads headlines from the Catholic Universe. Some of Radio Leinster’s distinctive interval signals are also heard. The clip was recorded in Malahide, north Co. Dublin and is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.
One of the joys of AM broadcasting is its propagation that allows radio waves to travel long distances beyond the core listening area during the hours of darkness. In our focus on border station Radio Star Country, today we begin a series of posts showing how the Irish pirate sounded on the west coast of Norway in the late 1980s and 1990s. Recorded over 1,200 km from the transmission site on the Monaghan/Tyrone border, these tapes capture the unique audio quality of skywave reception of distant radio signals at dawn and dusk between October and March.
The first such recording begins before 0900 on 17th November 1988, a few months after Radio Star Country began broadcasting from the Swan Lake Hotel in Monaghan Town. On air is station founder and owner Gerry Byrne with a promo for the forthcoming Radio Star Country Music Awards in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. The recording was made in Bud, western Norway from 891 kHz on a Hammarlund SP-600 JX1 receiver with a 500-metre Beverage antenna aimed towards the southwest. The antenna ran behind the barn to the left of the large white house (the rectory) on the right in the photo and received stations from Ireland, the UK, southwest Europe, Brazil and Argentina.
We thank Svenn Martinsen for his donation of these unique recordings.
Radio Rainbow International was a high-powered shortwave pirate broadcasting on Sundays from Co. Louth between the summer of 1985 and the end of 1988. It was operated by Boyneside Radio DJ and engineer Eddie Caffrey and several other Boyneside presenters were also involved. In an interview with Pirate.ie, one such DJ, Kieran Murray, described Radio Rainbow as the ‘Radio Nova of shortwave’, such was its high power output in contrast with other Irish shortwave pirates of the era. Using the tagline ‘broadcasting from the east coast of Ireland’, Radio Rainbow put out about 1 kW of power on 6240 kHz in the 48-metre band. The station received reception reports from all over Europe during its three years on air.
This is a studio recording of the first broadcast of Radio Rainbow International on Sunday 28th July 1985. The DJ is Jim Agnew on his first shortwave broadcast. There are no times and the tape is airchecked. It was made by Kieran Murray and is from the Anoraks Ireland Tapes Collection, donated by Paul Davidson.