Bandscan: Irish radio as heard in Wales in 1983

Bandscan: Irish radio as heard in Wales in 1983
A winter shot from Aberystwyth promenade with Constitution Hill in the background (photo by John Walsh).

‘Hello Again’, Part 3 of Leon Tipler’s acclaimed documentary series The Irish Pirates was based on a return visit to Dublin in September 1983. The episode features an AM and FM bandscan from Aberystwyth on the west Wales coast, recorded by Tipler in August 1983. Having climbed Constitution Hill to the north of the town, Tipler gave himself the best chance of picking up radio signals from Ireland a mere 150km away.

This is the original, unedited bandscan as recorded by Tipler on both AM and FM from his perch overlooking the Irish Sea on a sunny Saturday afternoon, 13th August 1983. The pirates heard include Arklow Community Radio, Kilkenny Community Radio, Sunshine Radio and Radio Dublin. RTÉ Radio 1, Radio 2 and Raidió na Gaeltachta are all received loud and clear on FM. There are snippets of unidentified UK stations as well as occasional breakthrough from police communication, possibly due to harmonics.

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

Bandscan: From 1017 to 1035 kHz including Breffni Central Radio

Bandscan: From 1017 to 1035 kHz including Breffni Central Radio
Breffni Central Radio poster courtesy of Ian Biggar. We’ve never seen a medium wave band stretch quite as far as 2000 kHz!

This recording made by Brian Greene on AM in July 1985 shows how licensed stations were sometimes literally sandwiched between two pirates. The scan begins with Downtown Radio in Belfast, a faint signal as heard in north Dublin on 1026 kHz. Of course ABC Radio in Tramore were on the same frequency but could not be received on the northside of Dublin because of Downtown. Brian then tunes slightly to the left where Capitol Radio can be heard on 1017 kHz, before tuning back to Downtown again. The scan then moves up another channel to 1035 kHz, where a faint signal from Breffni Central Radio in Longford can be picked up, over 120 km from Dublin.

We are not aware of any online recordings of Breffni Central Radio, an offshoot of Breffni Radio in Kilnaleck in Cavan. Breffni Central began on the 10th of June 1985 and was intended for reception in counties Longford, Roscommon, Galway and Mayo. In fact the estimated 1 kW signal on 1035 kHz was heard over a wide area, helped by a 50-ft high mast. This stretched as far as Galway and Dublin, as this recording shows. Similar to the original Breffni Radio, Breffni Central broadcast Irish and American country music but the two stations each had separate services and did not share programming. We thank Seán Brady for help with information and Ian Biggar for the image.

You can listen to an interview with Gerry O’Reilly, who built transmitters for several stations including Breffni Radio, here.

Aircheck: Christian Community Radio

Aircheck: Christian Community Radio
St. Andrew’s Church, Westland Row where Christian Community Radio often recorded prayers. Photo credit: Wikipedia/DubhEire/CC0.

This is a recording of one of the more eccentric pirate stations in Dublin in the 1980s, Christian Community Radio which operated from the leafy Merrion Square district in the south city centre. Christian Community Radio was run by the Catholic solicitor Gerry O’Mahony who was a leading campaigner against the liberalisation of Irish society in the conservative 1980s. Anoraks UK first reported the station in November 1985 so we estimate that this recording is from around that time. It begins with a quick bandscan down the dial to 90.2 MHz FM, where Christian Community Radio could just about be picked up in our corner of the northeast of Dublin. O’Mahony can be heard leading prayers and then introducing the rosary from a city centre church with a large crowd providing the responses. Even allowing for the weak FM signal the sound quality is very poor but low production standards were one of the hallmarks of the station.

The recording is as much a reminder of the terrible technical standards of some of the pirates as it is of the socially conservative nature of Irish society during that time. Most of the Dublin pirates challenged that status quo but some like Christian Community Radio wanted to maintain it. An infamous row live on air between O’Mahony and Ireland’s foremost radio broadcaster Gay Byrne in 1987 hastened the station’s demise in October of that year.

Bandscan: who’s still on air on 31.12.1988?

Centre Radio (94.2 FM from Bayside in northeast Dublin) was one of the few stations to remain on air until the final deadline of midnight on the 31 st of December. In this recording Bobby Gibbson (Brian Greene) and Dave Evans (Eamonn Roe) discuss who is still on air in the early hours of the morning of the 31 st . We then hear another bandscan from just before 8.00am and a very optimistic prediction about the availability of new licences in 1989. You can read about the history of Centre here./

Bandscan: who's still on air on 31.12.1988?