Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 4)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 4)
One of the episodes of ‘The Irish Pirates’ from the Leon Tipler Collection (photo by Brian Greene)

This is the final volume of Part 2 of ‘The Irish Pirates’, Leon Tipler’s acclaimed documentary on the Irish scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s. This hour covers Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova in more detail, including a visit to the Nova transmitter site and interviews with Chris Cary and Stuart McLoughlin about the economics of radio and the ratings wars. There are also interesting clips of specialist programmes such as the current affairs show ‘Dublin Today’ and the religious hour ‘Life is a Celebration’. Tipler discusses the local radio legislation proposed in 1981, one of the many failed attempts to legalise the sector, and offers an in-depth analysis of the state of play at the time. The hour finishes with a long and fascinating bandscan of Dublin pirate radio. Tipler refers to Part 2 of ‘The Irish Pirates’ being in production and we will bring you those recordings shortly.

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

Index to Volume 4

00:11 Dublin Today
02:12 Life is a Celebration
03:45 Trip to TX site
07:35 KISS FM promos
10:45 Chris Cary on Nova ratings
17:00 Interview with Stuart McLoughlin of Nova
27:10 1981 Local Radio Bill
31:55 Aim of the documentary
36:20 Possibility of local RTÉ opt-out for Dublin
37:00 Pirates raise money for charity
40:48 Thanks to those who appeared in Part 1
41:43 Final bandscan

Feature: discussed on Galway Bay FM

Feature: discussed on Galway Bay FM
Galway Bay FM on-air studio (photo by John Walsh)

On the 12th of June 2020, John Walsh spoke to Keith Finnegan of Galway Bay FM about the recent series about Galway pirates on The interview includes a rare jingle from Independent Radio Galway (1978-1979), sung by the choir of University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland, Galway). Keith, now CEO of Galway Bay FM, remembers his own involvement in West Coast Community Radio (WCCR). The interview finishes with a montage of jingles and idents from the series on Galway.

Feature: discussed on Galway Bay FM
Galway Bay FM headquarters at Sandy Road (photo by John Walsh).

Many of those at Galway Bay FM cut their teeth in the Galway pirates of the era. Licensed in 1989 as Radio West, one group involved in the successful consortium was the original pirate Radio West from Mullingar. The station changed its name to Galway Bay FM in 1993.

We thank Galway Bay FM for their interest in and hope that the interview will encourage more people in Galway to come forward to memories and recordings.

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 3)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 3)
Some of the episodes of ‘The Irish Pirates’ as found in the Leon Tipler Collection (photo by Brian Greene).

Volumes 3 and 4 of Leon Tipler’s ‘The Irish Pirates’ make up Part 2 of the documentary. The third recording focuses mostly on Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova, the new superpirates which emerged in Dublin in the early 1980s. Tipler begins by visiting Sunshine Radio in 1981 and interviews its director Robbie Robinson. He tours the Sunshine studios in Portmarnock and hears its professional jingles produced by Alfasound. The documentary covers the controversy caused by politicians appearing on pirate radio and the coverage given by Sunshine to community events in its area. The episode also includes a feature on Community Radio Fingal in north Dublin in 1982. It ends with a visit to the Radio Nova studios at Herbert Street and a long interview with Nova boss Chris Cary.

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

Index of Volume 3

00:00 1981 visit to Sunshine
01.38 Interview with Robbie Robinson
07:06 Sunshine jingles
08:35 Visit to Sunshine studios
11:30 Establishment of Radio Nova
14:52 Irish Association of Independent Broadcasters
15:30 Controversy over politicians on pirate radio
18:15 Sunshine covering community events
24:40 1982 visit to Community Radio Fingal
33:15 Visit to Radio Nova in Herbert Street
34:15 Interview with John Clarke
40:55 KISS FM
43:09 Interview with Chris Cary

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 1)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 1)
Some of the hundreds of cassettes in the Leon Tipler collection (photo by Brian Greene).

In May 2020, we were delighted to receive a large donation of cassettes belonging to the late Leon Tipler (1942-2013), a British pirate radio enthusiast and broadcaster who recorded thousands of hours of Irish pirate stations in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You can read a tribute here. We thank Steve England for sending us this important collection, which provides a unique insight into a critical period in Irish pirate radio, the years just before and after the arrival of the ‘super-pirates’ in the form of Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio.

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 1)
Leon Tipler (photo courtesy of

We’ll be featuring this collection over the coming months, but we begin with Tipler’s well-known series of documentaries covering the period 1979-1982, ‘The Irish Pirates’ by Alfasound Tapetrix Productions. These eight hour-long recordings are reference copies from the documentary maker himself and are in high quality audio.

Volume 1 documents Tipler’s first visits to Dublin in 1979 and 1980 and includes recordings of and interviews with stations on the air in the capital at the time.

These include ARD, Big D, Radio Dublin, Radio City, Radio 257, Southside Radio and Capitol Radio. Tony Allan can be heard reading news and presenting a talk programme on ARD. There’s an interview with Robbie Robinson of the new Sunshine Radio about the loophole in the 1926 Wireless Telegraphy Act although Sunshine itself is not discussed until a later episode. Tipler also covers the launch of RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979 which, although forced by the pirates, did nothing to quell the success of the illegal broadcasters. As Tipler says, the best was yet to come.

Index of Volume 1

00:00 signature tune
00:42 intro
00:55 Nova name check for Leon
02:32 Discover Ireland Radio Advert
03:01 The flight
03:35 Aer Lingus
05:03 RTE Radio 1 Weather
06:26 Aircheck 1 Capitol
07:34 ARD Radio
07:46 Big D Simon Young
08:58 Radio Dublin politics
11:02 Phone in Quiz
12:29 ARD Radio News
13:33 ARD Radio News
14:19 Big D News
15:17 RTE Radio 2 launches
17:32 Irish Radio History
19:10 Larry Gogan
19:40 The expansion of RTE
20:50 Visit 1 leads to visit 2
21:34 Tony Allan
22:16 Tony Allan ARD News
23:15 Dublin is where the action is
26:31 Not all pop music
27:06 ARD visit
29:16 ARD aircheck / jingles / promos
32:25 Radio Dublin – Aidan J
37:59 Land Pirates and the law
38:39 Robbie Robinson explains the loophole
40:40 Radio Dublin 1966
45:07 Visit #3 1980 bandscan
58:32 Hotels and Pirates

Aircheck: Women’s Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman (Galway)

Aircheck: Women's Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman (Galway)
St. Bridget’s Terrace Lower in Galway, from where Women’s Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman broadcast (photo by John Walsh).

Women’s Scéal Radio was an intermittent pirate station broadcasting in Galway from 1986 to 1988. It was run by the peace activist and feminist campaigner Margaretta D’Arcy from her home at Woodquay in Galway City. ‘Scéal’ is the Irish for ‘story’ and the aims were to allow women free access to tell their stories on radio and to campaign against censorship. The station continued in 1989 under the name of Radio Pirate Woman and continued to operate intermittently until about 2010. In 1996 Margaretta D’Arcy wrote about her radio philosophy in a book called Galway’s Pirate Women: a Global Trawl. This video, produced by Radio Pirate Woman, gives a flavour of an anarchic and unique station, undoubtedly the most distinctive in Galway pirate radio history. The voice of Margaretta D’Arcy announcing both stations can be heard on the audio track above.

Technical standards were not important and equipment consisted mostly of a microphone and tape recorder with women sitting around the kitchen table. One of those involved, Maureen Maguire, can be heard here. Margaretta D’Arcy boasted to the City Tribune in 1988 that it had cost her only £50 to go on air. The station generally broadcast for a few hours during the day and again from midnight, and also played tapes from or linked up with women’s radio stations around the world. As well as defying broadcasting legislation, particularly after 1989, it also gave out information about abortion and interviewed members of Sinn Féin, both of which were also prohibited at the time. Flyers for Radio Pirate Woman said it could be picked up only over a two-mile radius of Galway city centre. Frequencies mentioned over the years were 102 and 106 FM.

Aircheck: Women's Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman (Galway)
Flyer for Radio Pirate Woman, probably 1990 (courtesy Eddie Bohan).

In 2014, Margaretta D’Arcy, then aged 80, served two prison sentences over her opposition to use by the US of Shannon Airport for military purposes. In 2017 she donated her papers and those of her late husband, playwright John Arden to the National University of Ireland, Galway. These included hundreds of cassettes containing recordings of Radio Pirate Woman. The launch was featured on the December 2017 edition of Wireless on Flirt FM which included an extract from D’Arcy’s speech describing the importance of pirate radio to the women’s movement.