Radio Dublin announces full-time broadcasting

Radio Dublin announces full-time broadcasting
Photo of Radio Dublin march from Sounds Alternative, February 1978 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Back when pirate stations were part-time hobbyists, Radio Dublin broke the mould on the 17th and 18th September 1977 when it broadcast non-stop for 36 hours. This was a key period in the development of the pirates as stations went full-time for the first time, with Radio Dublin pioneering round the clock broadcasting.

Over the Christmas and New Year period 1977/78, Radio Dublin broadcast continuously for 300 hours. According to Sounds Alternative magazine edited by Kieran Murray, it was the only station in Ireland to ring in the New Year, with the Lord Mayor of Dublin doing the honours. On Monday 2nd January 1978, the station announced that it would begin full-time daily broadcasting and unveiled a new schedule of DJs including Gerry Campbell, James Dillon, Sylvie, Mike Eastwood, Shay West, Dennis Murray and John Clarke.

This recording is of the last 40 minutes of Radio Dublin’s festive marathon from 0020-0100 on 2nd January. The presenter is unidentified but the voice of Shay West is heard with a message in basic French asking an overseas listener to phone home. The broadcast is closed by Radio Dublin’s owner Eamonn Cooke who announces that full-time programming will start later that morning at 8am. This recording was made in Leeds by Gary Hogg, so is very much DX reception, but it is an important piece of history as it marked the start of a new era in Irish radio history. Thanks to Ian Biggar for sharing it with us.

Radio Dublin announces full-time broadcasting
Early Radio Dublin letterhead (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The non-stop broadcasts attracted the attention of the authorities, and Radio Dublin was raided early on 17th January, only to return to the airwaves by midnight. On 21st January, a march in support of Radio Dublin was held in the city centre, attracting between 8,000-10,000 people, according to Sounds Alternative. The station’s aerial was cut down by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs on 24th January but returned within a few weeks. Radio Dublin closed down permanently in 2002 following the conviction of Eamonn Cooke 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.

Tony King and Paul Downey on ARD

Tony King and Paul Downey on ARD
Tony King (Plunkett) in the ARD studio (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

ARD continued to broadcast from the Crofton Airport Hotel throughout 1981. By that time, the station was feeling the pressure of the arrival of the super-pirates on the Dublin scene and it was its last full year of broadcasting. Although ARD had by now dispensed with much of its speech programming due to cost, it continued to broadcast niche shows at the weekend, calling it ‘the weekend service of ARD’.

This recording was made on 31st July 1981 from 2021-2104 and consists mostly of the Tony King (Plunkett) show in which he interviews the late Derry singer Eamonn McGirr. Tony is followed at 9pm by Paul Downey with his ‘Touch of Country’ programme. Paul was a popular DJ on 1980s stations including Radio Dublin and Tony went on to present a sports programme on Sunshine Radio.

Tony King and Paul Downey on ARD
Tony King with a guest at the Crofton (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

Thanks to David Baker for his donation of this recording and to Ian Biggar for background information.

David Baker on ARD from the Crofton

David Baker on ARD from the Crofton
The Crofton Airport Hotel during the ARD/Radio 257 days (photo courtesy of Noel Hiney).

Following the relaunch as Radio 257 on New Year’s Day 1980 and a move to the Crofton Airport Hotel, the station had resumed using the ARD name by the autumn of that year. The arrival on the scene of super-pirates Sunshine Radio in 1980 and Radio Nova in 1981 changed everything and smaller stations such as ARD began to feel the pinch. It moved back into the city centre in early 1982 but closed later that autumn, making its final broadcast on September 15th. According to Radio Radio (1988) by Peter Mulryan: ‘After the emotional closedown, the microphones were kept open on FM, and Dublin listened to the sad sound of the studios being dismantled’.

David Baker on ARD from the Crofton
Brian Greene’s own copy of the Radio 257 sticker.

This is a recording of a very young David Baker presenting the Saturday breakfast programme from the Crofton on 1st August 1981. The recording was made from 99 FM from 0820-0905 and includes news read by Al O’Rourke. Both David and Al would go on to work in many other Dublin pirates, including the network of temporary festival stations run by the Community Broadcasting Co-operative.

David Baker on ARD from the Crofton
The ARD mast at the Crofton (photo courtesy of Noel Hiney).

We thank David Baker for his donation of this recording. Listen here to our podcast with David in which he shares his memories of pirate days.

John Clarke on KELO

John Clarke on KELO
KELO flyer (courtesy of Dave Daly).

KELO began broadcasting officially on 16th March 1981 from Swords in north Co. Dublin. This recording is of veteran broadcaster John Clarke from the following day, St. Patrick’s Day. John, who went on to work in Radio Nova and RTÉ, remembers his early involvement in KELO and believes the station’s achievements should be recognised:

‘Pirate radio from the mid-70s was forever evolving, with every station that appeared seeking to be better than the previous one. In the early incarnations, studios were in bedrooms and outhouses, with enthusiasts arriving with whatever records they had and playing them. Some were hobby DJs, others had a passion for music, others had the additional influences of the pirate ships of the 60s, in particular Radio Caroline North during the day and Radio Caroline South at night. In Ireland from 1975 pirate radio (‘unlicensed commercial’ is a better way to describe the stations) was evolving quickly, talent was beginning to shine through, technology was advancing and engineers were creative. In the early 80s the landscape was preparing for the super-pirates (Sunshine and Radio Nova), but in advance of their arrival a new station began broadcasting on 244 metres. It was once said a station is as good as its signal, so it’s worth mentioning Peter Gibney who built a great rig. By 1981 the standard of DJ had vastly improved and likeminded people gravitated to each other. And so it was with KELO. I found a set of jingles (from an American station) and these were used, giving the station a professional sound. All the DJs recruited had worked their way through many of the early pirates. Davitt Kelly, an early pioneer, did the recruiting. Brendan Lawless was the station owner and its studios were located in north Co. Dublin (Swords). The studio was well-equipped and of a high standard in its day’.

‘But what was different and unique about the station was the music: it was Top 40 in format with the addition of quality album tracks. It had a playlist of 40 songs but not necessarily 40 hits of the day, it was the station Top 40. Everyone was in unison in wanting to play these core songs. We all contributed to albums that would sound good on the station. And there was free choice as well, four an hour, but every jock used their own knowledge to mix and match what was played across any given programme. So, there was a quality control to the overall sound. The standard of jock was good, with a few showing signs of real radio talent, some of whom went on the have long careers in the industry. Another piece of the jigsaw at KELO was that the station played records in sweeps of twos and threes and kept the mindless DJ patter to a minimum. It was the humble beginnings of ‘clutter free’, which later became a benchmark for the super-pirate Radio Nova (Nova for 5 years became one of the most successful commercial radio operations in these isles). KELO rightly deserves a chapter in the radio history books, as it did something different and became successful’.

John Clarke on KELO
KELO transmitter (photo courtesy of DX Archive).

This recording of John Clarke begins at 1454 on 17th March 1981 and was recorded in Scotland by Ken Baird, hence the DX reception. Thanks to John and Ian Biggar for their assistance. Listen here to an interview with Dave Daly about his memories of KELO.

40 years since the launch of KELO

40 years since the launch of KELO
KELO advertising flyer (courtesy of DX Archive).

40 years ago today (15th March 1981) a new pirate called KELO began testing from Swords in north Co. Dublin. KELO was a short-lived but important pirate because its music policy broke the mould: Top 40 and album tracks played back to back with minimal talk. Its frequency of 1233 kHz (244 metres) got out well and in the advertising flyer above, KELO claimed to be audible throughout Leinster and on the northwestern coast of Britain. It changed its frequency to 1566 kHz probably on July 8th 1981, only to return to 1233 kHz after a few days. When DX Archive visited the station in mid-August, it was definitely on that frequency. Following the arrival of Radio Nova, the Dublin radio scene became more competitive in 1981 and many smaller stations fell by the wayside. According to Airsounds Newsletter from December 1981: ‘KELO Radio from Dublin closed down on 244 metres on November 11th. Apparently, the rig was reclaimed by Peter Gibney as he was not paid for it, so he just came and took it away! It may have been sold to another station for use from a hotel in the north suburbs of the city’.

40 years since the launch of KELO
Dave Kelly in the KELO studio (photo courtesy of DX Archive).

This recording features Davitt Kelly (RIP) on 15th March 1981 starting at 1234, the day before official programming started. It was recorded by Ken Baird in Scotland, hence the DX reception. Thanks to Ian Biggar for assistance with research.