Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)

Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)
Radio Carousel owner Hugh Hardy complete with cowboy hat in 1980 (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

The owner and operator of the Radio Carousel network was country music impresario Hugh Hardy from Omeath in Co. Louth. He presented the popular lunchtime Country Call programme which was relayed from Dundalk to the other satellite stations at the height of Carousel’s operations. Hugh lived in Dublin and commuted to Dundalk but in November 1986 he set up KLAS, an easy listening station aimed at the Dublin market, in a garage complex at the back of his home.

Radio Carousel Dundalk closed on Friday 23rd January 1987 after a surprise visit from officials of the Department of Communications who complained about interference to mobiles and directed the station to close down. Carousel left the air the following day at 1pm but its other stations in Navan and at the border continued.

Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)
An advertisement for one of Hugh Hardy’s programmes in the Sunday World from 1985 (Alan MacSimoin Collection).

This recording features a renowned interview with Hugh Hardy on the Radio West Anoraks Programme on Sunday 25th January. The weekly show was always unpredictable and relied heavily on rumour and hearsay, as station owner Shaun Coyne openly admitted. The recording opens with a heated argument between Hugh and Shaun with both trading accusations. Hugh then explains the reasons for Carousel Dundalk leaving the air and announces that given the success of KLAS, he is to concentrate on the easy listening station from then on. Both station owners compare notes about their experience of presenters down the years, with Hugh Hardy recounting how one of his newsreaders resigned live on air the previous week. The other presenter Don Allen tries to get a word in from time to time without much success but the interview ends amicably.

Radio Carousel Dundalk would in fact return in mid-February 1987 but by early 1988 both the Dundalk and border stations were in decline, leaving only Radio Carousel Navan. Hugh Hardy did not get involved in the licensed stations after 1989 but developed his video production business instead. He died in 2008.

There is a strong whiff of the drama of 1980s pirate radio in this recording: pirates encroaching on each other’s frequencies, RTÉ ordering pirates to move, stations being forced to close down and rumours circulating about those working in the business. We thank Ian Biggar for sharing this recording.

Interview: Margaretta D’Arcy (Women’s Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman)

Interview: Margaretta D'Arcy (Women's Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman)
Margaretta D’arcy broadcasting on Radio Pirate Woman from her home in St. Bridget’s Terrace Lower in November 1991 (photo courtesy of Stan Shields, City Tribune).

No account of Galway pirate radio would be complete without the unique station set up by the writer and activist Margaretta D’Arcy from her home in the city centre. Women’s Scéal Radio broadcast irregularly from 1987 and was renamed Radio Pirate Woman in 1989 to reflect the new legislation which clamped down more severely on the pirates than previously. The station was set up to oppose censorship, including Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act (which banned interviews with members of Sinn Féin) and the ban on information about abortion. Women of various political persuasions would gather around the table and speak openly about these and other issues of relevance to them. The technical set-up was very basic, with little more than a microphone, tape recorder and and a cheap low-powered FM transmitter with a radius of 3km. Radio Pirate Woman also broadcast cassettes from WINGS (Women’s International News Gathering Service) and featured the voices of women from radio stations around the world.

Interview: Margaretta D'Arcy (Women's Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman)
Margaretta D’Arcy at NUI Galway in 2017, when her papers were donated to the university (photo courtesy of Aengus McMahon)

In this interview, Margaretta D’Arcy, who recently celebrated her 86th birthday, explains her motivation for setting up the station, reading extracts from her book Galway’s Pirate Women: A Global Trawl (1996). She explains how women of very different ideological outlooks spoke on air from around her kitchen table, including the religious activist Deirdre Manifold who had earlier been involved with Independent Radio Galway. Margaretta also explains why she didn’t seek a licence in 1989 and discusses the various successes of Radio Pirate Woman. She doesn’t recall the last time the station was on the air, but it hasn’t been heard for a number of years and we estimate the last date to be c. 2010.

Interview: Margaretta D'Arcy (Women's Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman)
L-R: Sabina Higgins, Mary Coughlan and Margaretta D’Arcy at the occasion of the donation to NUI Galway (photo courtesy of Aengus McMahon).

In 2017, Margaretta donated her papers and those of her late husband, playwright John Arden to the National University of Ireland, Galway. The donation included hundreds of cassette recordings of Women’s Scéal Radio and Radio Pirate Woman. You can hear a recording here. We are very grateful to Margaretta for sharing her memories of her unique pirate radio station with us.

Interview: Jon Richards (WLS, County Sound)

Jon Richards has been a familiar voice on Galway radio for 35 years and is currently Programme Director of Galway Bay FM. He cut his teeth in the pirates beginning with WLS Music Radio in 1985 before moving in 1987 to County Sound, first in its home base of Tuam, and subsequently in Galway after it moved into the city in 1988.

Interview: Jon Richards (WLS, County Sound)
County Sound broadcast from the building on the right, above what is now an auctioneers (photo by John Walsh).

In this interview, Jon shares his pirate memories of both stations, including transmitters and studio equipment, programme content and the colourful characters on both sides of the microphone. He recalls many near misses, including falling asleep on air during his first shift and missing a vital lift from Galway to Tuam! Jon remembers fondly his overnight shifts in the pirate days and laments the lack of live nighttime programming on radio today. He also consider the pirate legacy and gives his views on the health of the current radio scene.

Interview: Jon Richards (WLS, County Sound)
Galway Bay FM’s main on-air studio (photo by John Walsh).

We thank Jon Richards warmly for his contribution to this archive. You can listen back here to a feature about Pirate.ie on Galway Bay FM.

Interview: Tom Breen (WCCR, Radio Renmore)

Interview: Tom Breen (WCCR, Radio Renmore)
Tom Breen (Ieft) with Brendan Mee and Gary Hardiman in Radio Renmore, 1983 (photo thanks to Gary Hardiman).

We’re delighted to bring you an interview with Tom Breen about his memories of the early years of the Galway pirates from 1980-1984. Following the closure of IRG in 1979, Galway relied on small, low-powered pirates such as Claddagh Community Radio (in the Claddagh just west of the city centre) and Tom’s own Radio Ballybane located in the eastern suburb of the same name. He also recalls another short-lived station calling itself Radio Eyre (named after Galway’s Eyre Square), involving Liam Stenson and others formerly involved with Independent Radio Galway. The Connacht Sentinel reported that Radio Eyre came on the air at the beginning of June 1982.

Tom remembers his involvement with West Coast Community Radio (WCCR) which broadcast from March 1982 until July 1983, first from near Cloonacauneen Castle north of Galway and then from a frozen chicken factory in the eastern suburb of Roscam. WCCR was the largest station in Galway since the closure of IRG and became a full-time operation. It received its AM transmitter from a station called WKRC in Newbridge, Co. Kildare and while quite low-powered (80-100 watts), managed to boost its signal to cover the city and beyond. Tom was also one of those who set up Radio Renmore/Renmore Local Radio, which broadcast on very low power on 101 FM from the Renmore area to the east. Thanks to Ian Biggar for additional information.

Feature: Pirate.ie discussed on Galway Bay FM

Feature: Pirate.ie 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 Pirate.ie. 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 Pirate.ie series on Galway.

Feature: Pirate.ie 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 Pirate.ie and hope that the interview will encourage more people in Galway to come forward to memories and recordings.