The renowned British offshore station’s name was popular with other pirates and several Irish stations called themselves Radio Caroline over the decades. The earliest use of the name was in 1969 when Radio Caroline Dublin started transmissions as Radio Romeo using 300 metres medium wave. By the following year the Caroline Dublin name had been adopted and regular transmissions commenced from Dalkey in south County Dublin to the city and beyond.
The station engineer was Bill Ebrill, who later went on to build transmitters for the likes of Radio Dublin, Big D and Radio Carousel. Caroline Dublin used a VFO controlled transmitter capable of 100 watts and was heard on frequencies between 1320 and 1360 kHz. Regular transmissions were on Friday and Saturday nights at midnight and consisted of pop music and a DX programme. DJs on the station included Mike Walker, Mick Wright and Ronan Collins (now of RTÉ). The station received reception reports from many European countries. In addition to Dalkey, Caroline also broadcast from Shankill, Bray and Terenure depending on the interest of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.
In late 1972 transmissions became more sporadic due to increased activity from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and the raid on Radio Milinda just before Christmas. Late night broadcasts were suspended but the station did continue on Sunday afternoons. These continued until summer 1973 when Radio Caroline Dublin disappeared from the air.
The recording above is undated but is probably from November 1970. It features a professional sounding Mike Walker on a late night transmission followed by the Caroline theme tune before closedown. The studio picture was supplied to the DX Archive by Bill Ebrill and the recording was supplied by Roger Lloyd (Prince Terry). The short recording below is also undated and again features Mike Walker.
Thanks to Ian Biggar and Bill Ebrill for text, images and recordings. You can listen here to an interview with Bill about his pirate memories.
In our ongoing series about the pirate pioneers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, here’s a real piece of radio gold: a jingle package used in the early days of Radio Dublin. In the early 1970s Radio Dublin used the tag line ‘the Big D’, which can be heard in these jingles. The set may be originally from WDEE, a US country music station on air around this time as that callsign can be heard in some of the cuts.
These jingles pre-date the pirate named Big D, which was set up after a split in Radio Dublin in 1978 and went on to be a successful station in its own right. Many thanks to Kieran Murray for his donation of this valuable recording, which was taken from a 5-inch reel tape machine.
Radio Dublin or ‘Radio Baile Átha Cliath’ started as a technical point to point experiment by Ken Sheehan (Kenneth Edwards) in 1966 from his home in Drimnigh in Dublin. At about 10 watts, power was too low to travel further than about a mile but over the next three years, the transmitter was modified and power doubled to 20 watts. A new transmitter was installed in 1969 and regular taped music programmes were broadcast, normally on Sunday afternoons. The above information sheet from 1972 gives a flavour of the early history of the station. It’s interesting to see ‘Big D’ being used, years before the split that led to the breakaway station of that name.
Our first recording above of the early days is undated but may be from 1969. It features Radio Baile Átha Cliath on its early 217 metre wavelength. We’re not certain who the DJ is, nor was Ken Sheehan when he heard the recording. The second recording is of Ken Sheehan himself and although again undated, is probably from 1971. By now Radio Dublin was the station name and the wavelength had changed to the well-known 253 metres. The address given was that of the Brighton Independent Radio Movement in England and was used by most of the Irish pirates of the period. There is a short taped insert from ‘Mark Welby’ who might be Mark T. Storey, later to be very involved in the early pirate scene, and a home-made sung jingle. This is pirate gold at its best!
These unique recordings were supplied by Roger Lloyd (Prince Terry) who was an integral part of the pioneering days of Radio Dublin. Thanks to Ian Biggar for the research and for sharing the recordings with us. You can hear an interview with Ken Sheehan here.
Radio Dublin’s weekly Station News was normally delivered by its owner Eamonn Cooke but on Sunday 17th February 1991, station manager Joe Doyle (Joe Rossa) took to the air unexpectedly following days of back-to-back music on the station. There was speculation that a summons was to be served in connection with a previous raid and Radio Dublin was lying low and had ceased live programming. The rumour mill was in overdrive and Joe Doyle gives listeners a flavour of some of the conspiracy theories circulating but doesn’t explain what exactly is going on. He then attacks teenage DJs Barry Dunne and Gary Cruise (O’Connell) for their claims about low-powered station KHTR, a forerunner to the much bigger 1990s pirate Sunset FM. Other pirates logged that weekend were WABC in Donegal and Dublin stations Dún Laoghaire Weekend Radio, Signal Radio, Rock 103.1 and The Yahoo on 106.2.
Thanks to Barry Dunne for his donation of this recording.
Radio Dublin was one of just two stations to continuing broadcasting without interruption into 1989, the other being Radio Star Country in Monaghan. It seems that both stations ran tapes on New Year’s Day but soon resumed live programming and within days other pirates crept back on the air. However, few could match the longevity of Radio Dublin or indeed Radio Star Country, which is still broadcasting today.
The eyes of the press were on Radio Dublin because of its high-profile position in the capital and the defiant stance of its owner Eamonn Cooke, announced during his ‘Station News’ on Christmas Day 1988. This recording of Radio Dublin is one of the earliest from 1989 and gives a sense of the excitement at the station as it carried on in defiance of the new broadcasting law. It was made from 1148-1233 on Tuesday 3rd January 1989 and features Mike Wilsom on air, who has plenty of requests and messages of support from the public. One listener to phone in his support is Kevin Branigan from Stillorgan who closed down his own pirate Kiss 106 on New Year’s Eve. The second recording below was made the same day from 1239-1321. Both were recorded from 1188 kHz in Scotland and are donated kindly by Ian Biggar.