Radio Leinster prepares to launch

Radio Leinster prepares to launch
Radio Leinster logo (courtesy of David Baker).

Radio Leinster broadcast talk, easy listening and MOR to the Dublin area for two years from 1981 to 1983. It is an important station in the history of Irish pirate radio because it aimed at an older audience whereas most pirates chased younger listeners. British pirate radio enthusiast Leon Tipler described it as being more similar to RTÉ Radio 1 than Radio 2. The station began test transmissions in mid-April 1981 on 738 kHz (406metres) with a professionally-built 1kW transmitter, giving it good coverage across Dublin and beyond.

This is a recording of the final test from 1823-1910 on 28th April 1981, the day before Radio Leinster was due to launch. An address of 22 Herbert Street, Dublin 2 is given but the station was located in Sandyford above the city. The programme schedule is announced, including presenters Eugene Elliot, Gordon Sommerville, Danny Hughes and Stevie Gordon. Some of the station’s characteristic interval signals are also heard.

The signal suffers from a heterodyne whistle as it was recorded in Scotland by Ken Baird. This would not be noticeable in Dublin where Radio Leinster had a strong signal, but further afield it was. This happened because the Leinster transmitter was off channel for the first week or so, on 735 kHz rather than the official 738 frequency. As the transmitter came from the USA, it may well be that the original American crystal for 735 kHz was in the unit. Thanks to Ian Biggar for background information and for sharing this recording with us.

The last 100 days of Kilkenny Community Radio

The last 100 days of Kilkenny Community Radio
Cover image from a 1981 KCR magazine (courtesy of DX Archive).

Kilkenny Community Radio (KCR) broadcast for almost a decade from May 1979 to December 1988 and was one of the eleven stations affiliated to the National Association of Community Broadcasters. It operated on 1386 kHz (217 metres) for many years but with several other pirates in the south of Ireland on the same frequency, co-channel interference was a problem. FM frequencies were 99.9 and later 97.4 MHz. A new AM rig bought in 1987 allowed KCR to move to 1395 kHz where it remained until it closed, along with the other pirates, on 31st December 1988.

The last 100 days of Kilkenny Community Radio
KCR’s AM rig (courtesy of Bill Ebrill).

KCR was based on a community co-operative structure and was chaired in its early years by local priest Fr. Gerry Joyce. A programme committee of shareholders and listeners updated the schedule regularly and the station’s slogan was ‘By the people for the people’. A 1981 magazine For the Record produced by KCR gives a flavour of the philosophy and the wide range of programming, with plenty of input from local voluntary groups. The station was featured in Leon Tipler’s documentary ‘The Irish Pirates’ in 1983. KCR was licensed as Radio Kilkenny in 1989 and continued to broadcast until 2003 when it lost its licence after a reorganisation of the franchises in Counties Carlow and Kilkenny. The present Community Radio Kilkenny City has links with the original pirate station and the 40th anniversary of community radio in Kilkenny was celebrated in 2019.

This recording is of Pat Maher with an easy listening programme from 1414-1502 on Saturday 17th September 1988, during the station’s ‘last 100 days of broadcasting’, as announced by the presenter. It was made from 97.4 FM and was kindly donated by John Breslin.

Sunshine Radio charity auction

Sunshine Radio charity auction
An ad by the Central Remedial Clinic in the Sunshine Radio Review from 1985.

Some of the pirates engaged in corporate social responsibility, raising money for various charitable and voluntary groups. One of the larger stations to do so was Sunshine Radio, which built a relationship with the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC), an organisation supporting people with physical disabilities. Sunshine held an annual auction on air in aid of the CRC along with the Sunshine Extravaganza, an evening event that listeners could pay to attend, with the proceeds going to the charity. In the first five year’s of Sunshine’s existence, the station raised over £100,000 for the CRC, a considerable sum in the cash-strapped 1980s.

Sunshine Radio charity auction
Pat Courtenay as pictured in the Sunshine Review from 1985.

This recording is of part of the 5th CRC auction as recorded from 531 kHz AM from 1035-1120 on 13th April 1985. In studio are Kieran Ryan and Pat Courtenay, who looks after the bids. Items are up for auction in various lots and include a helicopter trip, a weekend in a Dublin hotel, a bonsai tree, an electronic telephone, attic insulation, a home brew kit, toys, gym membership, beauty treatments, silverware, a Philips radio recorder and even 22 tonnes of sand or gravel!  Irish cabaret singer Tony Kenny, who is taking part in the 5th Sunshine Extravaganza evening in aid of the CRC, is interviewed by station owner Robbie Dale (Robinson), who then joins Pat Courtenay in studio to promote the Sunshine Extravaganza. An ad break includes a promo for the Sunshine Cake, an FM opt-out service of easy listening music on Sunday mornings.

Sunshine Radio charity auction
Robbie Dale as pictured in the Sunshine Review 1985.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International was a shortwave station broadcasting from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.

Marty Hall (Whelan) on Radio Dublin

Marty Hall (Whelan) on Radio Dublin
Early Radio Dublin masthead (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Marty Whelan was one of the many future RTÉ stars who would cut his broadcasting teeth in the late 1970s Dublin pirate scene. Here he is as Marty Hall presenting the Oldies Show on Radio Dublin on Easter Sunday, 26th March 1978 between 1200-1330.

The programme is interesting in how it uses advertising, as most commercials are read live by Marty. Businesses such as Windsor Rent-a-Car, the Dublin Bazaar, The Sportsman Inn in Mount Merrion and the Rosary Florist are promoted in this way and a segment of the show is sponsored by the Chariot Inn in Ranelagh. There are also letters from listeners with all sorts of requests including one reporting a broken television and another promoting a local sports club. Marty Hall would soon move on to the breakaway station Big D before joining the new RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979.

The recording is partially airchecked and was made by Eddie Caffrey in Co. Louth, so there is some interference in places. Thanks to Eddie and Ian Biggar for sharing with us.

Radio Dublin on Easter Sunday 1978

Radio Dublin on Easter Sunday 1978
Early Radio Dublin badge (Alan MacSiomoin collection).

Kieran Murray presented FRC (Free Radio Campaign) programmes on various pirates down the years, including in the early days of Radio Dublin as a full-time station. Here’s a recording of part of the FRC show presented by Kieran on Radio Dublin on Easter Sunday, 26th March 1978. This was just before the split that led to the breakaway station Big D. An ad is heard for FRC Ireland and its magazine Sounds Alternative, and new stations in Kildare and Galway are mentioned. There are also long lists of requests, reflecting the strong listenership enjoyed by Radio Dublin at the time.

The recording was made by Eddie Caffrey in Co. Louth, and there is some interference. Thanks to Eddie and Ian Biggar for sharing it with us.