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’.
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.
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.
ARD closed down on New Year’s Eve 1979 but returned a few hours later as Radio 257 on New Year’s from the Crofton Hotel near Dublin Airport. The station would revert to the ARD name by late 1980. Many household names of the future passed through the doors of ARD/257, one of whom was Brendan O’Carroll, now better known as Mrs Brown in the BBC and RTÉ comedy Mrs Brown’s Boys. Here he is as ‘Uncle Bren the kiddies’ friend’ presenting the breakfast show. The voices of the late Tony Allan and Dave C. are heard on ads.
This is an original recording made by British radio enthusiast Leon Tipler for his acclaimed documentary series ‘The Irish Pirates’. Part of the ARD recording is heard in the documentary here but the full original tape has not been published previously. Unfortunately the cassette isn’t dated but we estimate it to be from July 1981. The Leon Tipler Tapes Collection was donated to us by Steve England.
Many of Ireland’s broadcasters of the future cut their teeth in ARD and Radio 257. This is a recording of longtime RTÉ presenter Ronan Collins, reading the 4pm news on ARD on 7th May 1979. Ronan presented a show every afternoon from 2-4pm, as the daytime schedule below shows.
The station was still located at Belvedere Place at this stage. It moved to the Crofton Airport Hotel and relaunched as Radio 257 on New Years’ Day 1980 but reverted to the ARD name later that year. We thank Dave Reddy for his donation of this recording.
ARD (Alternative Radio Dublin) was an important station in the history of Irish pirate radio, introducing professionalism and diversity to the Dublin radio scene. It was set up by Mark Story, Declan Meehan and Davitt Kelly (RIP) and made its first test broadcast on July 31st 1976 on 217 metres. Rivalry grew between the station and the original Radio Dublin but in his book Radio Radio (1988), Peter Mulryan writes that ARD was separated from the rest of the herd by its professionalism. In 1977, Radio Dublin changed its format and began experimenting with round-the-clock broadcasting, upping the ante further. A split at Radio Dublin caused Dr. Don (Moore) to join ARD and the station moved to 1161 kHz (announced as 257 metres), right next to its rival on 253 metres. Although additional advertising revenue was coming to ARD by the end of 1977, a key boost for the station was commercial backing from businessman Bernard Llewellyn who ran an electrical shop in Phibsboro on Dublin’s northside. In January 1978, ARD moved into a Georgian building in Belvedere Place in the city centre and the station held an official launch on January 23rd.
Following the investment, ARD became more professional and introduced specialist programmes, including a respected news service. According to Peter Mulryan, these shows were expensive and Llewellyn reverted to a more music-based policy in the first half of 1978. Two of the original station founders, Davitt Kelly and Declan Meehan also left around this time. Other frequencies used by ARD were 1152, 1143 and 1134 kHz and the station was an early FM pioneer among the Dublin pirates. It closed down on New Year’s Eve 1979 only to return as Radio 257 on New Year’s Day 1980 from the Crofton Hotel in north Dublin. By autumn that year, the station had reverted to the original ARD name. ARD closed for good in mid-1982 in the face of increased competition in the Dublin radio market.
In addition to the station’s founders, many talented broadcasters were heard on ARD/Radio 257, including John Clarke, Ronan Collins, Gerry Ryan, Mike Moran, Tony Allan, Paul Vincent, Ian Dempsey, Dave Kelly, Cathy Cregan and David Baker. The station also employed journalists such as Gene Kerrigan and Pat Brennan, both of whom went on to become established names. This airchecked recording of ARD was made between 1215 and 1522 on 23rd April 1978 and features Dave C (Cunningham) and Paul Downey with a lunchtime requests show, followed by Arno St. Jude (Declan Meehan), who announces that the station has to close down temporarily due to technical issues. We thank Eddie Caffrey for the donation of this recording, which was made in Co. Louth.
A few weeks ago, we featured the first Radio Dublin jingle package courtesy of Kieran Murray. Kieran has been researching the background to this package and has sent us the following report.
Radio Dublin was the very first pirate radio station in Ireland to play jingles. I heard these myself at the time. The jingles played on air referred to ‘WDEE – The Big D’. At that time, Radio Dublin used the tag line ‘The Big D’. So, having managed to locate my copy the Radio Dublin Jingles (The Big D) from the early 1970s, I set about trying to locate the original master recordings – the source of these iconic jingles – and also to find out a bit more about their origin and where they came from.
My search took me to jingle expert Norman Barrington. I downloaded his jingle database and set about searching for a radio station that used the call-sign ‘WDEE’ (you can hear this clearly on those jingles used by Radio Dublin in the early 1970s). Within a short time, I identified a set of jingles with just one listing on the jingle database matching ‘WDEE’. It transpires that a jingle company called SPOT Productions (located in Fort Worth, Texas, USA) was one of many jingle companies around that time that used to send out 5″ demo tape reels to various radio stations, touting for (jingle) business.
The reels were generally recorded in mono, as they were only intended as a demo and also because most broadcast stations in the USA at that time were on AM. SPOT may have sent this particular ‘WDEE’ jingle demo to lots of radio stations and it is not even certain that WDEE-AM 1500 (a country music station in Detroit, USA, from 1969 to 1980) ever received a copy of this demo or even ordered a jingle package from SPOT.
Thanks to Bryan Lambert, I can now reveal what happened that 5″ jingle tape reel. He takes up the story:
‘It was Mark T. (Mark Story) who gave that tape reel to me as a present several years ago. The reel travelled to Wexford with me between 1992 and 2001 where I transferred it to cassette. The reel remained in the filing cabinet I used at South East Radio with my carts and some other tapes. I’m sorry to say I left all of these behind me so they were all probably thrown out after I went home to Dublin when my father became ill in 2001’.
So, now you know what happened to that jingle tape reel. However, the mystery continues. How did that 5″ demo tape reel from SPOT Productions, manage to make its way over to Ireland? Who brought this reel over? How come Radio Dublin chose to use this tape as their jingle ID? Plus … how did Mark T. (Mark Story) get possession of this demo tape reel?