Radio Dublin was the only Irish station to ring in the New Year at midnight on Saturday 31st December 1977. The Evening Herald reported that RTÉ Radio had to scrap its planned New Year’s Eve special programme, to be presented by Pat Kenny, because of an industrial relations dispute. The state broadcaster would close down at 11.45pm, leaving the airwaves to Radio Dublin. This was an important period for the pirates as it marked the shift from hobby to full-time broadcasting. Radio Dublin stayed on air for 300 hours over the Christmas and New Year period 1977-1978 and began full-time daily broadcasting on 2nd January 1978.
This recording is of Radio Dublin staff saying farewell to 1977 and ringing in 1978. Running from 2312-0040, it features station owner Eamonn Cooke along with DJs John Paul, Shay West, DJ Sylvie, Mike Eastwood and James Dillon. There are plenty of requests from listeners and thanks to businesses for advertising with the station during the year. At midnight a recording of bells is almost scuppered by a faulty cassette tape. This is followed by the DJs singing Auld Land Syne and a message from the Lord Mayor of Dublin Cllr Michael Collins. Eamonn Cooke urges listeners to lobby the government for a licence for Radio Dublin and also thanks Prince Terry (Roger Lloyd) for relaying the broadcast on the shortwave frequency of Westside Radio International. This recording was made locally but there is some night-time co-channel interference and that characteristic Radio Dublin hum throughout. We thank Ian Biggar for the donation.
However, the exuberance of New Year’s Eve did not last and in April James Dillon led a walk-out of most staff following allegations that Eamonn Cooke was involved in child abuse. Dillon formed a breakaway station, the Big D, which lasted until 1982. Radio Dublin closed down permanently in 2002 following Cooke’s conviction 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.
ARD (Alternative Radio Dublin) first broadcast on July 31st 1976 on 217 metres. It was set up by Declan Meehan, Mark Story and Davitt Kelly (RIP). Following a split at Radio Dublin, the late Don Moore (Dr. Don) joined ARD and it moved to 1161 kHz (announcing 257 metres), next to its rival on 253 metres. The competition between Radio Dublin and ARD forced up standards as both stations experimented with extending broadcast hours and more professional programming. Don Moore developed ARD into a credible station in its own right and planned to seek a licence.
In this recording from 1978, Dr. Don is heard hosting a lively phone-in on a Sunday afternoon. Listeners sing their favourite songs on air and appreciate Don’s zany style, corny jokes and canned laughter. We get a real sense of a rapport with listeners and this recording reminds us that Don was a gifted and natural broadcaster. The voices of the late Tony Allen and Dave C are heard on ads and promos.
This recording was made from 1161 kHz (announcing 257 metres) from 1620-1700 on 4th June 1978. Thanks to Ian Biggar for the donation.
This recording of Alan Edwards was made on 1st July 1979, a year to the day after he began working at CBC. Alan plays snippets from his first show on 1st July 1978 and comments on the difference in his voice over the past year. A birthday cake was delivered to the station by a loyal fan and Alan and his producer tuck in between records. It is announced that the station will close at 10pm instead of midnight because Barry Jones won’t be in for his show.
In the 1978 recording CBC’s frequency is given as 1327.52 kHz which is equivalent to almost 226 metres rather than the announced 230 metres. A year later, Alan announces 1303 kHz which is equivalent to 230 metres. This is a 40+ year-old cassette recorded from AM, with the 1978 inserts themselves recorded from AM, so audio quality is poor throughout. The recording above starts at around 7.30pm and is a partial aircheck. The recording below starts just before 9pm. Thanks to Lillian O’Donoghue for the donation.
We are delighted to launch a new series on the history of early pirate radio in Cork, due to a large donation by Lillian O’Donoghue. Lillian McCarthy, as she was then known, was a dedicated fan of the Cork pirate scene and a regular visitor to the city’s station. She has donated many hours of tapes and hundreds of photographs to our archives and we will feature these in coming months, beginning with a mini-series on the Cork Broadcasting Company (CBC).
CBC began broadcasting on 14th January 1978 announcing 230 metres. The station was first located in the suburb of Montenotte and claimed a radius of about 10 miles. It was set up by music shop owner Don Walsh (known also as DJ Daniels), Dublin-born DJ Stevie Bolger who had moved to Cork to work for a nightclub, and engineer Con McParland who looked after the transmitters. Con McParland had operated Radio Sundown International in the city in the early 1970s. It is possible that the first transmitter used by CBC was the former Sundown one.
The book The Jolly Roger: Pirate Radio Days in Cork by Noel and Trevor Welch described how CBC shook up the Cork radio landscape: ‘CBC had an instant, astonishing impact on Cork’s social scene. Its arrival on the airwaves electrified local youngsters who were desperate to listen to their favourite pop and rock music. If RTÉ was perceived as “stuffy” and conservative, CBC was exciting, brash and willing to try new ideas’.
Don Walsh is quoted in that book as saying that CBC was set up to try in Cork what was being done already by stations such as Radio Caroline in the UK. The station used sports cars as a promotion in the St. Patrick’s Day parade 1978 but was raided on 22nd March by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and equipment was seized. According to issue 4 of Sounds Alternative, the newsletter of FRC Ireland, CBC were raided on Wednesday 22nd March 1978 whilst broadcasting from 7 Farley Place, Montenotte. However, they returned to the air the following day using a standby transmitter.
An article in the Irish Press dated March 26th 1978 was titled ‘Broadcasting Act challenge by Cork radio pirates fails’. It detailed how Bolger, Walsh and McParland were seeking a declaration that certain provisions of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1926 were unconstitutional and contrary to natural justice. The case was heard by Justice Hamilton in the High Court in Dublin and unsurprisingly failed.
Although announcing 230 metres (actually 1303 kHz), CBC was reported to be broadcasting on 1394 kHz by UK DXer Dave Small who visited Ireland in August 1979. At that time, station operating hours were 0800- 2400, but sometimes they closed early around 2100. The address was 36 St Patrick’s Quay. In issue 9 of Sounds Alternative, an FRC Ireland team reported on a visit to Cork on Saturday September 2nd 1979. They said that CBC was broadcasting on 215 metres (that would tie in with previously reported 1394 kHz). Transmitter power was estimated to be in the region of 100 watts and they were using a long wire antenna supported by two five-foot poles, presumably on the warehouse roof. It was noted that the sound quality was a little below average, but not bad by any standard. An Irish station list published in the December 1979 issue of Short Wave News listed CBC as broadcasting on 1400 kHz. Lillian McCarthy wrote in her photo album that it closed on 8th September 1979.
This recording of CBC was made on 14th and 15th June 1979 and is partially airchecked. It begins with Alan Edwards from around 9pm on the 14th, who ends his show with a preview of the next day’s line-up. This is followed by a clip of Steve Taylor on breakfast on 15th June as well as Conor O’Sullivan and Susan James (O’Connor). At the end of the tape is a clip of Pete Andrews (O’Neill). There are numerous promos for station DJs doing discos around the city and country, a reflection of the strong connection between the pirates and the nightclub scene of the time. Audio is poor because this was recorded on a portable tape recorder held up to a radio – Lillian had yet to get a radio-cassette recorder!
Thanks to Ian Biggar, Rob Allen and Pete O’Neill for their help with background research.
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.