Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 2)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 2)
Capitol Radio, one of the stations featured in this episode of ‘The Irish Pirates’ (image courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

We bring you the second instalment in Leon Tipler’s acclaimed documentary ‘The Irish Pirates’, focusing on the period 1979-1982. In this edition Tipler discusses his visits to Dublin in 1981 and 1982 and features recordings of the pirates as well as interviews with those involved. Stations featured include ARD (Alternative Radio Dublin), Radio 257, Radio City, Capitol Radio and Double R Radio. The distinctive sound of Radio Leinster is commented upon and Tipler also interviews Tony Allan, whose voice was heard increasingly on the Irish pirates. While the focus in this episode is on the smaller stations, there is no escaping the fact that the Irish radio landscape is facing a major upheaval following the arrival of Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova. Below, you can also hear the original recording made by Tipler of the talking butcher’s shop in Moore Street as he walks to the Radio City studios in Capel Street.

These recordings are from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

Index of Volume 2

00:00 ARD visit 1982
01:52 Jason Maine on Radio 257 in 1980
03:09 Radio 257 jingle Tony Allan
04:20 Radio 257 news
06:00 1980 visit to 257 at Crofton Hotel
08:50 Talking butcher’s shop on Moore Street
10:00 1980 Visit to Radio City
15:25 Interview with Tony Allan
18:25 Capitol Radio
20:45 1981 visit
21:20 Sunshine Radio News
22:10 Ads on Radio City
23:20 BLB
23:40 Radio Nova tests on 846 AM
24:43 Treble TR
24:56 Dún Laoghaire Community Radio
25:15 Radio Leinster
23:40 Southside Radio
26:00 Community Radio Drogheda
26:05 Sonic Weekend Radio
26:18 Radio Dublin telephonist sought
26:55 Big D
27:10 ARD breakfast with Uncle Bren
29:00 Boyneside Radio
29:45 Sunshine car stickers
30:45 Boyneside on FM
32:00 Radio Leinster feature
34:10 Radio Leinster interval signals
36:33 Kennedy’s of Castleross on RTÉ
37:21 Irish Sweepstakes on RTÉ
41:00 1981 visit to Radio City
41:30 John Paul on air
47:45 Dave Charles and Al Dunne on Radio City
51:30 Double R Radio
54:25 Interview with Seán Day of Double R

Background: other Galway City and County pirates

Background: other Galway City and County pirates
Entry about IRG in FRC Ireland Newsletter, issue 5, August/September 1978 (courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

Our series on the pirate stations based in and around Galway City in the 1980s includes Atlantic Sound, WLS, Coast 103, County Sound and Radio Pirate Woman. These were all from the final part of the Irish pirate radio era from 1984 to 1988 with the exception of Radio Pirate Woman which defied the new legislation and carried on into the 1990s and beyond. Like Dublin, Galway also had an earlier wave of pirates which paved the way for the larger commercial stations. Among those were Independent Radio Galway and Atlantic Radio.

Independent Radio Galway, broadcasting in the late 1970s on 199 metres (1503 kHz) was the closest that Galway came to a community radio station. Set up by Tom O’Connor of O’Connor’s television repair shop, it began on April 15th 1978 and was one of major pirates that emerged from the RTÉ local radio experiment of that period. IRG closed on July 28th 1979 following the establishment of RTÉ Radio 2. More information is available here. Surprisingly for a city with a long tradition of the arts and community development, Galway never developed community radio in the mould of well-known stations such as Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) and North Dublin Community Radio (NDCR). Another early station was Atlantic Radio (no relation to the later Atlantic Sound as far as we know), which was due to begin broadcasting on February 25th 1978. As the report below indicates, they had big plans including transmitters in North Galway and Mayo and a separate city service, Galway Community Radio. The station gave an address in Renmore on the east side of the city.

Background: other Galway City and County pirates
Entry about Atlantic Radio in FRC Ireland Newsletter, issue 3, February/March 1978 (courtesy Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

County Sound was an example of a station situated outside Galway city which moved eventually into the city centre. Another county station, KFM, was set up in 1986 in the village of Moycullen 12 km northwest of Galway. Later it opened a studio in the city centre and announced two FM frequencies, one for the city (99 MHz) and another for the county (95 MHz). AM was planned but never materialised.

Background: other Galway City and County pirates
Rate card for KFM (c. 1986) courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

There was a remarkable similarity between the design of the KFM rate card and the one used previously by Atlantic Sound!

Background: other Galway City and County pirates
Atlantic Sound rate card c. 1986 (courtesy Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

Other stations included West Coast Community Radio (WCCR) which broadcast from spring 1982 until July 1983 on AM only, with its aerial running along the terrace of Cloonacauneen Castle north of Galway before moving to a frozen meat factory in Roscam on the east side of the city. Among those involved with WCCR were the current CEO of Galway Bay FM, Keith Finnegan. Radio Renmore was a low-powered station (approximately 5 watts) on 100 FM which operated from August 1983 until early 1985 from the eastern suburb of Renmore. Set up by three teenagers, Gary Hardiman, Tom Breen and Brendan Mee, it broadcast during the school holidays and was known as Radio Snowflake at Christmas 1984. Emerald FM was an irregular pirate from Shantalla in 1986 as was WHYT which gave an address in Eglinton Street in the city centre. In 1987 another hobby station, Radio Impulse, was logged mainly at weekends.

Stations in Co. Galway included the very early pirate Saor-Raidió Chonamara which broadcast on two separate occasions in 1970 from Ros Muc, a village in the Gaeltacht area of Connemara. It was a pioneer in Irish language broadcasting and led to the establishment of RTÉ’s Irish language service Raidió na Gaeltachta in 1972. Further to the northwest, Connemara Community Radio came on the air in 1988 in the village of Letterfrack. It is now a licensed station of the same name. In the east of the county, Kandy Radio broadcast from Ballinasloe from 1986 to 1988 and Galway District Radio was a short-lived station in Loughrea.

Thanks to Brendan Mee and Ian Biggar for background details.

Aircheck: ABC Radio (Dublin)

Aircheck: ABC Radio (Dublin)
A photo of the studio courtesy of – location unknown.

ABC Radio was one of the smaller Dublin stations in the early 1980s, on air from November 1st 1981 until the end of May 1984. It was an offshoot of Radio Dublin Channel 2 and began broadcasting from the Ivy Rooms Hotel (now the Gate Hotel) on Parnell Street. The frequency was 1386 kHz (announced as 1385 or 217 metres) but there were problems with another pirate on the same frequency. In April 1982, ABC moved to 963 kHz (312 metres) but was again jammed by another pirate operator, causing a further move to 981 kHz although 963 continued to be announced. ABC was one of only two stations to remain on air following the raids on Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio in May 1983 when it began 24-hour broadcasting in response to listener demand. Anoraks UK reported that it was raided itself in June 1983 due to a harmonic signal in the marine band.

There was a tribute site at but it was offline in 2022. Recordings of the station are not widely available so we’re glad to bring you a selection of station IDs and promos from 1981-3. Sound quality isn’t great, reflecting poor AM transmitters and old cassettes, but the IDs feature the voice of Tony Allan and the aircheck includes Radio Nova’s news bulletin which was being rebroadcast by ABC for a while – a pirate pirating news from another pirate! ABC closed in May 1984 following an unsuccessful move to the disused State Cinema in Phibsboro. The station merged with another small station Westside Radio to become Radio Annabel, which also broadcast from the Ivy Rooms Hotel.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.

Jingles: South Coast Radio (Cork)

Jingles: South Coast Radio (Cork)
Image courtesy of DX Archive

Another big Cork station from the early 1980s was South Coast Radio of which there were three incarnations between 1982 to 1988. The original South Coast (1982-1984) broadcast from above a pub in St. Luke’s in Cork on 1557 kHz (announced as 194 metres) and also 104 FM. During its existence the station had many high-profile broadcasters including Tony Allan, Nick Richards, John Kenny, Peter Madison, Henry Owens and Hugh Browne. Here are some of the South Coast jingles.

You can hear an interview with Nick Richards here about his involvement in other stations.

Jingles: ERI (Cork)

Jingles: ERI (Cork)
Image courtesy of Eddie Bohan.

ERI (Eastside Radio Ireland) became Cork’s biggest pirate in the late 1980s. Beginning in the village of Ballycotton east of Cork City in 1982, it broadcast on 1305 kHz and 102 FM. This jingle package, included in our own collection, includes several references to 225 metres which corresponds to 1332 kHz, another frequency used for a while. ERI’s dominance in Cork was assured when it installed a powerful 5kW AM transmitter on the outskirts of the city and boosted its FM signal. It closed down at the end of 1988.