Fossett’s Circus on Galway’s Atlantic Sound

Fossett's Circus on Galway's Atlantic Sound
Atlantic Sound studios (photo courtesy of Alan Russell).

In the first half of 1984, Galway pirate Atlantic Sound broadcast a varied schedule of music and original speech programming. This is a clip from station founder Alan Russell’s magazine programme from May or June 1984. Seán Costello interviews Annie, a South African trapeze artist with Fossett’s Circus at Fairgreen in Galway city centre during a visit by the circus to town. It was recorded on a Marantz Superscope machine. Below is a longer interview by Seán with the late Teddy Fossett who provides a brief history of the circus before taking the opportunity to share some grievances about the circus industry. Seán attempts to wrap up the interview after 15 minutes but Teddy is in full flight about the competition with Circus Hoffmans from the UK.

Atlantic Sound interview with Teddy Fossett, 1984.
Fossett's Circus on Galway's Atlantic Sound
Atlantic Sound studios (photo courtesy of Alan Russell).

The photos were taken in the Atlantic Sound studio at the end of 1983 when the station had begun testing. A full schedule began in 1984. Pictured are a Canary 12- channel mixer, Technics decks, a JVC cassette deck, Sennheiser headphones, a Shure mic and the news reader’s desk. We thank Alan Russell for the donation. In the second half of 1984 after his departure, the station was re-launched as a ‘hot hits’ format.

Time World News Service on Atlantic Sound

Time World News Service on Atlantic Sound
Atlantic Sounds complements slip (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The Time World News Service (TWNS) was set up in early 1984 in order to bring the work of Time Magazine to radio stations around the world. A letter from the publisher of Time on April 16th that year said that TNWS was ‘a new entry in radio journalism that will draw its material from the pages of TIME and its 87 correspondents and 32 news bureaus around the world’. TWNS was recorded in New York and broadcast in more than 100 US cities and 20 other countries including Ireland, where it was organised by the late Robbie Robinson of Sunshine Radio.

Time World News Service on Atlantic Sound
Atlantic Sound poster from 1984 (courtesy Alan Russell).

One Irish pirate station to broadcast TWNS was Atlantic Sound in Galway, whose founder Alan Russell recalls that they received a special delivery each month with the news features on cassettes.

‘From memory it cost £40 per month – a pint of Guinness was £1.37 back then and £40 would have been an average weekly rent on a good flat or small house’, he said.

It seems that the service was less popular than expected and was phased out from the summer of 1984.

The recording above is an edition of TWNS about the arms race and below is another edition about film releases. Both date from March or April 1984, were broadcast on Atlantic Sound and are donated kindly by Alan Russell.

‘Never more than a minute from music’: Galway’s Atlantic Sound

'Never more than a minute from music': Galway's Atlantic Sound
An Atlantic flyer from early 1984 when the station was still on 1107 kHz (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Atlantic Sound began testing at the end of 1983 and launched a full schedule at the start of 1984. A report in the Galway Advertiser on 29th December 1983 said that the station aimed to be ‘a fusion of RTÉ Radio One, Community Radio and Radio Nova’. Presumably the reference to ‘community radio’ was to the temporary local RTÉ stations on air at the time. Atlantic Sound’s founder journalist Alan Russell was quoted as saying that the station would buy equipment from the BBC and comply with the specifications required by the proposed radio authority. He added that it would not be a pop music station.

In mid-1984, after the arrival from Cork of two DJs with an offshore radio background, the late Keith York and Don Stevens, Alan Russell left Atlantic Sound and the broad schedule was changed to a ‘hot hits’ format. In this recording from the August bank holiday weekend of 1984, Seán Costello plays requests for mostly chart music and generic jingles are heard. He says that Atlantic Sound is ‘never more than a minute away from music’ and there’s a reference to a £1,000 giveaway but the thin commercial breaks suggest that the station was not making much money.

The recording was made from 99 FM and runs from 1858-1945 but is undated. Atlantic had moved from 1107 to 1026 kHz AM by this stage and had added FM. Thanks to Shay Geoghegan for the donation and to Alan Russell for background information.

Robbie Robinson on the Sunshine charity auction

Robbie Robinson on the Sunshine charity auction
L-R: Cathy Cregan, unidentified prize winners, Robbie Robinson (Sunshine Review 1985, DX Archive).

The annual auction for the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) in Dublin was a staple in the Sunshine Radio calender, raising over £100,000 for the charity in the station’s first five years from 1980-1985. In this recording, station boss Robbie Robinson (RIP) directs proceedings with the help of Greg Merriman and other studio guests. Items for auction include teddy bears, tickets to see Emmylou Harris, a home alarm system, an IBM computer and an Opel Kadett car. Listeners are also invited to bid to attend the Sunshine Extravaganza, an annual meal and show that followed the auction. News is ready by Patsy McGarry.

This recording was made from 101 FM from 1220-1305 on 28th April 1984. It is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International was a shortwave station broadcasting from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.

Atlantic Sound from Galway

Atlantic Sound from Galway
Atlantic Sound advert from the second half of 1984 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Atlantic Sound broadcast from Galway City from December 1983 until June 1985. It was set up by Alan Russell who had run previous stations in Dublin. Test transmissions were heard before Christmas on 1107 kHz (announcing 273 metres) with a full schedule starting in January 1984. Atlantic had a daytime Top 40 and oldies format and hosted interviews with local personalities, musicians etc. Specialist music interests were catered for in evening programme segments, for instance an Irish traditional programme presented by musician Gary Shannon. As part of news and current affairs coverage the station ran the Time World News series, organised by the late Robbie Robinson.

Alan Russell said: ‘From my background in steering Capitol Radio through a plethora of stations in Dublin, I knew there was little point in providing a “poor man’s RTÉ Radio2” as a local radio choice in Galway city and county. The choice had to be real with local musicians, bands and cultural interests reflected in the overall station content’.

The station was taken over in mid-1984 by former offshore DJs Keith York (RIP) and Don Stevens who moved from South Coast Radio in Cork after it closed down. Steve Marshall, who had worked for WKLR in west Cork, later became involved. Alan recalls that Keith was hired to check over an ex-BBC transmitter to ensure it was fully operational: ‘I recall it had Mercury valves and the transformers had to be removed to lighten the weight before hauling it up to the first floor where the station was based’.

Following the change of management, Atlantic changed its format to a formula of chart music and giveaways, the first of several Galway stations of the 1980s to do so. It also moved to 1026 kHz and added 95.4 FM and 99.1 FM. This recording features Seán Costello playing hits and taking requests. The voice of Don Stevens is heard on promos but there are very few ads. The recording was made from 99.1 FM and runs from 1753-1836 but we don’t have a more precise date than the August bank holiday weekend 1984. Atlantic Sound faded away after the Cork trio set up another station, WLS Music Radio, across the road.

We thank Shay Geoghegan for this donation and Alan Russell for background information.