An eclectic music mix on Kerry Local Radio

An eclectic music mix on Kerry Local Radio

The history of pirate radio in Kerry is less well documented than other parts of Ireland and unlicensed radio activities in the county are only rarely mentioned by Anoraks UK. The Weekly Report didn’t have a regular contact in Kerry and relied mostly on people who were passing through. Many of the Kerry pirates were on FM only, unusual in itself for the 1980s but also problematic for long-distance listening, particularly when so many recordings of Irish pirates were made on the west coast of Britain.

Early listings from 1979 and 1980 logged two stations, Kerry Community Radio (1600 kHz) and Radio Tralee (1176 kHz), both in Tralee. Anoraks UK lists from late 1982 to late 1984 list a Kerry Local Radio (KLR) on 99.9 FM which may have emerged from one of the earlier stations. According to The Kerryman of 28th September 1984, a major financial backer pulled out of KLR due to ‘bad vibes’ at the station and a subsequent split saw two stations in Tralee, the grandly-titled Kerry Regional Radio Services (KRRS) and Kingdom of Kerry Local Radio. The split may have led to the closure of KLR, as listings from mid-1985 refer only to ‘Big K’ in Tralee, a station which broadcast between 102 and 104 FM for the next three years. However, this may have been an incarnation of KLR because an Anoraks Ireland list from 1988 refers to ‘Big K/KLR’. A lot more research remains to be done to untangle these twists and turns in the pirate radio scene in Tralee!

Michael Donovan was a colourful local character who was involved in many of the Tralee stations from the late 1970s. Elected as a town councillor in 1985, he managed Big K/KLR in later years until the end of 1988 when the pirates left the air. According to The Kerryman of 17th February 1989, Donovan attacked the Independent Radio and Television Commission for delays in licensing the Kerry station. He vowed to return as a pirate, claiming dramatically that he and his staff would starve if they didn’t get back on the air. Donovan carried out his threat and KLR resumed broadcasting illegally but was raided twice, in 1990 and again in 1991. According to Free Radio News from Ireland (March/April 1991), he was convicted on two charges, illegal broadcasting and possession of a transmitter. The drama continued when, after appealing his convictions, Donovan was not informed in time of the appeal date and an arrest warrant was issued by the judge when he didn’t show up. He died in 2002 from cancer at the young age of 58. Thanks to Ian Biggar and Eddie Bohan for background information.

This recording of Kerry Local Radio is of part of a very eclectic rock show featuring music from The Skids, Mike Rutherford and Climax Blues Band. It is a partial aircheck and was made shortly after 2pm on 1st January 1984. The presenter is John Devane and ads are heard for local Tralee businesses. The recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

Pirates ring RTÉ to complain about 1984 jamming

Pirates ring RTÉ to complain about 1984 jamming
An advert for Radio Annabel listing its own advertisers, Sunday World, 6th January 1985. Annabel would be gone within two months (Alan MacSimoin collection).

Spring 1984 was the height of the RTÉ jamming campaign against super-pirates such as Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio in Dublin and South Coast Radio in Cork. On 26th April 1984, Sunshine boss Robbie Dale (Robinson) attempted to ring RTÉ live on air during his mid-morning programme. RTÉ were jamming Sunshine on 531 kHz at the time from the Radio 2 site in Beaumont, claiming that they were testing on the frequency. Robbie Dale spoke to the RTÉ press office but failed to get through to Assistant Director-General Bobby Gahan.

Pirates ring RTÉ to complain about 1984 jammingA few days later on Dublin Community Radio, David Baker was more successful. During a special programme about the radio scene, he managed to speak to Bobby Gahan live on air and ask him about the jamming. According to Peter Mulryan’s book Radio Radio, the Minister for Communications Jim Mitchell requested RTÉ in April 1984 to stop jamming as control of the airwaves was a matter for government and not for the state broadcaster. Such was the audience for pirate radio, it appeared that the government feared the political implications if popular stations couldn’t be heard.

These recordings were broadcast by Gerard Roe on the FRC programme on Radio Annabel on 17th June 1984. Our recording was made from 1035 kHz AM. The photo is of Bobby Gahan in 2015 when he was Lord Mayor of Stepaside in Dublin and is by the Evening Herald.

Holiday giveaway on Cavan Community Radio

Holiday giveaway on Cavan Community Radio
A newspaper ad for a CCR giveaway on 25th March 1985 (courtesy of Seán Brady).

Generous giveaways are often associated with super-pirates such as Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova in Dublin, but Cavan Community Radio also had several high-profile competitions during its five years on air. In September 1984, CCR ran a competition for a sun holiday for two, inviting listeners to call the station if they heard three songs consecutively, ‘Walk on By’ by Larry Cunningham, ‘When Julie Comes Around’ by the C-60 band and ‘Cavan Girl’ by the Barleycorns. The 20th caller would win the holiday.

This recording was made from 819 kHz from 1242-1257 on 28th September 1984. Ollie Clarke is on air and the holiday competition is being pushed heavily. It is heard twice during the commercial break with one of the promotions featuring the voice of Don Allen.

Holiday giveaway on Cavan Community Radio
Ollie Clarke in the CCR studio (photo courtesy of Seán Brady).

On Thursday 4th April 1985, CCR began broadcasting promos for another giveaway comprising a holiday and prizes worth £2,000. Four records, ‘You must be Joking’ by Lucky Numbers, ‘Baby don’t go’ by Sandy Kelly, ‘My Own Native Land’ by Pat Woods and ‘Breakaway’ by Ann Breen, would be played in that exact order, only once, between Thursday 4th April and Friday 26th April. On hearing the last beat of the last record, listeners had to phone CCR on (049) 32747 and, if they were the tenth caller, they would win a holiday for two in Spain. Thanks to Seán Brady for this information.

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

Ollie Clarke on Cavan Community Radio

Ollie Clarke on Cavan Community Radio
Ollie Clarke on Cavan Community Radio (photo courtesy of Seán Brady).

Cavan Community Radio (CCR) was an AM station serving the north midlands from 1982 to 1988. This is an edited version of the station’s history kindly provided by Seán Brady.

CCR began broadcasting on 747 kHz AM in the spring of 1982. The catch-phrase, ‘The Big One on 747’, soon became a household phrase in homes all over the north Irish midlands, as well as counties Fermanagh and Tyrone. CCR’s AM signal also reached a wide area of Northern Ireland and attracted advertisers from counties Fermanagh and Tyrone. Programming originated from Farnham Road, Cavan quite close to the AM transmitter site, so there was no need for an FM link from the studio. The music format was a mix of pop and country music. Initially, broadcast hours ran from 0800 to 2000 daily and were later extended to midnight.

Ollie Clarke on Cavan Community Radio
QSL from CCR in 1985 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

On Friday 24th January 1984, CCR moved into new custom built studios and offices, which were situated above the Musicland Record Store on Main Street, Cavan. CCR linked to the 747 kHz AM transmitter with a low powered FM transmitter on 98.1 MHz which was available locally in Cavan town. In May 1984, Dublin’s Radio Nova changed AM frequency, moving from 828 kHz to 738 kHz. As a result, CCR began to experience severe adjacent channel interference and a change of AM frequency was considered essential.

Sometime between May and November 1984, CCR moved from 747 kHz to 819 kHz. The new channel provided excellent signal coverage of counties Cavan, Monaghan and Fermanagh, along with Armagh, Leitrim, Sligo, Longford and Meath until the Dublin station Q102 decided to move from 828 to 819 kHz in early October 1985. The presence of two relatively high-powered stations only 100km apart on the same frequency continued to cause problems for both in terms of coverage area for the remainder of the pirate era. Depending on conditions and transmitter power from either station, CCR could often be heard underneath Q102 heading north from Dublin.  

Ollie Clarke on Cavan Community Radio
Information about CCR transmission in 1985 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

In mid-May 1985, the CCR FM link on 98.1 MHz began to be jammed and the station had to move frequencies. Due to continuous jamming, CCR moved back to their former studios in Farnham Road, Cavan. With this move of premises, the FM link frequency was now lost and CCR became one of a select few Irish pirate radio stations to broadcast on AM only. The late ‘Daffy’ Don Allen, who counted CCR among the many Irish pirates where he worked, named the unknown person blocking the signal ‘Wammer the Jammer’ and even recorded a comedy song about him which he used to play over the airwaves. Don Allen moved to Radio West in Mullingar in September 1986.

Despite the coverage issue, at this time plenty of commercials were being aired and the station identified itself on air as ‘professional radio throughout the midlands and the northwest, CCR on 819 kHz’. The station had outside broadcasts including live commentary of the 1986 St. Patrick’s Day parades in Cavan. It also introduced a radio bingo game in association with Donagh Football and Social Club in Co. Fermanagh. Cavan Community Radio left the air on 819 kHz for the last time at on Saturday 31st December 1988.

The recording above was made from 98.1 FM from 1310-1341 on 21st September 1984. Ollie Clarke is on air and there is a promotion for a holiday giveaway. Ollie also worked with CCR, Channel 2 (Breffni Radio’s short-lived pop music service in Kilnaleck, Co. Cavan), Erneside Radio and Radio West. He has broadcast on licensed stations Northern Sound and Spirit Radio and is now a volunteer with Christmas FM.

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

The original Christmas station: Radio Snowflake

The original Christmas station: Radio Snowflake
A Radio Snowflake flyer from c. 1986 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Radio Snowflake was the original Christmas station, set up by Dave Reddy of the Community Broadcasting Co-operative (CBC) in 1982. The CBC rang temporary festival stations around Dublin in locations such as Glasnevin, Ringsend and Donnybrook and also broadcast Radio Snowflake around Christmas each year.

This recording was made from 1512 kHz AM on this day, 15th December 1984 from 1345-1430. David Baker, a well-known voice of CBC and other pirates, is on air with his usual mix of easy listening music and community news. There is plenty of co-channel mixing, possibly from Wicklow Community Radio on the same frequency. 1512 or 1530 were the usual AM frequencies for CBC with various low-powered FM channels in operation. 99.9 MHz is announced in this recording.

David Baker continued to run Radio Snowflake online until 2019, using many of the original presenters. Christmas FM comes on air every year on a temporary licence in various cities and towns across Ireland.

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