Radio Caroline Dublin (1989-2000) was one of the longest running stations of the second wave of the pirates following legalisation. It was set up by Brian Greene (Bobby Gibbson on air) and Tom Berry (RIP) who had previously run Centre Radio from Bayside in 1987-1988. Radio Caroline Dublin began broadcasting on bank holiday Mondays in 1989 and went full-time in January 1992. The station settled on 102.5 FM and increased its signal overtime but ran into difficulties with the authorities when Lite FM (later Q102) was licensed for 102.2 in 2000. Radio Caroline Dublin changed its name to WXTC but closed soon afterwards.
Radio Caroline Dublin was typical of pirate stations of the era. The Broadcasting and Wireless Telegraphy Act 1988 forced pirate from the high street and hotels into garden sheds for the majority of the 1990s. Radio Caroline Dublin never ran adverts and did limited fundraisers. Its core funding was through vigorous adherence to DJ subscriptions. Weekly and monthly subs were collected with two tiers for waged and unwaged. The subs from 25+ volunteers funded the very best of club DJing equipment in studio and a Dublin Mountains TX site. The subs were directly linked to democratic involvement in purchasing decisions. Ownership structure was more akin to 1970s AM pirates but there was a not-for-profit ethos from the start.
Full time hours were 5pm-12am Monday-Friday and 9am-1am at weekends. The station was involved in an unsuccessful licence bid for a community radio licence in 1996, and was a constituent group in the formation of Dublin-wide community of interest station Anna Livia FM, but then never got involved with that station as they were busy building Radio Caroline Dublin.
This interview with Brian Greene was conducted by Pete Reid (Simon Maher) and Gerard Roe in July 1998 in the Radio Caroline Dublin studio. It was featured in Anorak Hour #151 on 2nd August 1998 on Phantom FM and repeated during Anorak Hour #249 on 17th September 2000. This donation is with thanks to Gerard Roe.
ABC Power 104 was a Waterford station broadcasting between 1992 to 2001, one of the significant stations from the second wave of pirates following legalisation of independent radio. Its roots were in ABC, a professional pirate that broadcast from Tramore and then Waterford City from 1982 to 1988. The station returned under a new name in 1992, stating that it wanted to provide an alternative to local licensed service WLR. Full-time broadcasting began at Christmas 1993 and ABC Power 104 began campaigning for an expansion of local radio in the Waterford area. According to a station leaflet from c. 2000, ‘although Waterford already enjoys one excellent local radio service, one station cannot be all things to all people. The trade off is that the young people of Waterford are poorly catered for when it comes to programming as the existing local services target the older and traditionally safer demographic … without us there is no choice in local radio’.
In 1999, ABC Power 104 was invited by the Independent Radio and Television Commission (IRTC, the predecessor to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) to prepare an expression of interest in operating a full-time station. The licence for a regional youth service for the southeast was eventually awarded to Beat 102 103, which was linked to ABC’s old rival WLR. Beat came on air in 2003.
This recording is of an interview from 1998 by Pete Reid (Simon Maher) and Gerard Roe with Andy Ellis of ABC Power 104, broadcast on Dublin pirate Phantom FM. Andy was one of the founders of the original ABC in 1982. Thanks to Gerard Roe for the donation and to Ian Biggar for background.
Radio Dublin’s weekly Station News was normally delivered by its owner Eamonn Cooke but on Sunday 17th February 1991, station manager Joe Doyle (Joe Rossa) took to the air unexpectedly following days of back-to-back music on the station. There was speculation that a summons was to be served in connection with a previous raid and Radio Dublin was lying low and had ceased live programming. The rumour mill was in overdrive and Joe Doyle gives listeners a flavour of some of the conspiracy theories circulating but doesn’t explain what exactly is going on. He then attacks teenage DJs Barry Dunne and Gary Cruise (O’Connell) for their claims about low-powered station KHTR, a forerunner to the much bigger 1990s pirate Sunset FM. Other pirates logged that weekend were WABC in Donegal and Dublin stations Dún Laoghaire Weekend Radio, Signal Radio, Rock 103.1 and The Yahoo on 106.2.
Thanks to Barry Dunne for his donation of this recording.
In episode #5 of the Pirate.ie podcast, it’s a great pleasure to bring you an interview with Simon Maher, a leading light in the 1990s pirate scene and in subsequent licensed stations. Despite new broadcasting laws that were supposed to silence the pirates, Simon and many others cut their teeth in the lively and diverse world of free radio in Dublin throughout the decade.
In this interview with Brian Greene and John Walsh, Simon looks back over twenty years of radio ranging from garden sheds to multi-million euro professional operations and back to alternative online radio. He describes the humble origins of Coast FM (1991-1996) in bedrooms and garden sheds and the growth of his indie/alternative pirates Spectrum FM (1996-1997) and Phantom FM (1997-2003). After applying three times, Phantom eventually got a full-time alternative rock licence and broadcast to Dublin from 2006-2014 until financial problems forced a corporate takeover and rebranding. Simon discusses the success and failure of the licensed Phantom and tells us why he thinks specialist radio needs to return to its roots. He currently runs 8Radio.com, an alternative online station that has been on multi-city FM under temporary licences.
This interview gives a fascinating insight into the similarities and differences between the 1980s and 1990s pirates and is also a lesson in how radio needs to reinvent itself to survive.
No account of Galway pirate radio would be complete without the unique station set up by the writer and activist Margaretta D’Arcy from her home in the city centre. Women’s Scéal Radio broadcast irregularly from 1987 and was renamed Radio Pirate Woman in 1989 to reflect the new legislation which clamped down more severely on the pirates than previously. The station was set up to oppose censorship, including Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act (which banned interviews with members of Sinn Féin) and the ban on information about abortion. Women of various political persuasions would gather around the table and speak openly about these and other issues of relevance to them. The technical set-up was very basic, with little more than a microphone, tape recorder and and a cheap low-powered FM transmitter with a radius of 3km. Radio Pirate Woman also broadcast cassettes from WINGS (Women’s International News Gathering Service) and featured the voices of women from radio stations around the world.
In this interview, Margaretta D’Arcy, who recently celebrated her 86th birthday, explains her motivation for setting up the station, reading extracts from her book Galway’s Pirate Women: A Global Trawl (1996). She explains how women of very different ideological outlooks spoke on air from around her kitchen table, including the religious activist Deirdre Manifold who had earlier been involved with Independent Radio Galway. Margaretta also explains why she didn’t seek a licence in 1989 and discusses the various successes of Radio Pirate Woman. She doesn’t recall the last time the station was on the air, but it hasn’t been heard for a number of years and we estimate the last date to be c. 2010.
In 2017, Margaretta donated her papers and those of her late husband, playwright John Arden to the National University of Ireland, Galway. The donation included hundreds of cassette recordings of Women’s Scéal Radio and Radio Pirate Woman. You can hear a recording here. We are very grateful to Margaretta for sharing her memories of her unique pirate radio station with us.