Stuart Clark on ABC Tramore

Stuart Clark on ABC Tramore
Stuart Clark in the ABC caravan in 1983 (courtesy DX Archive).

This is a recording of another of the founders of Waterford super-pirate ABC on the occasion of its 40th anniversary in March 2022. Stuart Clark was one of four English DJs with experience of the offshore or pirate scene who came to Ireland in early 1982 planning to set up a station somewhere in the southeast. The others were Andy Ellis, Clive Derek and Kevin Turner, who had previous local experience on Suirside Radio, and the four began testing from Tramore near Waterford City on March 1st 1982, with ABC launched two days later.

Stuart Clark on ABC Tramore
A view of the caravan and mast from 1982 (courtesy Brian Kennedy).

Part 1 of the recording above runs from 0749-0836 on 31st March 1982 and includes news ‘from Dublin’at 0800 which is in fact a recording of the 0730 RTÉ bulletin! Most pirates based their news directly on RTÉ and some occasionally rebroadcast bulletins but as the scene became more professional, ABC and other stations went on to develop respectable news services of their own. Part 2 below runs from 0849-0928 and includes Stuart himself reading the news. Both were made from 729 kHz AM in Waterford City and signal strength is fair as the receiver was at the edge of the small coverage area.

Part 2 from 0849.

After ABC, Stuart went on to work with other Irish pirates such as Hits 954 in Limerick. He has remained a close watcher of the pirate and radio scene over the years and is currently deputy editor of Hot Press magazine. Another ABC DJ, Steve Silby, shared his memories in the Radio Blaa Blaa book:

I don’t think ABC had a ‘mission’. It started on a wing and a prayer and stayed that way until the end, but behind it was a force of talented broadcasters who kept the show on the road no matter what. There were lots of technical firsts – live broadcasts from surrounding towns and one particular live broadcast direct from a roller coaster! In many ways ABC was different from most other stations in the country. It was a pirate run initially by imported radio fanatics who had deep links to UK commercial radio with stations like Radio Caroline and Laser 558 that had turned European broadcasting on its head – and all this knowledge was brought to Waterford City. Most of the time ABC sounded bloody great.

Thanks to Ian Biggar and DX Archive for the recording and to Brian Kennedy, author of Radio Blaa Blaa, for permission to use the quotation and photo.

Clive Derek on ABC Tramore

Clive Derek on ABC Tramore
Clive Derek outside the caravan in 1982 with Andy Ellis looking out (courtesy DX Archive).

Continuing our series marking the 40th anniversary of Waterford super-pirate ABC, this is another recording made in the first few weeks of the station in March 1982. ABC was set up by four English DJs, Clive Derek, Andy Ellis, Stuart Clark and Kevin Turner. Kevin had worked previously with Waterford pirate Suirside Radio but parted company after a few weeks. Other DJs from the Voice of Peace and Dublin pirates including Nigel Roberts and Steve Marshall joined ABC in spring and summer 1982 as the station began to expand.

In the book Radio Blaa Blaa, one of ABC’s DJs, Andy Linton, remembers the lifestyle associated with the station:

Yes, we were a commune of sorts! We had the radio station that we all broadcast from but we also rented that house in Tramore that we all ended up in. The ‘full-time’ staff of ABC lived there. The radio station paid for everything (rent, laundry, food) and gave us £15 per week, which was basically fag money (though I didn’t smoke). We didn’t even have a TV so we’d listen to the radio, have a beer and chat. One big happy family!

This recording of Clive Derek’s ‘School’s Out’ programme was made from 1515-1603 on Tuesday 30th March 1982. News is read by Kate Davis and most adverts are from Tramore, reflecting the limited coverage area. The recording was made from 101.3 FM and is courtesy of Ian Biggar and DX Archive. Thanks to Brian Kennedy for permission to use the quotation.

The early days of ABC in Tramore

The early days of ABC in Tramore
ABC logo (courtesy DX Archive).

This is another recording of the early days of Waterford super-pirate ABC, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its humble beginnings in March 1982. The recording was made from 12 noon on 30th March 1982 on a drive towards Tramore from Waterford City and begins with a crackly signal on 729 kHz AM. Transmitter power was low and covered only a few miles but the recording later switches to a patchy 101.3 FM and reception improves as Tramore is reached. One of the station founders Clive Derek has just finished his show and reads news headlines at midday before handing over to another of ABC’s instigators, Andy Ellis. The station was located in a caravan in Tramore for the first two years of its existence and moved into Waterford in mid-1984. It went on to become one of Ireland’s most popular and successful pirates of the era.

ABC is discussed by author Brian Kennedy in Radio Blaa Blaa, a history of Waterford pirate radio published in 2012. An extract from the book gives a flavour of how the new station shook up the local radio scene:

Straight away the station’s approach to broadcasting made people sit up, if only for the fact of hearing foreign voices over local airwaves. The structure of ABC in those early days was a format brought over from stations like Radio Caroline and the Voice of Peace which the guys had been part of. Everything would be playlisted, bar some weekend shows, which worked perfectly. Nobody could go off on a tangent or deviate from what they were required to play for fear of losing the crucial listenership which was so important starting a new radio station.

Several hundred LPs and 45s would be purchased whilst local man Dick Cole, the owner of Buywise Carpets, donated his old singles collection. With money needed for equipment, vinyl, rent and food the four guys were soon down to the bare bones. There was a single £20 note in the kitty when the lads obtained their very first advert from Heffernan’s Fuel Centre in Tramore.

The early days of ABC in Tramore
Andy Ellis by the aerial at the caravan (courtesy Brian Kennedy).

One DJ, Andy McCloskey remembers:

ABC certainly had its own sound. We were playing Bryan Adams’ ‘Reckless’ album before they started pumping singles off it. We created a huge buzz. Again you were talking about the American import singles that we mail-ordered from the States (you needed an adaptor when you put the 7” single on the deck.) It was just one example of us picking singles left, right and centre before the songs actually became huge hits and got airplay from other stations. On that album we had tracks like ‘Run to You’, ‘Somebody’, ‘Summer of 69’ in constant rotation before they truly hit over here. And that album was huge, one of the biggest sellers of 1984. So it actually gave us a good bit of credibility.

Thanks to Ian Biggar and DX Archive for the recording and Brian Kennedy for permission to use quotations and photos.

40th anniversary of ABC

40th anniversary of ABC
One of ABC’s founders Andy Ellis in the caravan (courtesy DX Archive).

ABC is recognised as one of Ireland’s super-pirates, broadcasting from Co. Waterford from 1982 to 1988. Its humble beginnings were in a caravan beside a carpet warehouse in the coastal resort of Tramore west of Waterford City. ABC was set up by four English DJs who had been on the Voice of Peace and British pirates, Andy Ellis, Stuart Clark, Clive Derek and Kevin Turner, the latter formerly of Suirside Radio in Waterford. ABC used a jingle package from WABC in New York, with the ‘W’ cut out. It began testing on 1st March 1982 on 729 kHz (before RTÉ Radio began using that frequency in Cork) and was launched on 3rd March but the signal barely reached Waterford City where advertisers were located. However, ABC announced ‘AM’ and ‘kHz’ from the start, marking out its sound as different from other stations still referring to metres and medium wave.

Commenting on a 1982 visit to the station, DX Archive commented that ABC ‘was obviously struggling at this stage, with an English staff in a foreign land, trying to make the locals believe that this type of radio was the way to go. In fact, it was an uphill battle that ABC eventually won and as time went past, ABC was to become one of the most professional broadcasters in Ireland’. 

40th anniversary of ABC
Stuart and Andy on the first day of tests, 01.03.82 (courtesy Brian Kennedy).

There were problems with FM at the beginning but 101 MHz was added later. Adjustments to the AM rig caused it and the studio to go on fire in the summer of 1982 and it looked like ABC was finished but it returned to the air on low power and plans began to acquire a bigger transmitter. At a cost of $5,000, a considerable amount for the time, a Gates BC1G 1kW transmitter was shipped from the US and a crystal was bought for the relatively clear frequency of 1026 kHz. Andy Ellis remembers that the new coverage area was extensive across Waterford and beyond. In mid-1984, ABC was sufficiently successful to warrant a move to better premises than the caravan and it rented three floors of a building in the centre of Waterford City. The AM aerial remained in Tramore and FM masts were brought into the city.

FM was now more popular and from 1985 on, ABC extended its coverage on that band throughout the region. By 1987, ABC had moved premises again in Waterford and had a very professional set-up in terms of studio equipment and space. The station was now fully registered for VAT, paid taxes and music royalties and had a member of the NUJ working in its newsroom. The government published legislation to licence local radio at the end of the year and ABC continued to expand, adding additional AM and FM transmitters in Wexford. Andy Ellis recalls that just as it looked that the station would make a profit rather than break even, it was clear that the government meant business and that the pirates would have to close down. ABC left the air a few days before the deadline, at 3pm on 29th December 1988, with a special programme on the station’s 6-and-a-half year history and closing remarks by Andy Ellis. It applied unsuccessfully for the Co. Waterford licence, which went to former pirate WLR.  

Former ABC staff were involved in smaller pirates following legalisation in 1989 including Laser 89 and ABC Power 104 and many went on to work in licensed stations in the region and beyond. Read Andy Ellis’s station history here. The first recording above was made from 1246-1310 and 1330-1350 on Monday 29th March 1982. The DJ is Andy Ellis and news is read by Kate Davis. The second recording below is from 1355-1440 on the same day.

Part 2 from 1355.

Both were made in Waterford City just a few miles from the transmitter but the signal is quite weak. Thanks to Ian Biggar for assistance with research and for the recordings. Photo credits are due to DX Archive and Brian Kennedy’s Radio Blaa Blaa group on Facebook.

ABC (Waterford) and Riviera 104 (Monaco)

ABC (Waterford) and Riviera 104 (Monaco)
ABC logo, courtesy of DX Archive.

ABC was one of the big stations of the southwest and broadcast from 1982 to 1988 first from Tramore and later Waterford City. It expanded to cover the entire southeast on both AM and FM, the main frequencies being 1026 kHz and 101 MHz. This recording was made from 101 FM from 1303-1348 on 9th November 1985 and features Dave Windsor on air from Monte Carlo in Monaco. The show identifies both ABC and Monte Carlo station Riviera 104 but carries only ads for businesses in Monaco which must have sounded strange to listeners in the southeast of Ireland. The programme also plugs the World Tax Free Exhibition in Nice extensively so would appear to be sponsored. As well as working on ABC, Dave Windsor also did stints on other Irish stations Sunshine Radio and Cork City Local Radio. We thank Ian Biggar for additional information.

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