Disco hits and requests on CBC

Disco hits and requests on CBC
L-R: Alan Edwards, Pete Andrews and Tony Allen at CBC, January 1979 (courtesy Lillian O’Donoghue).

Our final recording of CBC is of Alan Edwards on 21st August 1979. It is a partial aircheck of his show from 1930-2130 and begins with Alan thanking Noel Evans (aka Welch) who was on air before him. Of interest are the live-read and pre-recorded adverts for various businesses including Greg Anthony Fashions, Adam and Eve’s Restaurant and Cork Joinery. Requests include one ‘for the girl in the green blouse from the dancer’ at the Ballyphehane disco and another for ‘Miss Ballinacurra’, a village near Cork. People from Blackrock are asked to ring in requests and they duly do so, followed by listeners in Douglas and then Farranree. The next DJ Conor O’Sullivan can’t make it because he has no transport so Alan announces that CBC is to close down at 2130. At the end of the recording is an advert for the ‘Alan Edwards disco roadshow’, a sign of how pirate DJs relied on gigging around town to make ends meet. There’s also a request for Lillian McCarthy (O’Donoghue) and the recording is followed by two personal messages recorded for Lillian by Alan and Noel.  The music is fantastic and Alan is an enthusiastic DJ who clearly has many loyal listeners.

As often happens in the world of pirate radio, there was a split in the CBC ranks which led to Stevie Bolger and Con McParland starting Alternative Broadcasting Cork (ABC) from the same building that originally housed CBC in Montenotte. ABC began testing in July 1978 on an announced 233 metres. This station continued into 1979, but again a split from ABC led to the formation of Capital Radio which was on air until 1982. Stevie went on to work with RTÉ Cork Local Radio. Thanks as ever to Lillian O’Donoghue for the photo and recording and to Gearóid Quill and Ian Biggar for background information.

Alan Edwards celebrates one year on CBC

Alan Edwards celebrates one year on CBC
Alan Edwards in the CBC studio in May 1979 (courtesy Lillian O’Donoghue).

This recording of Alan Edwards was made on 1st July 1979, a year to the day after he began working at CBC. Alan plays snippets from his first show on 1st July 1978 and comments on the difference in his voice over the past year. A birthday cake was delivered to the station by a loyal fan and Alan and his producer tuck in between records. It is announced that the station will close at 10pm instead of midnight because Barry Jones won’t be in for his show.

In the 1978 recording CBC’s frequency is given as 1327.52 kHz which is equivalent to almost 226 metres rather than the announced 230 metres. A year later, Alan announces 1303 kHz which is equivalent to 230 metres. This is a 40+ year-old cassette recorded from AM, with the 1978 inserts themselves recorded from AM, so audio quality is poor throughout. The recording above starts at around 7.30pm and is a partial aircheck. The recording below starts just before 9pm. Thanks to Lillian O’Donoghue for the donation.

Part 2 of the Alan Edwards show.

‘It was fresh, very risky and a bit of novelty’: the early days of CBC.

'It was fresh, very risky and a bit of novelty': the early days of CBC.
Alan Edwards of CBC in May 1979 (courtesy Lillian O’Donoghue).

Brothers Noel and Trevor Welch were both DJs with the Cork Broadcasting Company (CBC) and remained involved with radio in Cork during the pirate era and beyond. They co-authored The Jolly Roger: Pirate Radio Days in Cork, which was published in 2015. In that book, Noel remembers that pirate radio ‘struck a blow for pioneering DJs everywhere when stations first hit the airwaves in Cork in the late 1970s. It was fresh, very risky and a bit of a novelty. We hadn’t heard anything like it before. The pirates of the airwaves set the tone for pop radio in this country’.

'It was fresh, very risky and a bit of novelty': the early days of CBC.
Noel Evans (Welch) of CBC in January 1979 (courtesy Lillian O’Donoghue).

Noel responded to an advert seeking DJs placed by CBC in The Evening Echo. He was working with the Echo at the time and remembers how the advert almost jumped off the page at him. Noel had worked previously in nightclubs but had no radio experience and even lacked the basic equipment to record a demo tape. He had to borrow his uncle’s radio-cassette player and recorded a demo spinning his favourite vinyl singles. Once offered a slot at CBC he had to keep his radio hobby a secret at work because of the suspicion between local press and pirate stations.

This recording of CBC features Noel Welch (known as Noel Evans on air) and Alan Edwards. The recording starts at around 1925 on 15th June 1979 and is partially airchecked. Audio quality is poor due to the age of the cassette and the fact that this was recorded on a tape recorder held up to an AM radio. Thanks to Lillian O’Donoghue for the recording and photos.

Early Cork pirate radio: the story of CBC

Early Cork pirate radio: the story of CBC
Pete Andrews (O’Neill) and Lillian McCarthy, 21 August 1979 (courtesy of Lillian).

We are delighted to launch a new series on the history of early pirate radio in Cork, due to a large donation by Lillian O’Donoghue. Lillian McCarthy, as she was then known, was a dedicated fan of the Cork pirate scene and a regular visitor to the city’s station. She has donated many hours of tapes and hundreds of photographs to our archives and we will feature these in coming months, beginning with a mini-series on the Cork Broadcasting Company (CBC). 

CBC began broadcasting on 14th January 1978 announcing 230 metres. The station was first located in the suburb of Montenotte and claimed a radius of about 10 miles. It was set up by music shop owner Don Walsh (known also as DJ Daniels), Dublin-born DJ Stevie Bolger who had moved to Cork to work for a nightclub, and engineer Con McParland who looked after the transmitters. Con McParland had operated Radio Sundown International in the city in the early 1970s. It is possible that the first transmitter used by CBC was the former Sundown one.

The book The Jolly Roger: Pirate Radio Days in Cork by Noel and Trevor Welch described how CBC shook up the Cork radio landscape: ‘CBC had an instant, astonishing impact on Cork’s social scene. Its arrival on the airwaves electrified local youngsters who were desperate to listen to their favourite pop and rock music. If RTÉ was perceived as “stuffy” and conservative, CBC was exciting, brash and willing to try new ideas’.

Early Cork pirate radio: the story of CBC
John Craig, Mark Bell, Tony Allen, Geoff Harris and Pat O’Rourke, 1 August 1978 (courtesy Lillian O’Donoghue).

Don Walsh is quoted in that book as saying that CBC was set up to try in Cork what was being done already by stations such as Radio Caroline in the UK. The station used sports cars as a promotion in the St. Patrick’s Day parade 1978 but was raided on 22nd March by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and equipment was seized. According to issue 4 of Sounds Alternative, the newsletter of FRC Ireland, CBC were raided on Wednesday 22nd March 1978 whilst broadcasting from 7 Farley Place, Montenotte. However, they returned to the air the following day using a standby transmitter.

An article in the Irish Press dated March 26th 1978 was titled ‘Broadcasting Act challenge by Cork radio pirates fails’. It detailed how Bolger, Walsh and McParland were seeking a declaration that certain provisions of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1926 were unconstitutional and contrary to natural justice. The case was heard by Justice Hamilton in the High Court in Dublin and unsurprisingly failed.

Early Cork pirate radio: the story of CBC
Alan Edwards in December 1978 (photo courtesy Lillian O’Donoghue).

Although announcing 230 metres (actually 1303 kHz), CBC was reported to be broadcasting on 1394 kHz by UK DXer Dave Small who visited Ireland in August 1979. At that time, station operating hours were 0800- 2400, but sometimes they closed early around 2100. The address was 36 St Patrick’s Quay. In issue 9 of Sounds Alternative, an FRC Ireland team reported on a visit to Cork on Saturday September 2nd 1979. They said that CBC was broadcasting on 215 metres (that would tie in with previously reported 1394 kHz). Transmitter power was estimated to be in the region of 100 watts and they were using a long wire antenna supported by two five-foot poles, presumably on the warehouse roof. It was noted that the sound quality was a little below average, but not bad by any standard. An Irish station list published in the December 1979 issue of Short Wave News listed CBC as broadcasting on 1400 kHz. Lillian McCarthy wrote in her photo album that it closed on 8th September 1979.

This recording of CBC was made on 14th and 15th June 1979 and is partially airchecked. It begins with Alan Edwards from around 9pm on the 14th, who ends his show with a preview of the next day’s line-up. This is followed by a clip of Steve Taylor on breakfast on 15th June as well as Conor O’Sullivan and Susan James (O’Connor). At the end of the tape is a clip of Pete Andrews (O’Neill). There are numerous promos for station DJs doing discos around the city and country, a reflection of the strong connection between the pirates and the nightclub scene of the time. Audio is poor because this was recorded on a portable tape recorder held up to a radio – Lillian had yet to get a radio-cassette recorder!

Thanks to Ian Biggar, Rob Allen and Pete O’Neill for their help with background research.