Steve Gordon on Radio Leinster

Steve Gordon on Radio Leinster
Radio Leinster logo (based on poster in DX Archive).

This is another early recording of Radio Leinster made just a few days after the station’s launch in 1981. The presenter is the late Steve Gordon who had come from Radio Tees in England and worked in Dublin in the 1980s as a jingle and commercial producer for most stations. The recording was made from 1725-1810 on Friday 1st May 1981. Steve is standing in for another deceased DJ of the era, Roland Burke. As this was recorded just two days after Radio Leinster’s launch, presumably Roland wasn’t available at the very start of the station.

The music is eclectic including MOR, oldies, disco and pop and clearly Radio Leinster’s easy listening policy was still in gestation. The recording was made in Scotland by Ken Baird and there is severe interference at times. We thank Ian Biggar for the donation.

40 years since the launch of Radio Leinster

40 years since the launch of Radio Leinster
Radio Leinster logo (courtesy of David Baker),

After a fortnight of tests, Radio Leinster launched its new service for Dublin at 7am on Wednesday 29th April 1981, announcing a frequency of 738 kHz or 406 metres. The first presenter was Eugene Elliott on the breakfast programme who promised competitions, quizzes and a news service in the coming days and weeks. There was easy listening music for the first hour but the style was more varied after 8am. Sports news and a Dublin and European weather forecast also featured. The music policy was fairly mixed in the early days and took a while to settle into the easy listening format for which Radio Leinster became well-known for most of its two-year existence. Formatting was not common in Irish pirate radio at the time but that would soon change with the introduction of strict playlisting by super-pirates such as Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova.

The short airchecked recording above was made in Dublin and includes some of the links in the first show. The longer recording below was made from 0656-0821 but is of poorer quality as it was recorded in Scotland. There is some fading, electrical interference and a heterodyne whistle as the transmitter was slightly off channel in the early days. An FM transmitter on 93 MHz was added at a later stage.

The airchecked recording was made in Dublin by Ger Roe and the longer version was made in Scotland by Ken Baird. Thanks to Ian Biggar for sharing these with us.

Radio Leinster prepares to launch

Radio Leinster prepares to launch
Radio Leinster logo (courtesy of David Baker).

Radio Leinster broadcast talk, easy listening and MOR to the Dublin area for two years from 1981 to 1983. It is an important station in the history of Irish pirate radio because it aimed at an older audience whereas most pirates chased younger listeners. British pirate radio enthusiast Leon Tipler described it as being more similar to RTÉ Radio 1 than Radio 2. The station began test transmissions in mid-April 1981 on 738 kHz (406metres) with a professionally-built 1kW transmitter, giving it good coverage across Dublin and beyond.

This is a recording of the final test from 1823-1910 on 28th April 1981, the day before Radio Leinster was due to launch. An address of 22 Herbert Street, Dublin 2 is given but the station was located in Sandyford above the city. The programme schedule is announced, including presenters Eugene Elliot, Gordon Sommerville, Danny Hughes and Stevie Gordon. Some of the station’s characteristic interval signals are also heard.

The signal suffers from a heterodyne whistle as it was recorded in Scotland by Ken Baird. This would not be noticeable in Dublin where Radio Leinster had a strong signal, but further afield it was. This happened because the Leinster transmitter was off channel for the first week or so, on 735 kHz rather than the official 738 frequency. As the transmitter came from the USA, it may well be that the original American crystal for 735 kHz was in the unit. Thanks to Ian Biggar for background information and for sharing this recording with us.

Sunshine Radio charity auction

Sunshine Radio charity auction
An ad by the Central Remedial Clinic in the Sunshine Radio Review from 1985.

Some of the pirates engaged in corporate social responsibility, raising money for various charitable and voluntary groups. One of the larger stations to do so was Sunshine Radio, which built a relationship with the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC), an organisation supporting people with physical disabilities. Sunshine held an annual auction on air in aid of the CRC along with the Sunshine Extravaganza, an evening event that listeners could pay to attend, with the proceeds going to the charity. In the first five year’s of Sunshine’s existence, the station raised over £100,000 for the CRC, a considerable sum in the cash-strapped 1980s.

Sunshine Radio charity auction
Pat Courtenay as pictured in the Sunshine Review from 1985.

This recording is of part of the 5th CRC auction as recorded from 531 kHz AM from 1035-1120 on 13th April 1985. In studio are Kieran Ryan and Pat Courtenay, who looks after the bids. Items are up for auction in various lots and include a helicopter trip, a weekend in a Dublin hotel, a bonsai tree, an electronic telephone, attic insulation, a home brew kit, toys, gym membership, beauty treatments, silverware, a Philips radio recorder and even 22 tonnes of sand or gravel!  Irish cabaret singer Tony Kenny, who is taking part in the 5th Sunshine Extravaganza evening in aid of the CRC, is interviewed by station owner Robbie Dale (Robinson), who then joins Pat Courtenay in studio to promote the Sunshine Extravaganza. An ad break includes a promo for the Sunshine Cake, an FM opt-out service of easy listening music on Sunday mornings.

Sunshine Radio charity auction
Robbie Dale as pictured in the Sunshine Review 1985.

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

Marty Hall (Whelan) on Radio Dublin

Marty Hall (Whelan) on Radio Dublin
Early Radio Dublin masthead (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Marty Whelan was one of the many future RTÉ stars who would cut his broadcasting teeth in the late 1970s Dublin pirate scene. Here he is as Marty Hall presenting the Oldies Show on Radio Dublin on Easter Sunday, 26th March 1978 between 1200-1330.

The programme is interesting in how it uses advertising, as most commercials are read live by Marty. Businesses such as Windsor Rent-a-Car, the Dublin Bazaar, The Sportsman Inn in Mount Merrion and the Rosary Florist are promoted in this way and a segment of the show is sponsored by the Chariot Inn in Ranelagh. There are also letters from listeners with all sorts of requests including one reporting a broken television and another promoting a local sports club. Marty Hall would soon move on to the breakaway station Big D before joining the new RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979.

The recording is partially airchecked and was made by Eddie Caffrey in Co. Louth, so there is some interference in places. Thanks to Eddie and Ian Biggar for sharing with us.