Morning shows on Echo Community Radio

Morning shows on Echo Community Radio
Anoraks Ireland card and compliments slip

Echo Community Radio was a shortlived station broadcasting from west Dublin in the second half of 1985. First up in this recording is Dave Canning with the final part of his breakfast programme. He is followed by Workers’ Playtime presented by Gerry Marsden, a familiar name on 1980s pirates including Radio Dublin, which he went on to manage. Adverts are heard for local businesses, many in the Centrepoint Shopping Centre in Blanchardstown where Echo was located. There’s also a promo seeking DJs, newsreaders and sales representatives for the station.

Both 280 metres (1071 kHz) and 105.5 FM are announced by the DJs. The recording was made from 1071 kHz from 0918-1049 on Wednesday 7th August 1985 and is from the Anoraks Ireland Collection. Audio quality is fair, with some distortion.

DJ Lee on Echo Community Radio

DJ Lee on Echo Community Radio

Echo Community Radio was one of several small Dublin stations that came and went during the 1980s. It broadcast from Blanchardstown in west Dublin and was first logged by DX Archive in July 1985. The station broadcast on AM only initially and was located in the Centrepoint Shopping Centre. According to Anoraks UK Weekly Report, it closed down by January 1986. There is no known connection to the earlier Echo Radio based in Clontarf in 1982.

This recording of Echo Community Radio features DJ Lee, a familiar voice from the 1980s pirates, presenting an afternoon slot. There’s a listeners’ competition for cinema tickets but tellingly, no adverts are heard over 90 minutes of primetime radio listening. The station claimed to broadcast to the Greater Dublin Area but clearly power was low as there is co-channel intereference, likely from Radio Carousel North on the same frequency of 1071 kHz (announced by Echo as 280 metres).

The tape was made from 1555-1737 on Wednesday 26th June 1985 and is from the Anoraks Ireland Tapes Collection.

Northeast series: Radio Carousel Navan as heard in Donegal

Northeast series: Radio Carousel Navan as heard in Donegal
Christine Reilly and Kieran Murray in the Radio Carousel Navan studio in 1982 (courtesy Kieran Murray).

Radio Carousel Navan was one of four stations in the Carousel network at its height in the early 1980s. The original Dundalk operation was set up by the late Hugh Hardy in 1978 and later expanded to satellite stations for Drogheda (Co. Louth), Navan (Co. Meath) and Newry (Co. Armagh and Co. Down), with a short-lived experiment in Castleblayney (Co. Monaghan). The Navan station had a high-profile location in the middle of the town’s shopping centre. Hugh Hardy began winding down the Carousel network from late 1987 and the Navan station was the last to close in June 1988.

This recording of Radio Carousel Navan was made by from 1386 kHz by station manager Kieran Murray while on holidays in Carrick, Co. Donegal, about 170km to the northwest. As expected, the signal is weak but is nonetheless an interesting example of daytime groundwave reception on a busy pirate frequency, shared with Kilkenny Community Radio and North Cork Community Radio. The Carousel AM transmiter was situated in the Navan shopping centre and ran about 400 watts. On air is Tina Anderson (Christine Reilly) with a requests programme and the voices of Kieran Murray and another DJ Mike Ahern (Richard McCullen) are heard on adverts.

The tape was made from about 1100 on 3rd July 1984 and is from the Anoraks Ireland Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.

Radio North returns to the air in 1989

Radio North returns to the air in 1989

Radio North from Co. Donegal is one of Ireland’s longest-running pirate stations, operating under various guises more or less continuously from 1986 to the current day. It began broadcasting from Carndonagh on the Inishowen peninsula on 18th November 1986 on 1386 kHz, later moving to 1404. Logs from mid-1987 show that it moved to the clearer channel of 846 kHz, which gave it better coverage over a wider area.

Radio North closed down along with the vast majority of the other pirate stations on 31st December 1988 but its frequencies did not remain silent for long. The station was among a handful of pirates to defy the new broadcasting laws and continue broadcasting in 1989. Radio North returned on tape on 5th January 1989 and resumed live programmes on 6th January on 97.9 FM and 846 kHz AM, putting out its usually good signal into Britain, according to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report. Promos were aired to raise funds for the station’s court case against the 1988 legislation with £30,000 required, £10,000 of which would be provided by Radio North. Adverts from both sides of the border were plentiful but an address in Ballymoney in Co. Antrim was used for advertising in order to circumvent the new provisions banning advertising on pirate radio in the Republic.

Around 21st January 1989, the station was relaunched as Northside Radio complete with new jingles, promos and studios and a move to Redcastle on the banks of Lough Foyle. The Donegal Democrat reported that a split in the Radio North camp led to the new name, with the original owner Paddy Simpson deciding to apply for the north Donegal licence. Anoraks UK reported that listenership was obviously strong, due to a large number of requests and regular promos for public appearances of DJs on both sides of the border. In March there were rumours that the station was raided and the FM transmitter confiscated but these were not confirmed. On September 4th 1989, the name reverted to Radio North again when the original owner took back control, according to Anoraks UK.

Radio North returns to the air in 1989
Francis Callaghan at Radio North in Muff, Co. Donegal in 1991 (photo courtesy of DX Archive).

Around the end of 1989, a rival station, North Atlantic Radio was established in Carndonagh using some Radio North DJs. Both stations coexisted for a while but by 1992, North Atlantic was the only station still on air and had taken over Radio North’s frequency of 846 kHz. In January 1994, North Atlantic adopted the name Radio North again. Another variation of the name, Radio North 2000, was logged in 1998. DX Archive visited Radio North in May 1991, which was at that time operating from a caravan in the village of Muff right on the border with Co. Derry. In 2001, the station was taken over by Paul Bentley (RIP), founder and operator of successful Donegal pirate WABC, which broadcast intermittently between 1987 and 2001.

The authorities attempted to silence Radio North and its offshoots in the early 1990s but it seems to have been largely left alone since then. The November 1990 edition of Free Radio News from Ireland reported that all Donegal pirates were warned to cease broadcasting by a visiting party from the Irish Department of Communications and the British Department of Trade and Industry. According to local newspapers, the Donegal pirates were raided on 12th June 1991 but soon returned to the air, leading to a warning letter to advertisers from the Independent Radio and Television Commission, the licensing authority in the Republic. On 5th August 1993, the Donegal Democrat reported that Radio North had been prosecuted three times and was no longer broadcasting, but that North Atlantic Radio was still on air. The persistence of so many pirates in Donegal was a cause of some annoyance to the newly-licensed local station, Highland Radio.

Following a further change in ownership, Radio North has defied all the odds and continues to broadcast today from Redcastle in Co. Donegal on 846 kHz AM and online, making it one of Ireland’s longest-running pirate stations. Its signal is heard far and wide across Northern Ireland and beyond. MWLIST reports that Radio North has a power output of 3 kW and the station can indeed be heard well across Northern Ireland and into Britain, helped by the clear channel. It broadcasts a mixture of live and recorded music programmes along with American evangelist recordings, presumably to generate income. Radio North is one of two Irish border pirates that continue to defy the laws and the odds, the other being Radio Star Country in Co. Monaghan, which began broadcasting in 1988. Both are on AM only, which may explain why they have been left alone by the authorities, but even a cursory listen to either reveals that they still have advertisers and listeners.

Radio North returns to the air in 1989
Radio North’s caravan in Muff, Co. Donegal in 1991 (photo courtesy of DX Archive).

This recording was made from 1005-1155 on Sunday 8th January 1989, just three days after Radio North returned to the air having closed down on New Year’s Eve. DJ James plays a mixture of country, oldies and pop and there are requests and adverts from both sides of the border along with an appeal for donations to help the station fight the new broadcasting legislation in the High Court. The recording was made in Scotland and reception is fair with some electrical interference as would be expected given the distance from the broadcast site. We thank Ian Biggar for the donation and for help with research.

Radio Nova as heard in English midlands

Radio Nova as heard in English midlands
Nova car sticker from the period on 738 kHz (Anoraks Ireland Collection).

By the summer of 1984, Radio Nova was riding the crest of a wave. Having endured the storm of the RTÉ jamming, the station was now broadcasting a massive 50kW of power on AM, allowing it greater penetration of the northwest of Britain. After using various FM and AM frequencies to avoid the jamming, in May 1984 Nova switched to 738 kHz and 102.7 FM only, opened an advertising office in Liverpool and began including references to England in news, weather and traffic reports.

Radio Nova as heard in English midlands
Base of the Nova AM mast in January 1984 (Anoraks Ireland Collection).

This recording was made in the English midlands near Birmingham, south of the area being targetted by Nova in the northwest of England, southern Scotland and the Isle of Man. There is plenty of co-channel interference from the Spanish broadcaster on the same frequency of 738 kHz and deep fading consistent with night-time propagation. Transmitter power would also have been turned down to 10kW at night to minimise interference. On air is Chris Barry, a well-known DJ from the pirate era and later licensed independent radio. News on the hour is read by another familiar Nova voice, Sybil Fennell.

The recording was made on 6th July 1984 from 2137 to 2307 and is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.