Full recording: Radio Dundalk

Full recording: Radio Dundalk
Radio Dundalk letterhead (courtesy of Eddie Caffrey)

Welcome to our special series documenting the pirate radio history of Counties Louth and Meath since the 1970s, in collaboration with Ian Biggar of DX Archive.

Following the success and growth of pirate Radio in Dublin, it was only a matter of time before some enterprising businessmen saw the potential of the medium in other towns and cities. Dundalk was no exception and such a group, including Hugh Hardy, was planning to put Radio Dundalk on the air. As often happened, there was a disagreement and Mr Hardy left with the intent of starting his own station.

Initial transmissions were made from a two-storey house on Lisdoo Road with the long wire aerial running to a flag pole on the Newry Road garage. The original transmitter was built by Con McParland from Cork, initially on 100 watts and then increased to 400 watts. The station announced 220 metres and was logged on frequencies around 1360 kHz.

Test transmissions started on Sunday 7th May 1978 and again the following weekend bringing six hours of music and chat to the people of Dundalk. Initially it was intended to broadcast only at weekends, but when Radio Carousel began daily broadcasts, Radio Dundalk did likewise. The station launched officially on Saturday May 20th 1978 and proved popular with the audience. In mid-June 1978 Radio Dundalk moved to a more permanent base in the Fairways Hotel on the Dublin Road just outside Dundalk.

Full recording: Radio Dundalk
The new Fairways Hotel outside Dundalk. The original Fairways on this site was the home of Radio Dundalk (photo by John Walsh)

Of course the Department of Posts and Telegraphs was active during this early period of pirate radio and Radio Dundalk was hit on Thursday July 13th 1978, when the raiding party, complete with sledgehammers, entered the premises. The 400 watt rig was taken in the raid which received front page coverage in the local press. The standby 100 watt transmitter got Radio Dundalk back on air within hours.

Presenters on Radio Dundalk included Gavin Duffy and station manager (Heady) Eddie Caffrey, both of whom later moved to Boyneside Radio in Drogheda. The transmitter taken in the raid was returned in February 1979 but interestingly by this time the station was broadcasting with a transmitter belonging to Radio Carousel. A contact knew the person who built the rigs and managed to get one for Radio Dundalk. Apparently Hugh Hardy was not best pleased! Eddie Caffrey bought the ‘raid rig’ from Radio Dundalk and later rebuilt it to be used for Boyneside Radio.

A report in The Argus on 2nd March 1979 stated that Radio Dundalk had left the air indefinitely after claiming their frequency was being jammed by another station. A spokesman for Radio Carousel stated ‘it has nothing to do with us’. Radio Dundalk did return to the air, but a combination of technical problems, the departure of key staff and strong competition from Radio Carousel meant its days were numbered. At this point a Gerry Duffy was heavily involved and as Radio Dundalk was about to close, he set about getting backers for a replacement that turned out to be North East Radio. That station will be covered later in this series.

The long recording above from July 31st 1979, featuring Brian Jones and Rick Wallace, was made towards the end of Radio Dundalk’s life. The shorter recording below is from around Christmas 1978 and features Des Wilson on air, reading a poem sent in by Eddie Caffrey’s mother.

Radio Dundalk audio from December 1978, courtesy of Eddie Caffrey.

FRC Ireland reported that Radio Dundalk closed on 28th August 1979 due to financial difficulties. We thank Ian Biggar for compiling this entry and Ian and Eddie Caffrey for donating the recordings.

Aircheck: Radio Dublin

Aircheck: Radio Dublin
Radio Dublin badge courtesy of Brian Greene.

Here is some vintage Radio Dublin from the days when 7-day a week broadcasting was still a dream. This is part of their 36-hour marathon over the 17th and 18th of September 1977 with DJs John Paul, Jimmy St Ledger, DJ Sylvie and Johnny Day. It gives a fascinating insight into a key period in the development of the Irish pirates.

Transmission quality left a little to be desired at times, but there’s no doubt this was the biggest station in Dublin at the time. This recording is courtesy of Kieran Murray and was donated to us by Ian Biggar.

Full recording: Capitol Radio (226)

Full recording: Capitol Radio (226)
Capitol Radio compliments slip courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

The first Dublin pirate station named Capitol Radio came to the air on August the 2nd 1975, from a location near Portobello Bridge in Rathmines. The station operated on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons on 220 metres medium wave using a 30-watt transmitter into a half-wave end fed aerial. Presenters included C.B. (Chris Barry), Ed McDowell (ex Radio Empathy), Alan Russell and Kenneth Murphy. In addition to playing popular album and chart music, interviews with bands and singers were also a regular feature. The station was raided by inspectors from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs on the 21st December 1975. While no transmitter was found, they seized a power supply unit which effectively disabled the transmitter.

After a two-year hiatus following a raid by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, Capitol Radio returned to the air on a full-time basis (18 hours a day) in February 1978 from studios on Bachelor’s Walk in Dublin city centre. Initially the station operated on 220 metres again and was using a 300 watt transmitter into a half-wave dipole aerial which gave it coverage into Europe (DX reports were received from places such as Lancashire and Norway). However, Radio Moscow was transmitting on an adjoining frequency and as
autumn/winter approached, the Capitol signal was being overwhelmed so the
station changed to 226 metres in October/November 1978.

This recording is from 1450-1525 on Saturday afternoon the 3rd of February 1979 with Ed McDowell and eventually Chris Barry who is late for his show. Capitol was broadcasting on 1332 kHz at this time (announcing 226 metres). The multilingual ident of the pirate Capital Radio, which operated from international waters off the coast of the Netherlands in 1970, is also heard.

Full recording: Capitol Radio (226)
Rooftop photo above studio at 26 Bachelors Walk, Dublin, May 1978. L-R: Unknown, Fergus Murphy, Alan Russell, Chris Barry, Dave Lee (photo courtesy of Alan Russell).

We thank Ian Biggar for sharing this recording. You can read more about Capitol here.

Interview: Tom Breen (WCCR, Radio Renmore)

Interview: Tom Breen (WCCR, Radio Renmore)
Tom Breen (Ieft) with Brendan Mee and Gary Hardiman in Radio Renmore, 1983 (photo thanks to Gary Hardiman).

We’re delighted to bring you an interview with Tom Breen about his memories of the early years of the Galway pirates from 1980-1984. Following the closure of IRG in 1979, Galway relied on small, low-powered pirates such as Claddagh Community Radio (in the Claddagh just west of the city centre) and Tom’s own Radio Ballybane located in the eastern suburb of the same name. He also recalls another short-lived station calling itself Radio Eyre (named after Galway’s Eyre Square), involving Liam Stenson and others formerly involved with Independent Radio Galway. The Connacht Sentinel reported that Radio Eyre came on the air at the beginning of June 1982.

Tom remembers his involvement with West Coast Community Radio (WCCR) which broadcast from March 1982 until July 1983, first from near Cloonacauneen Castle north of Galway and then from a frozen chicken factory in the eastern suburb of Roscam. WCCR was the largest station in Galway since the closure of IRG and became a full-time operation. It received its AM transmitter from a station called WKRC in Newbridge, Co. Kildare and while quite low-powered (80-100 watts), managed to boost its signal to cover the city and beyond. Tom was also one of those who set up Radio Renmore/Renmore Local Radio, which broadcast on very low power on 101 FM from the Renmore area to the east. Thanks to Ian Biggar for additional information.

Aircheck: Independent Radio Galway

Aircheck: Independent Radio Galway
IRG on the day it closed: Fionnuala Concannon (back), Liam Stenson, Mary Hyland and Mike Mulkerrins in the studio (photo courtesy of Joe O’Shaughnessy, City Tribune).

Independent Radio Galway (IRG) was arguably the closest Galway got to having a full-time community station during the pirate era. Some of the larger Galway stations of the 1980s provided variety in their schedule and carried community news. However, there was no long-term station embedded firmly in the community radio ethos represented by the National Association of Community Broadcasters which included pioneering stations such as BLB and NDCR.

IRG began test transmissions on the 15th of April 1978 with a full service planned from the 17th of April. Similar to many other similar stations, the pirate venture followed an RTÉ local radio experiment in Galway and in fact planned to use the same frequency, 202 metres (1485 kHz). According to the Connacht Tribune of the 14th of April, IRG was planning a light entertainment service with no news bulletins and a minimal amount of interviews due to a lack of equipment. The start-up cost was only £400 and IRG initially broadcast for just four hours a day from a one-room studio in a shopping centre in William Street in the city centre. In the end the frequency was 199 metres and jingles including ‘199’ were famously sung by the choir of University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland, Galway).

Aircheck: Independent Radio Galway
Liam Stenson and Kieran Muldoon in the studio (photo courtesy of Joe O’Shaughnessy, City Tribune).

In June 1978 IRG was raided and equipment confiscated by officials of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs but the station soon returned with a standby transmitter. On the 20th of July 1979 the Tribune reported financial problems at IRG and the threat of closure was mooted, with the owners attributing a major loss in advertising revenue to the arrival of RTÉ Radio 2 the previous May. IRG closed officially at 8pm on the 29th of July 1979, thereby ending Galway’s short-lived community radio experiment.

Aircheck: Independent Radio Galway
The late Deirdre Manifold, who presented a religious programme, in the IRG studio (photo courtesy of Joe O’Shaughnessy, City Tribune).

This partially airchecked recording is possibly from two separate undated days in May 1979 from around 11.00am. The presenter is Chris Williams and ‘Auntie Mamie’ dispenses advice to expectant mothers, recommends discipline for children and promotes buying Irish produce. There are references to other presenters Paul Jones (Mike Mulkerrins) and Billy McCoy (Liam Stenson). We thank Ian Biggar for his donation of this recording (originally made by Dave Small, Liam Stenson for information and Joe O’Shaughnessy for the photographs.