KTOK was a successful commercial station broadcasting from Donegal Town between summer 1987 and the end of 1988. This recording features airchecks of various programmes between Christmas 1987 and February 1988. First up is Dave James, formerly of offshore station Radio Caroline, recorded between 1400 and 1800 on 27th December 1987. Frequencies mentioned are 103 and 96 FM and 1566 kHz AM. There are plenty of requests, promos for Christmas holiday events and gigs, the ‘gosh factor’ trivia segment and a television guide. The KTOK Cinderella Christmas Pantomine is mentioned but is unfortunately edited out of the recording, as are most of the adverts for local businesses. News on the hour with John Breslin is similarly cut, but the DJ is heard reading the headlines at half-past the hour.
At 17 minutes, the recording switches to airchecks of the Dave James show from 8th February 1988 between 1000-1300. 99 FM is heavily promoted as the new transmitter for North Donegal, with 96 FM serving South Donegal, Leitrim and Sligo. There is no mention of the AM transmitter as it may have been discontinued at this time.
At 58 minutes, station founder Russ Padmore is heard from 18th February 1988 between 1500-1800. Local gigs and discos are promoted and news on the hour is read in English and Irish but edited out. The inclusion of Irish may have been as much due to impending broadcast legislation as the fact that many parts of Donegal are Irish-speaking. Music is mostly pop but includes some oldies and country, reflect the huge popularity of the latter in rural areas of Ireland.
It is unclear which FM frequency the recording was made from. It is from the Anoraks Irish Tapes Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.
This recording of Donegal station KTOK was made on a Sunday afternoon in the winter of 1987. On air is Dave James, formerly of offshore station Radio Caroline, with a mix of chart music, requests, community notices, entertainment guide and the Bargain Basement buy and sell slot. There are plenty of adverts in the busy pre-Christmas period from the core listening area of Counties Donegal and Sligo. John Breslin reads the news, which is dominated by that morning’s IRA attack near the cenotaph in Enniskillen, in which 12 people were killed. As a border station, KTOK was of course also audible in Co. Fermanagh.
Part 1 of the recording above runs from 1431-1603 and Part 2 below from 1605-1738.
The tape was made on Sunday 8th November 1987 from 103.9 FM. KTOK also broadcast on 96 FM and 1566 kHz AM. The recording is from the Anoraks Ireland Tapes Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.
This recording of Donegal Town station KTOK features Saturday programmes in the winter of 1987. Up first is Brian McLoughlin and he is followed by station owner Russ Padmore with the weekly northwest Top 40, sponsored by a local hifi company. There are plenty of adverts from around Donegal and Sligo, including a promo for a weekly KTOK club night in Glenties. News is read by John Breslin and there are also some local community announcements. The DJs announce the main channel of 96FM but in order to cover the hilly terrain, KTOK also broadcast on other FM frequencies and on AM.
KTOK broadcast from the middle of 1987 until the end of 1988, when it closed in line with new broadcasting legislation. The recording was made on Saturday 7th November 1987 from 103.9 FM. Part 1 above runs from 1006-1140 and Part 2 below from 1317-1348.
Both are from the Anoraks Ireland Tapes Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.
KTOK was one of several stations broadcasting from Co. Donegal during the pirate era. It was established in Donegal Town in the summer of 1987 by Russ Padmore, who worked previously for North West Community Radio in Buncrana. KTOK broadcast on 1566 kHz AM and on 96, 98 and 103 MHz FM. As well as Donegal, it claimed to have listeners in Sligo and Leitrim as well as across the border in Derry, Fermanagh and Tyrone. The station closed down in line with new broadcasting legislation on New Year’s Eve 1988. Russ Padmore now works for the BBC.
This recording of KTOK was made on a Wednesday morning in the winter of 1987 and features Paul Cooke on air. There are plenty of adverts for businesses in Sligo and Donegal, many featuring the voice of Russ Padmore. Paul also presents a buy and sell section and local entertainment guide. News on the hour is read by John Breslin, with a half-hourly update by the DJ.
The tape was made from 96 FM from 1104-1247 on 4th November 1987 and is from the Anoraks Ireland Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.
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.
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.
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.