Boyneside Radio was one of a handful of Irish pirate radio stations to venture briefly into television. A basic studio with Betamax machines but without mixing facilities was built at Donaghy’s Mill in Drogheda. Boyneside Television came on the air in November 1981 using a 10-watt transmitter, giving it patchy reception on Channel D in the town. Broadcasts were initially from approximately 4pm to 7.30pm daily and included news, sport and a simulcast of the DJs presenting their radio programmes. By 1982, Boyneside Television was coming on air twice daily, at lunchtime and teatime, and also extended broadcasts into Saturdays.
Boyneside Television was used extensively by local politicians in the run-up to the general election of 18th February that year. Around that time, Boyneside accused RTÉ of jamming its signal in Drogheda and said that the national broadcaster had placed a jamming transmitter in the centre of the town. RTÉ responded by claiming that it was carrying out tests following complaints of interference to television reception from pirate broadcasters.
Boyneside Television continued for a while after the merger of Community Radio Drogheda and Boyneside Radio but petered out by around May 1982.
This is an audio recording of an hour of Boyneside Television from February 25th 1982, shortly after the election. The main lunchtime news is read by Áine Ní Ghuidhir and includes a reference to the RTÉ jamming which seems to be audible from the recording. Ad breaks and interviews are also heard. These are followed by sports news, apparently recorded later in the day, which includes an interview with former Down GAA manager Joe Lennon. Audio quality is poor at times and breakthrough from Garda communications can be heard. We are unsure if this was in the transmission signal itself or if a scanner was located near the recorder. Many thanks to Eddie Bohan for donating this recording.
Today we bring you the history of the split in Boyneside Radio in July 1981 and the new station Community Radio Drogheda (CRD), courtesy of Ian Biggar. Following the split, premises were found for CRD and studios and an office were set up at 15 Fair Street. CRD commenced a 24-hour broadcast using the Boyneside medium wave transmitter that was owned by Eddie Caffrey (although he had been accused of stealing it!). This was located at a good site, the former Rosnaree Hotel on the Dublin Road.
Meanwhile, Boyneside Radio continued on 98.1 and 99.2 FM, but soon added a medium wave transmitter in Donaghy’s Mill, built by Peter Gibney. This was originally on 1314 kHz, only two channels next to CRD. This, combined with the fact the transmitter was not operating properly, meant that Boyneside could barely be heard in the town. To compound this, CRD put a second transmitter on 1323 kHz, meaning Boyneside was sandwiched between the two transmitters.
This was the situation when the DX Archive team arrived in mid August 1981. Boyneside Radio was desperate for some technical help to resolve the situation with the AM transmitter and was having difficulty in tracking down Peter Gibney. During this visit another FM transmitter appeared on 102 MHz with non stop music that soon began transmitting the CRD programming. By mid-September 1981 Boyneside Radio had obtained a new transmitter built by Con McParland from Cork. This was operating on 1262 kHz with an output of no more that 200 watts. An agreement was reached with CRD resulting that Boyneside was able to move that transmitter to the better channel of 1323 kHz. Throughout all this, both Boyneside Radio and Community Radio Drogheda announced they were broadcasting on 225 metres.
There commenced a battle with each station trying to outdo the other. Firstly, Boyneside tried to break into the Navan market in October 1981, spurred on mainly by the opening of a new shopping centre. This was just as Radio Carousel had opened their new station located in the Navan Shopping Centre. An aerial was erected at the greyhound track in the town and a transmitter was installed by Con McParland on 1404 kHz. A studio of sorts consisting mainly of disco gear was installed above a hairdressers. The station would relay the Drogheda service with some opt-outs for Navan. This service was short lived and was off the air within a month or so.
The next project was Boyneside Television. A 10-watt television transmitter was obtained from Italy and aerials erected at Donaghy’s Mill. A studio was built consisting of Betamax machines with no mixing facilities but buttons used to switch between programme sources. The equipment was basic but due to the skill of the staff a sterling effort was made to put something credible together. The station came on air in November 1981 with transmissions usually commencing around 4pm which featured the on air DJ presenting his radio programme. This lasted until 6.15pm when there was a news bulletin presented by Áine Ní Ghuidhir followed by sport with Eric Vaughan. This lasted until around 6.45pm when a local film would be broadcast until closedown around 7.30pm. Although reception could be patchy around the town, a small amount of advertising was obtained.
Programmes were extended over time with a lunchtime broadcast on Saturdays featuring a discussion programme with Dermot Kierans. Into 1982 and daily programmes had been extended as seen in the printed schedule from the Sunday Journal (see left). All TV programmes were relayed on Boyneside Radio due to interference which could not be eliminated.
The station was used by local politicians, especially during the general election of February 1982. This seemed to worry the authorities enough to place a mobile jamming transmitter behind the main post office in Drogheda. This was discovered by the Boyneside staff who surprised the occupants!
Meantime CRD had been focussing on bringing a local radio service to Drogheda, as well as experimenting on various medium wave frequencies. The December 1981 edition of Short Wave News notes reception of CRD on 1071 kHz and the March 1982 issue notes them on 1197 kHz (Telstar Community Radio in Dundalk were off the air at this point). These were of course in parallel with the main transmitter on 1305 kHz.
Around the end of 1981 some staff left Boyneside Radio with a view to starting a rival to Radio Carousel in Navan. The CRD staff provided some technical support to this station to be called Radio Tara. The station had obtained the transmitter used by Radio Meath in 1979 and intended to use it on 255 metres medium wave. An advertisement for prospective staff appeared in one of the Sunday newspapers. However, Eddie Caffrey remembers the transmitter did not function properly and there was great difficulty in setting it up. There were reports of Radio Tara being heard on air, but the station did not last long due to these technical problems.
Ken from the DX Archive visited Drogheda at the end of March 1982. He found that CRD had moved premises from the town centre to a house on the Baymore Road. A second AM transmitter was operating from that location on 1233 kHz as well as an FM on 98.6 MHz linking to the main transmitter at the Rosnaree.
Both stations had entered 1982 battling for advertising, with each trying to undercut the other. Boyneside Radio had the advantage of a wealthy businessman owner, whereas CRD was very much dependant on income from advertising sales. The situation had to reach breaking point, which it did in the second half of April 1982. CRD had pretty much run out of money and left the air. Gavin Duffy and Richard Kenny (Crowley) headed to Dublin and Radio Leinster. After negotiations, others like Eddie Caffrey and Dermot Finglas rejoined Boyneside Radio. As the promos said, Boyneside and CRD are ‘back together again’ as Boyneside Community Radio. At this point Boyneside could be heard on 1305, 1314, 1323 and 1332 kHz! Boyneside Television continued for a short time following the merger but a transmitter fault put the station off the air in early summer 1982 and it never returned.
The long recording above is an aircheck of the 13th August 1981 from 0853-1330 on CRD featuring Dermot Finglas, Richard Kenny and Gavin Duffy. We thank Ian Biggar for his donation of the these recordings and will bring you more about this period of Boyneside and CRD in the coming week.