The sound of Dublin pirate radio in June 1986

The sound of Dublin pirate radio in June 1986

The Dublin pirate scene was alive and well in the summer of 1986. Radio Nova had closed suddenly in March, to be replaced by Energy 103. Other super-pirates Sunshine Radio and Q102 took advantage of the change to consolidate their positions in the crowded market. Smaller stations continued to chug along serving their own niche audiences or communities while pirates from nearby counties could be heard easily in the capital, particularly on AM.

This airchecked recording captures some of the variety to be heard in Dublin that summer and includes excerpts from KISS FM (Dublin 1), Capitol Radio, Radio Dublin, Q102, Sunshine 101, Energy 103, Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB), Community Radio Fingal (CRF) and Boyneside Radio. It was made on 19th June 1986 and is from the Anoraks Ireland Collection.

Short-lived adult music station Capitol 98 FM

Short-lived adult music station Capitol 98 FM
Capitol Radio schedule from 1982 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Capitol Radio was a short-lived Dublin pirate specialising in adult contemporary music and was on air for a few months from mid-1982. Both experienced and up-and-coming broadcasters were involved in the station including Tony Allan, Peter Madison, Steve Marshall, Scott Williams, Paul Allen, Eddie West and Lawrence John. Capitol specialised in adult-oriented contemporary music and was aimed at listeners from 17 to 35 years. It also promised community programmes, advice slots and a local news service. The station was located in Robert Emmet House in Milltown in south Dublin. It closed in the autumn of 1982, probably due to increased competition in the Dublin radio market.

Short-lived adult music station Capitol 98 FM
Capitol advertising promo (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Capitol’s promotional material referred to 999 kHz AM but it’s not clear if the station was ever on medium wave. The FM transmitter was 3 kW in power and 98.3 MHz was announced on air. This recording was made on 11th September 1982 and although it contains a station ID and ads, there’s no sign of a DJ so the station may have been nearing the end of its run. Audio quality is variable but it’s not clear if this is because the recording was made a distance from the transmitter or due to a technical issue. It seems that this Capitol was linked with another pirate of the same name that ran from 1983-1988 and eventually became an indie music station.

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England. Thanks to David Baker and Steve Marshall for background information.

More of the final day of Centre Radio, New Year’s Eve 1988

More of the final day of Centre Radio, New Year's Eve 1988
In the studio on December 31st, L-R: Brian Greene, Dave O’Flynn, Tom Campbell, John Walsh, Eamonn Roe.

Today we bring you more recordings of the final day of Centre Radio on 31st December 1988 as the airwaves fell silent to make way for new radio legislation. In its two years on air, Centre Radio was based in youth centres or clubs in Baldoyle and Bayside in northeast Dublin and trained about 80 young people in radio. On the final day, various DJs did an hour each and others dropped in to say their goodbyes. Despite serious sleep deprivation, Brian Greene kept it all going. Behind the scenes was Tom Berry (RIP), who had given the youthful station credibility and kept an eye on output since it moved to Bayside.

More of the final day of Centre Radio, New Year's Eve 1988
Tom Berry (RIP) who was involved in running Centre Radio when it moved to Bayside in 1987.

On 31st December, there was a special news bulletin every hour from 12 noon to 7pm with Richard Taylor (John Walsh) which included features about well-known pirates that were closing down or had already left the airwaves. The first recording above is an aircheck of the hour 1308-1408 with Stephen Davitt (Daragh O’Sullivan) and Andy Callaghan. News at 2pm features Capitol Radio which was also due to close at midnight and Sunshine Radio which switched off on 30th December. You can hear another recording of Daragh O’Sullivan here.

More of the final day of Centre Radio, New Year's Eve 1988
Pauline Reddin and Conal Lawlor on New Year’s Eve 1988.

The second recording below is of DJ Caroline (Pauline Reddin) from 1715-1815. News at 6pm features KLAS/Class Radio. Pauline was Brian’s girlfriend at the time and they would later get married. She presented ‘Music of the Century’, an easy listening show. Centre had a broad range of musical styles from easy listening to punk.

Full recording: Capitol Radio (Dublin)

Full recording: Capitol Radio (Dublin)
An ad for Capitol Radio in Hot Press magazine, Christmas 1984 (Alan MacSimoin collection).

Capital or Capitol Radio was a common name for Irish pirates in the late 1970s and 1980s but the Dublin station specialising first in album and later in indie music was one of the best known. On air from 1983 to the end of 1988 it went through a number of format changes, including launching a night-time specialist sister station Nitesky 96 on 1st July 1986. From then on Capitol-Nitesky established a reputation as a leading promoter of the lively Dublin alternative and indie music scene. It also ran the ‘Alternative Night’ every Thursday at McGonagle’s nightclub on South Anne Street.

This recording was made from 1035 kHz AM from 1335-1420 on 28th April 1984. This was the period when Capitol was marketing itself as an ‘album station’ but in fact a variety of styles can be heard. The presenter is Dave Kelly who worked previously in ARD and KELO and would go on to the super-pirate Q102 after its launch in 1985. News is read by Miriam Fitzsimons and one of Capitol’s owners, Stephen Ryan, can be heard voicing the Sunday World ad.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.

Full recording: Capitol Radio (Dublin)

Full recording: Capitol Radio (Dublin)
Advert for Capitol Radio, Hot Press, Christmas 1984 (Alan MacSimoin collection).

As discussed here before Dublin had many pirates calling themselves Capital or Capitol Radio. This recording from 1983 is from the early days of the final incarnation, the Capitol Radio which started the evening service Nitesky 96 in 1986 and ended up specialising in indie and alternative music.

In July 1983, the Anoraks UK Weekly Report announced that ABC Radio had left 1017 kHz, paving the way for Capitol to take over that frequency. DJ Martin Cullinane (aka Bob Conway) announces 1017 kHz (297 metres) and 96.1 FM and makes several references to Capitol being a new station. Capitol didn’t specialise in the hits, experimenting with ‘album music’ before moving into the indie realm, but the choice here is a little confused with three in a row from Wham mixed in with early U2 and other more alternative sounds. The recording was made from 1855-1940 on the 27th of August 1983 and although taken from FM, sound quality is poor in places. You can hear other recordings of Capitol here.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.