County Sound was among the most successful of the Galway pirates, launched on St. Patrick’s Day 1987 in Tuam, 30 kilometres north of the city. It moved into the city centre in January 1988, just across the road from its main competitor, Coast 103. County Sound continued until the 31st of December 1988 and was an unsuccessful applicant for the Co. Galway licence in 1989. We’ll bring you recordings of County Sound over the coming days.
The County Sound jingle package was the same as that of the commercial station of the same name based in Guildford, Surrey, near London. The County Sound theme was written by Les Reed, who as well as being a board member, also wrote ‘Man Of Action’ which offshore radio fans will remember from RNI or Radio Nordsee International in the 1970s. The jingles were produced in Manchester by Steve England, himself an ex-offshore radio DJ, and Alan Fawkes. One of the jingles heard in this clip features Trella Hart, who sang on many of the famous PAMS jingles heard on US and European radio stations in the 1960s and 1970s. We thank Steve Marshall for sharing these jingles with us.
KFM, also known as Galway County Radio, broadcast from 1986 to 1988 from a village west of Galway before moving into the city itself. It was set up by Shane Martin and John Browne in November 1986 and broadcast initially on 99 FM for 12 and a half hours a day, from 7.30am to 8.00pm. The transmitter site was over 130 metres above sea level in Moycullen, a village 12 kilometres west of Galway, and this gave it a large coverage area. An entry from KFM in the Anoraks UK Weekly Report of February the 1st 1987 claimed that the station was covering an 80-kilometre radius and that it would soon be extended to specialist programming and community information. An AM channel was also promised although this never materialised.
By June 1987, KFM was broadcasting 24 hours a day and claiming to cover both Galway City and Co. Galway, including Connemara. The station told Weekly Report that it was aimed at the 20-50 audience and had a minimum of 15 percent programming in Irish and English, reflecting the fact that part of the Connemara is a Gaeltacht area. KFM also produced a bilingual leaflet, in which it announced its intention to seek a licence.
At this stage KFM was on 95, 99 and 99.3 FM and was reported to be listenable as far east as Ballinasloe. There were also reception reports from as far south as Ennis in Co. Clare. In November 1987, KFM moved into Galway City, adding to the competition between the pirates there. Coast 103 were the most successful city station at the time but in early 1988 the Tuam station County Sound would also move into Galway. Like most other stations, KFM closed down on the 31st of December 1988.
This recording of KFM was made from 96 FM on the 24th of September 1988 from 2222-2310 and features Shane Keating on air. There are requests for ‘madly in love’ couples and a mixture of pop music and oldies. Keating was clearly a bit of an anorak: he mentions listening to RTÉ Radio 2 on AM in Birmingham and promises a new programme for DXers, with a special focus on shortwave. We thank Ian Biggar for the donation. This was originally recorded by John Breslin in Co. Clare and being outside the core coverage area, audio quality is fair. Thanks also to Shane Martin for further information.
On the 12th of June 2020, John Walsh spoke to Keith Finnegan of Galway Bay FM about the recent series about Galway pirates on Pirate.ie. The interview includes a rare jingle from Independent Radio Galway (1978-1979), sung by the choir of University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland, Galway). Keith, now CEO of Galway Bay FM, remembers his own involvement in West Coast Community Radio (WCCR). The interview finishes with a montage of jingles and idents from the Pirate.ie series on Galway.
Many of those at Galway Bay FM cut their teeth in the Galway pirates of the era. Licensed in 1989 as Radio West, one group involved in the successful consortium was the original pirate Radio West from Mullingar. The station changed its name to Galway Bay FM in 1993.
We thank Galway Bay FM for their interest in Pirate.ie and hope that the interview will encourage more people in Galway to come forward to memories and recordings.
County Sound went on the air on St. Patrick’s Day 1987 from Tuam, 30km north of Galway City on 98.5 FM. In January 1987 it moved to Prospect Hill near Eyre Square in Galway City, just across the road from rival station Coast 103. After the move, County Sound broadcast to Galway on 101 FM, on 96.4 FM from Abbeyknockmoy in the east (from where it covered the county) and on 98.5 FM to the town of Ballinasloe. The Galway market was highly competitive in 1988 with both Coast and County Sound dominating, ahead of the smaller KFM. Radio West from Mullingar, which had been rebranded as West National Radio 3, also had AM and FM relays in the city. On the 30th of September 1988, the local City Tribune reported on a row between County Sound and Coast 103 over use of FM frequencies. When Coast began broadcasting on 100.1 FM, County Sound Managing Director Benen Tierney accused them of jamming County Sound on 101. This was denied by Keith York of Coast who said there was enough space between the two stations. Gardaí were reportedly alerted after Coast alleged that they received threatening phone calls from their competitors.
County Sound closed at midnight on the 31st of December 1988. It was an unsuccessful applicant for the local Galway licence which was awarded in 1989. The successful bid was made by a consortium of local businesses, community groups and newspapers as well as the former Mullingar pirate Radio West which had already gained a foothold in Galway. The new licensed station was also called Radio West and came on the air on the 18th of August 1989. It was relaunched as Galway Bay FM in 1993.
This recording is an aircheck of Ciaran Wilson (Brannelly) on air on the 24th of July 1988. There are adverts for businesses in Tuam and Galway City, many voiced by Jon Richards who would go on to work for Radio West/Galway Bay FM. There is a promo for Tuam Festival Radio on 106 FM, a pop-up station run by County Sound in the town where it originated, from the 26th of July to the 10th of August 1988. There is also a competition for tickets to a Michael Jackson concert. Many thanks to Ciaran Brannelly for donating this recording.
Coast 103 was on air for 18 months in 1987 and 1988 and was the last of the large commercial Galway stations of the era. It emerged from WLS Music Radio and began testing on the 10th of July 1987 as Coast 100. The station was set up by Steve Marshall and Keith York (RIP) who had been involved in both WLS and an earlier station, Atlantic Sound. Coast was located at 24 Prospect Hill, the same address as WLS. It soon moved to 103 FM and added a 1 kW transmitter on 1566 kHz AM. According to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report, the backers were Keith York himself, another pirate station WKLR in Bandon and a number of Galway businessmen.
In April 1988 the Limerick station Hits 954 closed and merged with Coast 103, calling itself Coast Hot Hits and covering Galway, Clare and Limerick. The original Hits 954 AM transmitter was used to relay the Galway signal although there were problems with the antenna and power was never too high. There is poor audio quality on this promo for the new station, voiced by Stuart Clark, recorded from AM in Limerick.
A chain of FM transmitters was installed between Galway and Limerick allowing FM reception to the south almost as far as Cork city and well into counties Kerry, Tipperary. The Galway FM transmitter, with an estimated maximum power of 3 kW ERP was brought to a higher location to allow improved reception to the north into Counties Mayo and Roscommon. The AM signal could be heard in Scotland but FM was the priority in the station’s last year. Coast Hot Hits was one of a number of stations to carry the satellite service Radio Nova International on overnights in 1988. It also made a number of successful outside broadcasts from Limerick and Galway. In the competitive Galway pirate scene of 1988, there was intense rivalry with the other big station County Sound. Coast presenters included Tony Allan, Steve Marshall, Stuart Clark, Brian Walsh, Ger Sweeney and Shane Martin. The station closed at the end of 1988 in line with the new broadcasting legislation. You can listen here to an interview with Ger Sweeney in which he remembers his time at Coast.
This recording, courtesy of Ian Biggar of DX Archive, is from the 1st of November 1988 from 1113-1200 and features Steve Marshall on air with the great Tony Allan’s voice on many ads and promos.