Community Radio Drogheda covers rescue in San Francisco

Community Radio Drogheda covers rescue in San Francisco
Community Radio Drogheda sticker (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

In September 1981, a Donegal man attempted to rescue his daughter from a compound owned by the Unification Church (the ‘Moonies’) in San Francisco. After they were refused admission, James Canning and about 30 Irish-American supporters tried to break into the building and remove Mary Canning. Drogheda journalist Niall O’Dowd, who worked with the Washington Post, was the only reporter to witness the incident and was contacted by media all over the world for comment.

Knowing that a local man was on the ground, Community Radio Drogheda (CRD) wanted to cover the drama and on his lunchtime show on 16th September 1981, Gavin Duffy interviewed Niall O’Dowd about the incident. No doubt it helped that Niall’s brother Michael was news editor at CRD. Niall O’Dowd went on to become a highprofile figure in Irish America, founding the Irish Voice Newspaper and Irish America magazine as well as the website Irishcentral.com. Another brother Fergus became a Fine Gael TD for Louth.

Community Radio Drogheda broke away from Boyneside Radio in July 1981 and operated a separate service until May 1982 when the two stations merged again. We thank Eddie Caffrey for his donation of this recording, which begins with an ad break before the interview.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/CRD (1982)

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/CRD (1982)
Richard Kenny (Crowley) at CRD in 1982 (photo courtesy of Ken Baird).

After breaking away from Boyneside Radio in July 1981, Community Radio Drogheda went its own way until May 1982 when the two stations merged once again. The economic reality of two pirate radio stations in the one town had hit home and given that Boyneside had more financial backing, it was unsurprising that it won out in the end.

According to Eddie Caffrey, Gavin Duffy had had enough of the final nine months of CRD and announced that he was moving on and that anyone who wished to return to Boyneside was welcome to do so. Eddie and Richard Crowley (pictured above) met Boyneside owner Eobain McDonnell and brokered a merger involving every second presenter from both stations. Some Boyneside staff were not happy about the return of the prodigal sons but Eobain persisted. Around the same time, a meeting was also arranged with Radio Carousel in Dundalk which was trying desperately trying to break into the Drogheda market. That came to nothing as Carousel owner Hugh Hardy’s offer was too weak.

The merged station was known as Boyneside Community Radio but the name Boyneside/CRD was also used for a time before references to CRD were dropped entirely by the late summer.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/CRD (1982)
The CRD transmitter on 1233 kHz on the Baymore Road (photo courtesy of Ken Baird).

Other DJs such as Mike Cluskey, Neil O’Brien and Seán Neilon were regulars on Boyneside following the merger doing weekend and holiday cover. This recording was made from 1540-1639 on 19th June 1982 and begins with a reference to the forthcoming Rolling Stones concert at Slane Castle in Co. Meath. Mike Cluskey is the presenter and uses Boyneside/CRD on air. We thank Ian Biggar for the donation of this recording.

Northeast series: Boyneside Television (1982)

Northeast series: Boyneside Television (1982)
Eric Vaughan presenting his radio programme on Boyneside Television (photo courtesy of Gary Hogg/Ken Baird).

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.

Northeast series: Boyneside Television (1982)
Production facilities at Boyneside Television (photo courtesy of Ken Baird/Gary Hogg).

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.

Northeast series: Boyneside Television (1982)
Irish Independent article of February 12th 1982 (courtesy of Eddie Bohan).

Boyneside Television continued for a while after the merger of Community Radio Drogheda and Boyneside Radio but petered out by around May 1982.

Northeast series: Boyneside Television (1982)
Boyneside Television cameraman Tony Breen (photo courtesy Ken Baird/Gary Hogg).

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.  

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio (1981)

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio (1981)
Boyneside’s faulty replacement AM transmitter in August 1981 following the split (courtesy Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

After the departure of key staff to set up Community Radio Drogheda in July 1981, Boyneside Radio continued to broadcast, although it faced a serious challenge with poor AM reception in Drogheda. The problem was a faulty replacement transmitter after the original was brought to CRD, meaning that Boyneside could hardly be heard in the town. A better transmitter was obtained in September 1981 and an agreement with CRD allowed Boyneside to use the superior frequency of 1323 kHz.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio (1981)
Boyneside schedule following the split in 1981 (courtesy Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

This recording was made from 1347-1524 on 13th August 1981 and features Owen Barry (Larkin) on air, followed by Daire Nelson. Daire announces a prize aimed at encouraging people to listen on FM, no doubt due to the problems with the AM transmitter. RTÉ Radio 2 also ran competitions in its early days to attract listeners to FM but AM would retain its dominance for another while.

Northeast series: Community Radio Drogheda (1981)

Northeast series: Community Radio Drogheda (1981)
Richard Kenny (Crowley) in the CRD studio on Baymore Road in 1982 (courtesy of Ken Baird).

Drogheda’s two pirate radio stations, the original Boyneside Radio and the breakaway Community Radio Drogheda continued to battle it out through the second half of 1981 and into 1982. As the brochure below illustrates, the CRD team included several presenters who would move on to Radio Leinster in Dublin such as Richard Kenny (Crowley), Gavin Duffy and Ken Murray while Eddie Caffrey and Dermot Finglas would eventually return to Boyneside.

Northeast series: Community Radio Drogheda (1981)
Community Radio Drogheda brochure (courtesy Ian Biggar/DX Archive).
Northeast series: Community Radio Drogheda (1981)
Community Radio Drogheda brochure (courtesy Ian Biggar/DX Archive).
Northeast series: Community Radio Drogheda (1981)
Sunday Journal, 05.12.1981 (courtesy Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

The final page of the brochure above includes news editor Michael O’Dowd, whose brother Fergus is now a Fine Gael TD for Louth. Another brother Niall is a well-known Irish-American journalist. Tony Clayton-Lea, who would become a well-known rock critic and writer, is also among the presenters.

Community Radio Drogheda was among the pirates whose schedules were published in the Sunday Journal (see left). As we can see, many of the presenters did two shows per day and there were more specialist programmes at the weekend.

The long recording above was made from 1250-1420 on 7th April 1982 and features Gavin Duffy with a packed Lunchtime Special show. He interviews excited local teenagers about their school opera, reads letters from listeners and introduces various features. News at 1.15 is read by Richard Kenny (Crowley), who would eventually work as a journalist with RTÉ. Niall McGowan follows Gavin’s show at 2pm.

The shorter recording below is an airchecked version of part of Ken Murray’s afternoon show on 26th March 1982.

We thank Ian Biggar and Eddie Caffrey for the recordings.