Northeast series: Boyneside Radio (1985)

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio (1985)
A view from the Boyneside FM site at Tullyesker near Drogheda (photo courtesy of Eddie Caffrey).

By the mid-1980s, Boyneside had established itself as one of the main radio stations in Co. Louth and a successful regional station in its own right, with satellites in Kells, Co. Meath and on the border. Its main AM transmitter on 1305 kHz was heard far and wide throughout the northeast of Ireland and beyond and Boyneside was describing itself as the largest regional radio station in Ireland.

This recording is of the main Boyneside station in Drogheda from 0945-1030 on 19th February 1985. Its features the end of Daire Nelson’s breakfast show, complete with comedy inserts, followed by news headlines at 10 o’clock. The late Dave C (Cunningham) then takes over for the mid-morning slot.

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

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: Boyneside Radio (1981)

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio (1981)
Eric Vaughan at Boyneside Radio in August 1981 (photo courtesy of Ken Baird, DX Archive).

Today we bring you two recordings of Boyneside Radio from spring 1981, not long before the station split. The first extract above is an aircheck of Daire Nelson, a well-known presenter on Boyneside and other stations in the northeast, on his overnight programme in May 1981. Although it sounds like a live show, the overnight tapes at Boyneside were pre-recorded. At the end, Daire hands over to Eric Vaughan on the breakfast show. Sound quality is excellent as this is the original studio copy on a C-120 tape. Daire cut his radio teeth at Midland Radio in Athlone in 1979 before moving to North East Radio in Dundalk. He also worked in Radio Carousel, East Coast Radio in Ardee, Radio West in Mullingar and was a familiar voice on the northeast’s licensed station LMFM after 1989.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio (1981)
Boyneside Radio flyer from 1981 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The second recording below is an airchecked version of Eric Vaughan on an overnight show on Boyneside, also a studio copy and from May 1981.

Many thanks to Eddie Caffrey for donating these recordings and to Ian Biggar for additional information.

Northeast series: Local Radio Drogheda/Boyneside Radio (1979)

Northeast series: Local Radio Drogheda/Boyneside Radio (1979)
Early Boyneside Radio sticker, courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

Today we resume our series on the pirates of the northeast from the late 1970s to the end of 1988, beginning with a series of recordings of Boyneside Radio from Drogheda. We thank Ian Biggar for writing a history of the station and both Ian and Eddie Caffrey for donating recordings.

After the success of Radio Carousel in Dundalk from 1978 it was no surprise when a radio station started in the busy town of Drogheda in the south of Co. Louth. Local businessman Eobain McDonnell along with other investors like Frank Buckley made plans to start Local Radio Drogheda (LRD) in the town. The location was on top of the imposing Donaghy’s Mill sitting on the banks of the River Boyne. Studios were set up and a low power transmitter of only 9 watts was installed.

The station came on air in late November 1978 and was an immediate success with the local population. Initial transmissions were logged around 1310 kHz, but the station soon settled on its mainstay frequency of 1305 kHz, always announced as 225 metres.

In January 1979, LRD increased power to 50 watts and a couple of weeks later to 160 watts using an ex-IBA 2Kw rig, although it was not properly loaded into the aerial. However, in May the station suffered some technical problems along with an attempted raid. Despite this and the arrival of RTÉ Radio 2, listeners remained loyal to their local station. Another power increase in July 1979 to 400 watts eliminated some of the technical problems and the station was being heard well within a 45-mile radius of Drogheda.

By now LRD was employing 10 full time DJs covering the daily schedule from 0730-2100, along with two newsreaders and an NUJ news editor. Gavin Duffy and ‘Heady’ Eddie Caffrey joined the station from Radio Dundalk, as well as Eric Vaughan from Radio Carousel and Daire Nelson from NER. Later in 1980 Peter Madison, who was working as a chef in the Boyne Valley Hotel joined, initially presenting a weekly oldies show before going full time on breakfast.

Northeast series: Local Radio Drogheda/Boyneside Radio (1979)
Compliments slip for Eobain McDonnell who was also a builder and estate agent (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

As the station coverage grew beyond Drogheda, the station began to identify as Boyneside Radio, before dropping the LRD call sign all together by late summer 1979. The station was now well established and seen as one of the pioneers of local radio in Ireland. Despite Radio Carousel moving into the town in early 1980, Boyneside Radio was now established as the local station in Drogheda and was not impacted by the new arrival. It is likely that Carousel was viewed as a Dundalk station and therefore not particularly accepted in Drogheda. 

In the latter half of 1980 listeners were surprised to hear a loop tape on 1071 kHz identifying as Boyneside Radio 2. This was heard far and wide during the night. Eddie Caffrey has said that this was really just to hold the frequency as he had heard that Carousel might be planning to put a transmitter on there. Boyneside entered 1981 broadcasting 24 hours a day on 1305 kHz with around 1.5kW, as well as an FM frequency for the town on 99.2 MHz and another on 98.1 MHz. The latter was located on high ground to the north of Drogheda and gave good reception as far as south Co. Dublin.

In July 1981 Eobain McDonnell made an offer to Gavin Duffy and Eddie Caffrey that they could run the station for a weekly fee and that he would take no part in the operations of Boyneside. This was agreed and implemented, but very shortly Eobain had a change of heart and wanted to withdraw the offer. This was unacceptable for the team and resulted in a split in the station. Gavin, Eddie, Richard Crowley and others broke away with the intention of starting their own station. They took the high power transmitter, leaving Boyneside Radio only on FM. The studio equipment and records remained at Mill Lane, along with staff like Eric Vaughan, Dara Nelson and Áine Ní Ghuidhir (Ní Chairbre). What happened next was an interesting time for radio in Drogheda.

This recording is of Heady Eddie presenting the Top 30 on Boyneside on a Sunday afternoon from 1503-1600 in August 1979. Many thanks to Ian Biggar for the recording.

Airchecks: North East Radio

Airchecks: North East Radio
North East Radio’s mobile studio (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

North East Radio (NER) was a short-lived station in Dundalk in 1979-1980. We thank Ian Biggar of DX Archive for the recording and for writing this account of the station’s history.

As it became clear that the days of Radio Dundalk were numbered, a man called Gerry Duffy began looking for investors for a new station in the town. Seeing the prospects of local commercial radio, it did not take too long before some local businessmen were willing to invest in the project and provide secure financial backing, along with Dr. Don Moore of Dublin pirate radio fame. Studios were built in the Imperial Hotel and aerial masts erected on the building roof. A transmitter was obtained, built by Declan Kane from Dublin, who had done similar work for ARD. The rig was allegedly running some 800 watts of power.

The station went on air in October 1979 on 1196 kHz (off channel), announced as 257 metres. From the start the station broadcast nonstop, 24 hours a day with slogans like ‘North East Radio – the station that never sleeps’ and ‘Your slice of heaven on 257’. NER was set up in direct competition to Radio Carousel which by this time had become rather stale. It was hoped that the new station could gain a share in the lucrative advertising market in the area. Listeners found the programming a refreshing change from Carousel and the station’s future looked bright. Crispian St. John, a well known broadcaster on the offshore stations Radio Nordsee International and Radio Caroline joined NER, as well as local talent such as Owen Larkin, Alec Fennell and Daire Nelson.

Airchecks: North East Radio
The NER aerial at the original Imperial Hotel in Dundalk (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

However, as 1980 progressed, technical problems beset the station. Disagreements between station staff and the engineer caused the latter to depart. This left the transmitter in the hands of the station staff, resulting in a deterioration of audio quality. Meantime management-staff relations were growing sour, as a result of presenters claiming they were not being paid for work done.

In June 1980, FRC Ireland reported that a mobile CB operator just outside the hotel caused the NER transmitter to blow up. This put the station off air for almost a week while the damaged transmitter was repaired. Eddie Caffrey also recalls an incident where a staff member attempted to change the off-channel 1196 kHz crystal for the new channel 1197. Because the individual did this while the rig was switched on, it caused damage. The station engineer constructed a new transmitter employing parts of the original rig with parts of the standby transmitter.

While this combination of transmitters worked satisfactorily, it produced some harmonics on the trawler band. Anglesey lifeboat radio in north Wales noted interference to their transmissions and the source was named as North East Radio. In fact, in the August 1980 issue of Short Wave News, two DXers in England reported reception of NER on 2394 kHz, the second harmonic of the fundamental 1197 kHz. An official complaint was sent to the Irish Department of Posts and Telegraphs and they in turn contacted NER. The station was given 24 hours to sort out the problem. The staff decided to switch the transmitter off until the problems could be fixed.

Airchecks: North East Radio
The late Alec Evans (Alec Fennell) in the NER studio (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

Meantime the hotel owners were growing unhappy with the presence of the station and the financial backers were becoming disillusioned. In late August 1980 the hotel indicated that NER would have to vacate the studios and remove the twin 100-foot aerial towers within a week. We don’t have an exact date of closure of North East Radio, but assume it was sometime during August 1980. It was a sad ending to a station that started with such positive prospects.

The recording consists of airchecks of the station on 31st January 1980 and features Dara Nelson, Crispian St. John, Gerry D., Phil Llewelyn and Alec Evans. There is a fresh sound with plenty of ads, professional links and station idents voiced by Tony Allen.