Radio Leinster: wooing listeners from RTÉ Radio 1

Radio Leinster: wooing listeners from RTÉ Radio 1
Daphne Mitchell at Radio Leinster in 1982 (photo courtesy David Baker).

Radio Leinster stood out from the other Dublin pirates of the early 1980s because of its diet of easy listening music and chat as opposed to the pop played by most stations. In his documentary ‘The Irish Pirates’, British radio enthusiast Leon Tipler commented that while the majority of the Dublin stations were in direct competition with RTÉ Radio 2, Radio Leinster seemed intent on attracting listeners from Radio 1.

Radio Leinster began broadcasting in late April or early May 1981 from the city centre before moving to an elevated site in Sandyford overlooking Dublin. A professional 1 kW transmitter on 738 kHz (406 metres) travelled well by day but was subject to interference at night. The station closed suddenly on 19th May 1983 as panic spread following the raids on Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova and never returned.

Tipler was particularly interested in the niche offering of Radio Leinster and made several recordings of it during his visit in September 1982. The recording above was made from 738 kHz and is an aircheck of part of Daphne Mitchell’s afternoon programme beginning at 1556 on Friday 10th September. It includes a letter from a listener and a lengthy community notice board. The voices of Richard Crowley and Anna Chisnell, both of whom would go on to work in RTÉ, can be heard on ads. Daphne Mitchell was also heard on BLB in Bray in the 1980s.

Radio Leinster: wooing listeners from RTÉ Radio 1
David Baker on Radio Sandymount in 1984 (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

The recording below is from 93 FM on Monday 13th September 1982 and features a young David Baker reading the sports bulletin on his breakfast programme. David’s breakfast shift from 0700-0900 meant that he arrived late for school each morning!

These recordings are from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

Pop-up radio: Glasnevin North Community Radio

Pop-up radio: Glasnevin North Community Radio
The caravan in 1982 including Charlie Sheehan and David Baker in the door and Nails Mahoney to the right (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

The Community Broadcasting Co-operative (CBC) also ran a pop-up summer station in Glasnevin between 1982 and 1988 to coincide with the local community festival. Mick Nugent, who was also heard on other CBC stations, was in charge of the Glasnevin operation and it moved between different locations over the years. These included what was then the Nugent family home on Willow Park Grove, a caravan outside the local shops on Ballymun Road and Cuilín House, a Council-owned building in Albert College Park.

Dave Reddy of CBC told us that broadcasts on all stations were on 1512 or 1530 kHz with the exception of 1984 when frequencies on or around 1116 kHz were used. The original transmitter was stolen and never recovered but a new one was used from 1985 with the help of engineers Peter Gibney and John Thewlis. Output was about 100 watts and FM was added later in the decade. As FM reception improved, the AM transmitter was left in Sandymount at Dave Reddy’s house and linked to the FM signals from the various CBC stations.

Pop-up radio: Glasnevin North Community Radio
Flyer from 1986 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

This airchecked recording of Glasnevin North Community Radio was made between 1815-1850 on 27th June 1983. We don’t have confirmation of the frequency. It features some well-known names in Irish radio history including Aidan Cooney who worked on several pirates including Radio Dublin, ARD, Treble TR, Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova. Since 1989 he has broadcast on commercial radio and television and is currently a presenter with Q102 in Dublin. The other familiar voice is Aidan Stewart (aka Leonard) who also began his pirate career in the late 1970s and joined RTÉ in 1991. He is currently director of the digital station RTÉ Gold.

Pop-up radio: Glasnevin North Community Radio
The Glasnevin North Community Radio AM transmitter (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

The recording was made originally by the late Peter Madison. Thanks to Gary Hogg for the audio and to Dave Reddy and Mick Nugent for background information.

Pop-up community radio: Radio Ringsend

Pop-up community radio: Radio Ringsend
Al O’Rourke with local kids on Radio Ringsend, c. 1986 (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

Radio Ringsend was another popular temporary community station set up by Dave Reddy’s Community Broadcasting Co-operative (CBC) in the 1980s. The model for all CBC stations was to come on air to coincide with a summer festival, get local people on air and report on events and competitions. The first time Radio Ringsend broadcast was during the Ringsend and District Community Festival in 1982 and the station continued each year until the summer of 1988.

Pop-up community radio: Radio Ringsend
L-R Victor Ryan, Mick Nugent and Al O’Rourke at Radio Ringsend (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

This recording is of Mick Nugent from 1630-1715 on 17th July 1984. Promos and ads feature the voices of David Baker and Bryan Lambert who were well-known names on the Dublin pirate scene and would go on to work on licensed radio. There are plenty of requests of the ‘madly in love’ type with some running to several pages and featuring lots of interesting nicknames. Clearly this was the station of choice for the local kids! Dave Reddy remembers one competition generating 68 calls in one minute on the station’s sole phone line which would often be borrowed from a neighbouring business.

Pop-up community radio: Radio Ringsend
Flyer about Radio Ringsend 1986 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

In 1982, Radio Ringsend was located in the premises of what is now ABEC Glass. They then moved to Con O’Donoghue’s shop, now the local Spar and subsequently to Sally O’Brien’s pub which is now known as the Shipwright Guesthouse. The station’s final venue was the Irishtown Foodstore beside the Irishtown Pharmacy.  

Pop-up community radio: Radio Ringsend
The late Paul Doyle on Radio Ringsend in 1988 (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy). Paul died in 2020.

In 1984, Radio Ringsend broadcast on 257 metres (1161 kHz) and 103.4 FM. The original transmitter was stolen that year but a new one was built by John Thewlis and operated on either 1512 or 1530 kHz from summer 1985 onwards. Output was about 100 watts but the signal travelled well by day given the frequency. In later years when FM coverage improved, the AM rig was left in Sandymount and linked to the FM signals of the various CBC stations. Mick Nugent would operate another pop-up station, Glasnevin North Community Radio, in 1986.

Pop-up community radio: Radio Ringsend
The AM transmitter used by all CBC stations in later years (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin. Thanks to Dave Reddy for additional information.

Pop-up community radio: Radio Donnybrook

Pop-up community radio: Radio Donnybrook
Brendan O’Carroll (aka Mrs Brown) during his time at ARD (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

Radio Donnybrook was one of a number of ‘pop-up’ community radio stations which broadcast in various parts of Dublin in the mid-1980s under the umbrella of the Community Broadcasting Co-operative (CBC). The first was Radio Sandymount which went on the air as part of a local festival in 1982. According to station founder Dave Reddy, the idea proved popular and was requested by community groups else, including in Ringsend and Donnybrook. Many successful broadcasters cut their teeth in these stations including Brendan O’Carroll (aka Mrs Brown) who was known as Uncle Bren the Kiddies’ Friend, a show which began its life on ARD. Others who went on to RTÉ were Doug Murray (aka Electric Eddie), Aidan Leonard and Suzanne Duffy. David Baker, a well-known voice on Irish radio in the 1980s, was also heavily involved.

Pop-up community radio: Radio Donnybrook
L-R Dave Reddy, Suzanne Duffy and Charlie Sheehan at Radio Donnybrook (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

This recording is of Radio Donnybrook from 10th June 1984 from approximately 1010-1050. There is continuous music for the first 20 minutes or so and then presenter Conor McHugh announces that the station will be testing from 1000-2000 on that day. The station is to broadcast officially from 20th June to 1st July 1984 to coincide with the Donnybrook Fair and advertisers and those wishing to be interviewed are advised to get in contact. Radio Donnybrook was located in the petrol station opposite the Old Wesley Rugby Club and was probably the closest ever pirate to RTÉ!

Pop-up community radio: Radio Donnybrook
David Baker in the Radio Sandymount studio (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

The recording was made from 259 metres (1161 kHz). FM is also announced but in mono due to technical issues. As well as pop-up stations in Donnybrook, Sandymount, Ringsend, Mount Merrion, Glasnevin, Ráth Cairn (Co. Meath) and Wicklow Town, Dave Reddy also set up the first Christmas-themed station, Radio Snowflake.

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

Pop-up community radio: Radio Sandymount

Pop-up community radio: Radio Sandymount
The late Tony Boylan pictured in the Evening Herald, 18th August 1986.

Radio Sandymount was the first of several pop-up community radio stations run by the Community Broadcasting Co-operative (CBC) in different parts of Dublin between 1982 and 1988. Set up by Dave Reddy who had been involved with the earlier ARD, it and other stations such as Radio Donnybrook and Radio Ringsend were regular summer features on the Dublin airwaves during that period. In an interview with Pirate.ie, Dave said that the first such station was in Sandymount in 1982 but proved so popular that other community groups wanted their own version.

Radio Sandymount broadcast to coincide with the Sandymount and Merrion Community Week in late May or early June. This recording is of a test transmission on 29th April 1984 made from 270 metres/1116 kHz from 1135-1220. Among the presenters mentioned are David Baker, a well-known name on the Dublin pirate scene, John Murray and Charlie Sheehan who was a postman in Sandymount.

Pop-up community radio: Radio Sandymount
Charlie Sheehan in the Radio Sandymount studio (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

The recording also includes part of a simulcast of the 78s Show on Radio Galaxy, presented by the veteran pirate broadcaster Tony Boylan and his wife Fran. In 1945, Tony had set up one of Ireland’s earliest pirate stations, the Colleen Home Service, from his bedroom and continued to experiment with transmitters after the war. In the late 1960s, he set up Radio Galaxy on 199 metres/1512 kHz and specialised in playing his large collection of 78s records every Sunday for a few hours.

The 78s Show was very different to most of what was offered by pirate radio at the time and Tony and Fran’s engaging style and deep passion for the music earned them a loyal following. In 1986, they retired to the Isle of Man and became involved in setting up community radio there. Fran Boylan died in 2007 and Tony passed away in 2010.

Peter Mulryan paid tribute to Tony Boylan in his 1988 book, Radio Radio: ‘Tony Boylan’s pioneering broadcasts were amazing feats of personal and electronic achievement, and they were well ahead of their day. While Tony proved that pirate radio was technically possible, it would take younger men another ten years to prove its economic feasibility, and they were still at school’. Broadcast historian Eddie Bohan inducted Tony into his Alternative Irish Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2015.

Pop-up community radio: Radio Sandymount
L-R David Baker, Paula Walsh (Miss Sandymount) and Dermot Lacey in 1986 (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

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