A day on Radio Dublin from 1978

A day on Radio Dublin from 1978
Radio Dublin sticker (courtesy DX Archive).

This unique recording is of an entire day’s programming on Radio Dublin from Monday 20th February 1978, including some DJs who would go on to become household names on local and national radio. Starting just after 8am, DJ Sarge comments on the cold weather and heavy snow outside. He is followed at 9.30 by Gerry Campbell and at 1pm by James Dillon. DJ Sylvie takes over at 4pm and the Mike Eastwood request show begins at 6pm. Denis Murray is on from 8-10pm and the night’s programming is completed by John Clarke from 10pm until midnight.

Radio Dublin had been broadcasting continuously since January 1978 and built up a loyal listenership across Dublin. This recording contains plenty of ads, some pre-recorded and some read live by DJs, and various segments of the day are sponsored by different businesses. The station’s iconic ‘253’ jingles are heard regularly also, an early branding exercise by Irish pirate radio. A separate recording of part of the James Dillon show, undated but also from February 1978, is heard below.

James Dillon show from February 1978.

Two months later, James Dillon led a walk-out of most Radio Dublin staff following allegations that station owner Eamonn Cooke was involved in child abuse. Dillon formed a breakaway station, the Big D, which lasted until 1982. Radio Dublin closed down permanently in 2002 following Cooke’s conviction for sexually abusing children. He was jailed in 2003 and again in 2007 and died in 2016 while on temporary release. If you require support with this issue, you can contact the organisation One in Four.

This recording is from the Anoraks Ireland Tapes Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.

Radio Dublin broadcasts non-stop for 36 hours

Radio Dublin broadcasts non-stop for 36 hours
Radio Dublin flyer (courtesy Ian Biggar).

Here’s a recording of some vintage Radio Dublin from the days when full-time broadcasting was still a dream. This is part of their 36-hour marathon over Saturday and Sunday 17th and 18th September 1977 with DJs John Paul, Alistair Mac, Jimmy St. Leger, Sarge, Sylvie, Kieran Murray and Johnny Day. Transmission quality left a little to be desired at times and the cassette is showing its age, but there’s no doubt that Radio Dublin was the leading station in Dublin at the time. As well as the music, there are community announcements, adverts and a live link-up to the Radio Dublin car at a racing event in the Phoenix Park. One of those interviewed in the park is the late Irish author Lee Dunne, who was at the time writing the popular RTÉ radio series Harbour Hotel.

Previously the pirates were sporadic hobby operations, appearing at night or at the weekend. This broadcast was a decisive step in the professionalisation of pirate radio in Dublin and led to full-time broadcasting by Radio Dublin at the beginning of 1978. Other stations soon followed and the rest is history.

The recording was made by Kieran Murray and is part of the Anoraks Ireland Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson. A shorter extract below is courtesy of Ian Biggar.

20 minute version of the marathon broadcast

We’re very grateful to Kieran for sharing his memories of this unique broadcast:

Having listened to this recording that I made way back in 1977, many memories have flooded back! Here are my thoughts as of today, 12th June 2022.

This recording was made at 53 Charleston Road, Ranelagh, Dublin 6, in the flat where I lived with my parents. It was also the address used as the contact details for the Free Radio Campaign – Ireland, the pirate radio club that I ran from April 1976 to March 1981.

First, 1977 was the year that I completed my Leaving Cert and this marathon broadcast occurred just after my 19th birthday! I recorded this broadcast from an old valve radio (you know the ones with the tubes that light up!) and the speaker output was wired to a cassette recorder. The radio was given to me by my maternal grandmother and it was connected to a long wire antenna that went out the bedroom window and ran along the full length of the wall of the long back garden at the rear of the flat in Charleston Road.

To be fair, the actual broadcast quality was a bit better than my recording here displays. Recording the entire weekend was a challenge for me, because I had never done an ‘aircheck’ recording before. Plus, I was constrained in the amount of cassette tape that I had to hand at that time and it was over an entire weekend, so I took a sample of each show.

Firstly, I was aware at this time that this was completely new territory for pirate radio. Previous to this, pirate radio stations were limited to broadcasting for short periods, mostly at weekend and at night time, as it was thought that you would be less likely to be raided by the dreaded Posts and Telegraphs and Gardaí. Secondly, because a pirate radio station had never before attempted a marathon broadcast like this, I was aware that Radio Dublin could have been raided at any time – and my hope was that if it were raided, I could possibly catch this event on tape. As it transpired, the broadcast went on uninterrupted and I’m sure that is what emboldened future pirate radio stations from then on.

The contract address used for Radio Dublin during this broadcast was 90 Ranelagh, Dublin 6 (I think Don Moore lived at that address). This was also the very first time that commercials had been broadcast on pirate radio. Featured on this recording is a commercial for the Band Centre, Harcourt Road, Dublin. They had a special offer that you could hire your complete Christmas disco for just £12! Another commercial featured was for Casanova’s Unisex Hair Stylist in 15 North Earl Street, Dublin. The commercial you hear for Sounds Alternative magazine, from Free Radio Campaign – Ireland (the radio club I ran), was on a pre-recorded cassette. In fact, it was one of the first commercials that was pre-recorded on Radio Dublin up to that point. All of the commercials at that time were all read live, over an instrumental bed.

The Alistair Mac show at 6pm was ground-breaking, because it was the first to feature music that was non-commercial and also album tracks. I think it pre-dates Dave Fanning for this type of show. Also featured was a link-up by telephone to a motor racing event that was being held in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. The Radio Dublin outside broadcast unit was a white Jaguar car owned by Eamonn Cooke, with the name Radio Dublin along the side. Again, another first for Irish pirate radio.

The presenters you hear on this recording are: John Paul, Jimmy St Leger, DJ Sylvie, Johnny Day, Alistair Mac, Sarge, Johnny Day and Kenneth Murphy (yes, that’s me using the DJ name that I had used previously on Capitol Radio (August – December 1975).

Each show featured a stream of requests and the landline telephone was ringing constantly. Up to this point, it was unheard of that you could just call up a radio station and get your request read out and your favourite song played within 30 minutes or so. This was quite revolutionary at the time and went down very well, particularly with younger listeners. I often imagine that if Radio Dublin had been raided immediately during that marathon broadcast, then the course of radio here in Ireland may have taken a completely different turn.   

Kieran Murray – June 2022                      

Radio Dublin on June bank holiday 1977

Radio Dublin on June bank holiday 1977
Radio Dublin badge (courtesy Brian Greene).

In September 1977, Radio Dublin broke the mould of pirate broadcasting in Dublin by broadcasting non-stop for 36 hours. It was a change that spurred the professionalisation of the scene and encouraged round-the-clock broadcasting. Before then, the pirates were part-time operations, coming on the air for short periods at night or during the weekend.

This recording is from bank holiday Monday, 6th June 1977, when the station called itself ‘the new Radio Dublin’ and announced a line-up of four DJs, no doubt in preparation for longer broadcasting hours later in the year. In this airchecked recording from that afternoon, Jimmy St. Leger, DJ Sylvie, Johnny Day and Alistair Mac take plenty of requests from listeners by phone and promote Radio Dublin t-shirts and a march in favour of local radio the following weekend. An address in Crumlin, Dublin 12 is given.

Radio Dublin on June bank holiday 1977
Original cassette label from Anoraks Ireland Collection.

The cassette label says that the wavelength was 251 metres (somewhere around 1196 kHz before the frequency changes of 1978) but most of the links refer to 253 metres (1187 kHz), where Radio Dublin would remain until the 1990s. Radio Dublin closed down permanently in 2002 following the conviction of its owner Eamonn Cooke for sexually abusing children. He was jailed in 2003 and again in 2007 and died in 2016 while on temporary release. If you require support with this issue, you can contact the organisation One in Four.

This recording is from the Anoraks Ireland Tapes Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.