Royal County Radio from Navan

Royal County Radio from Navan
Flyer for Royal County Radio (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Royal County Radio (RCR) broadcast from 1982 to 1984 from Navan in Co. Meath and was a rival to Radio Carousel, which was based in the town’s shopping centre. It was set up by Canadian ex-offshore DJ Don Allen (RIP) who was a familiar voice on the Irish pirates of the 1980s and had formerly worked with Carousel. RCR was launched on 8th October 1982 and broadcast from a shopping arcade in Navan town centre. The station used the former Southside Radio transmitter from Dublin and moved around the AM band before settling on 846 kHz. Navan was probably too small to support two pirates and RCR closed around the middle of 1984.

This recording is of Oliver Callan on his lunchtime show from 1145-1235 on 28th October 1982, only a few week’s after the station was launched. 305 metres is announced which is roughly equivalent to 981 kHz although the actual frequency may have been the slightly off-channel 1000 kHz where RCR was located for a time. The voice of Don Allen is heard on ads and promos and Peter reads news headlines at midday. We thank Ian Biggar for this donation.

Holiday giveaway on Cavan Community Radio

Holiday giveaway on Cavan Community Radio
A newspaper ad for a CCR giveaway on 25th March 1985 (courtesy of Seán Brady).

Generous giveaways are often associated with super-pirates such as Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova in Dublin, but Cavan Community Radio also had several high-profile competitions during its five years on air. In September 1984, CCR ran a competition for a sun holiday for two, inviting listeners to call the station if they heard three songs consecutively, ‘Walk on By’ by Larry Cunningham, ‘When Julie Comes Around’ by the C-60 band and ‘Cavan Girl’ by the Barleycorns. The 20th caller would win the holiday.

This recording was made from 819 kHz from 1242-1257 on 28th September 1984. Ollie Clarke is on air and the holiday competition is being pushed heavily. It is heard twice during the commercial break with one of the promotions featuring the voice of Don Allen.

Holiday giveaway on Cavan Community Radio
Ollie Clarke in the CCR studio (photo courtesy of Seán Brady).

On Thursday 4th April 1985, CCR began broadcasting promos for another giveaway comprising a holiday and prizes worth £2,000. Four records, ‘You must be Joking’ by Lucky Numbers, ‘Baby don’t go’ by Sandy Kelly, ‘My Own Native Land’ by Pat Woods and ‘Breakaway’ by Ann Breen, would be played in that exact order, only once, between Thursday 4th April and Friday 26th April. On hearing the last beat of the last record, listeners had to phone CCR on (049) 32747 and, if they were the tenth caller, they would win a holiday for two in Spain. Thanks to Seán Brady for this information.

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

Ollie Clarke on Cavan Community Radio

Ollie Clarke on Cavan Community Radio
Ollie Clarke on Cavan Community Radio (photo courtesy of Seán Brady).

Cavan Community Radio (CCR) was an AM station serving the north midlands from 1982 to 1988. This is an edited version of the station’s history kindly provided by Seán Brady.

CCR began broadcasting on 747 kHz AM in the spring of 1982. The catch-phrase, ‘The Big One on 747’, soon became a household phrase in homes all over the north Irish midlands, as well as counties Fermanagh and Tyrone. CCR’s AM signal also reached a wide area of Northern Ireland and attracted advertisers from counties Fermanagh and Tyrone. Programming originated from Farnham Road, Cavan quite close to the AM transmitter site, so there was no need for an FM link from the studio. The music format was a mix of pop and country music. Initially, broadcast hours ran from 0800 to 2000 daily and were later extended to midnight.

Ollie Clarke on Cavan Community Radio
QSL from CCR in 1985 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

On Friday 24th January 1984, CCR moved into new custom built studios and offices, which were situated above the Musicland Record Store on Main Street, Cavan. CCR linked to the 747 kHz AM transmitter with a low powered FM transmitter on 98.1 MHz which was available locally in Cavan town. In May 1984, Dublin’s Radio Nova changed AM frequency, moving from 828 kHz to 738 kHz. As a result, CCR began to experience severe adjacent channel interference and a change of AM frequency was considered essential.

Sometime between May and November 1984, CCR moved from 747 kHz to 819 kHz. The new channel provided excellent signal coverage of counties Cavan, Monaghan and Fermanagh, along with Armagh, Leitrim, Sligo, Longford and Meath until the Dublin station Q102 decided to move from 828 to 819 kHz in early October 1985. The presence of two relatively high-powered stations only 100km apart on the same frequency continued to cause problems for both in terms of coverage area for the remainder of the pirate era. Depending on conditions and transmitter power from either station, CCR could often be heard underneath Q102 heading north from Dublin.  

Ollie Clarke on Cavan Community Radio
Information about CCR transmission in 1985 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

In mid-May 1985, the CCR FM link on 98.1 MHz began to be jammed and the station had to move frequencies. Due to continuous jamming, CCR moved back to their former studios in Farnham Road, Cavan. With this move of premises, the FM link frequency was now lost and CCR became one of a select few Irish pirate radio stations to broadcast on AM only. The late ‘Daffy’ Don Allen, who counted CCR among the many Irish pirates where he worked, named the unknown person blocking the signal ‘Wammer the Jammer’ and even recorded a comedy song about him which he used to play over the airwaves. Don Allen moved to Radio West in Mullingar in September 1986.

Despite the coverage issue, at this time plenty of commercials were being aired and the station identified itself on air as ‘professional radio throughout the midlands and the northwest, CCR on 819 kHz’. The station had outside broadcasts including live commentary of the 1986 St. Patrick’s Day parades in Cavan. It also introduced a radio bingo game in association with Donagh Football and Social Club in Co. Fermanagh. Cavan Community Radio left the air on 819 kHz for the last time at on Saturday 31st December 1988.

The recording above was made from 98.1 FM from 1310-1341 on 21st September 1984. Ollie Clarke is on air and there is a promotion for a holiday giveaway. Ollie also worked with CCR, Channel 2 (Breffni Radio’s short-lived pop music service in Kilnaleck, Co. Cavan), Erneside Radio and Radio West. He has broadcast on licensed stations Northern Sound and Spirit Radio and is now a volunteer with Christmas FM.

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

Through the ether: Don Allen on Cork pirate ERI

Through the ether: Don Allen on Cork pirate ERI
Portacabins housing the ERI studios at White’s Cross (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The Canadian DJ Don Allen (1939-1995) gained fame on this side of the Atlantic on stations such as Radio Caroline and Radio Northsea International before moving to Ireland in the 1980s. He was a familiar voice on Irish pirate radio, working at stations such as Radio Carousel, Radio West, Cavan Community Radio, Royal County Radio and ERI in Cork .

This recording of Don on ERI was made on 21st November 1983 by Leon Tipler at his home in the English midlands. Unlike Tipler’s other tapes of night-time ERI, in this case the signal is much fainter and the whole experience is a bit of a DXer’s dream with faint traces of ERI fading in and out from time to time. Perhaps the 5 kW transmitter was on lower power that night, but it’s all part of the joy of pulling in pirate signals from afar.

The recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England

Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)

Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)
Radio Carousel owner Hugh Hardy complete with cowboy hat in 1980 (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

The owner and operator of the Radio Carousel network was country music impresario Hugh Hardy from Omeath in Co. Louth. He presented the popular lunchtime Country Call programme which was relayed from Dundalk to the other satellite stations at the height of Carousel’s operations. Hugh lived in Dublin and commuted to Dundalk but in November 1986 he set up KLAS, an easy listening station aimed at the Dublin market, in a garage complex at the back of his home.

Radio Carousel Dundalk closed on Friday 23rd January 1987 after a surprise visit from officials of the Department of Communications who complained about interference to mobiles and directed the station to close down. Carousel left the air the following day at 1pm but its other stations in Navan and at the border continued.

Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)
An advertisement for one of Hugh Hardy’s programmes in the Sunday World from 1985 (Alan MacSimoin Collection).

This recording features a renowned interview with Hugh Hardy on the Radio West Anoraks Programme on Sunday 25th January. The weekly show was always unpredictable and relied heavily on rumour and hearsay, as station owner Shaun Coyne openly admitted. The recording opens with a heated argument between Hugh and Shaun with both trading accusations. Hugh then explains the reasons for Carousel Dundalk leaving the air and announces that given the success of KLAS, he is to concentrate on the easy listening station from then on. Both station owners compare notes about their experience of presenters down the years, with Hugh Hardy recounting how one of his newsreaders resigned live on air the previous week. The other presenter Don Allen tries to get a word in from time to time without much success but the interview ends amicably.

Radio Carousel Dundalk would in fact return in mid-February 1987 but by early 1988 both the Dundalk and border stations were in decline, leaving only Radio Carousel Navan. Hugh Hardy did not get involved in the licensed stations after 1989 but developed his video production business instead. He died in 2008.

There is a strong whiff of the drama of 1980s pirate radio in this recording: pirates encroaching on each other’s frequencies, RTÉ ordering pirates to move, stations being forced to close down and rumours circulating about those working in the business. We thank Ian Biggar for sharing this recording.