Steve Gordon on Radio Leinster

Steve Gordon on Radio Leinster
Radio Leinster logo (based on poster in DX Archive).

This is another early recording of Radio Leinster made just a few days after the station’s launch in 1981. The presenter is the late Steve Gordon who had come from Radio Tees in England and worked in Dublin in the 1980s as a jingle and commercial producer for most stations. The recording was made from 1725-1810 on Friday 1st May 1981. Steve is standing in for another deceased DJ of the era, Roland Burke. As this was recorded just two days after Radio Leinster’s launch, presumably Roland wasn’t available at the very start of the station.

The music is eclectic including MOR, oldies, disco and pop and clearly Radio Leinster’s easy listening policy was still in gestation. The recording was made in Scotland by Ken Baird and there is severe interference at times. We thank Ian Biggar for the donation.

40 years since the launch of Radio Leinster

40 years since the launch of Radio Leinster
Radio Leinster logo (courtesy of David Baker),

After a fortnight of tests, Radio Leinster launched its new service for Dublin at 7am on Wednesday 29th April 1981, announcing a frequency of 738 kHz or 406 metres. The first presenter was Eugene Elliott on the breakfast programme who promised competitions, quizzes and a news service in the coming days and weeks. There was easy listening music for the first hour but the style was more varied after 8am. Sports news and a Dublin and European weather forecast also featured. The music policy was fairly mixed in the early days and took a while to settle into the easy listening format for which Radio Leinster became well-known for most of its two-year existence. Formatting was not common in Irish pirate radio at the time but that would soon change with the introduction of strict playlisting by super-pirates such as Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova.

The short airchecked recording above was made in Dublin and includes some of the links in the first show. The longer recording below was made from 0656-0821 but is of poorer quality as it was recorded in Scotland. There is some fading, electrical interference and a heterodyne whistle as the transmitter was slightly off channel in the early days. An FM transmitter on 93 MHz was added at a later stage.

The airchecked recording was made in Dublin by Ger Roe and the longer version was made in Scotland by Ken Baird. Thanks to Ian Biggar for sharing these with us.

Radio Leinster prepares to launch

Radio Leinster prepares to launch
Radio Leinster logo (courtesy of David Baker).

Radio Leinster broadcast talk, easy listening and MOR to the Dublin area for two years from 1981 to 1983. It is an important station in the history of Irish pirate radio because it aimed at an older audience whereas most pirates chased younger listeners. British pirate radio enthusiast Leon Tipler described it as being more similar to RTÉ Radio 1 than Radio 2. The station began test transmissions in mid-April 1981 on 738 kHz (406metres) with a professionally-built 1kW transmitter, giving it good coverage across Dublin and beyond.

This is a recording of the final test from 1823-1910 on 28th April 1981, the day before Radio Leinster was due to launch. An address of 22 Herbert Street, Dublin 2 is given but the station was located in Sandyford above the city. The programme schedule is announced, including presenters Eugene Elliot, Gordon Sommerville, Danny Hughes and Stevie Gordon. Some of the station’s characteristic interval signals are also heard.

The signal suffers from a heterodyne whistle as it was recorded in Scotland by Ken Baird. This would not be noticeable in Dublin where Radio Leinster had a strong signal, but further afield it was. This happened because the Leinster transmitter was off channel for the first week or so, on 735 kHz rather than the official 738 frequency. As the transmitter came from the USA, it may well be that the original American crystal for 735 kHz was in the unit. Thanks to Ian Biggar for background information and for sharing this recording with us.

Radio Dublin announces full-time broadcasting

Radio Dublin announces full-time broadcasting
Photo of Radio Dublin march from Sounds Alternative, February 1978 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Back when pirate stations were part-time hobbyists, Radio Dublin broke the mould on the 17th and 18th September 1977 when it broadcast non-stop for 36 hours. This was a key period in the development of the pirates as stations went full-time for the first time, with Radio Dublin pioneering round the clock broadcasting.

Over the Christmas and New Year period 1977/78, Radio Dublin broadcast continuously for 300 hours. According to Sounds Alternative magazine edited by Kieran Murray, it was the only station in Ireland to ring in the New Year, with the Lord Mayor of Dublin doing the honours. On Monday 2nd January 1978, the station announced that it would begin full-time daily broadcasting and unveiled a new schedule of DJs including Gerry Campbell, James Dillon, Sylvie, Mike Eastwood, Shay West, Dennis Murray and John Clarke.

This recording is of the last 40 minutes of Radio Dublin’s festive marathon from 0020-0100 on 2nd January. The presenter is unidentified but the voice of Shay West is heard with a message in basic French asking an overseas listener to phone home. The broadcast is closed by Radio Dublin’s owner Eamonn Cooke who announces that full-time programming will start later that morning at 8am. This recording was made in Leeds by Gary Hogg, so is very much DX reception, but it is an important piece of history as it marked the start of a new era in Irish radio history. Thanks to Ian Biggar for sharing it with us.

Radio Dublin announces full-time broadcasting
Early Radio Dublin letterhead (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The non-stop broadcasts attracted the attention of the authorities, and Radio Dublin was raided early on 17th January, only to return to the airwaves by midnight. On 21st January, a march in support of Radio Dublin was held in the city centre, attracting between 8,000-10,000 people, according to Sounds Alternative. The station’s aerial was cut down by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs on 24th January but returned within a few weeks. Radio Dublin closed down permanently in 2002 following the conviction of 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.

Big D discusses frequency congestion in Dublin

Big D discusses frequency congestion in Dublin
Big D sticker (courtesy of Bill Ebrill).

There was plenty of frequency congestion in Dublin in the late 1970s as the pirates upped their gain and became full-time operations. Stations congregated around the same part of the AM band between 1100-1200 kHz often interfering with each other or hopping onto each other’s favourite spot. We heard already how ARD switched frequency at night to avoid co-channel interference with overseas stations.

This discussion on the FRC show on Big D from 13th November 1980 gives a sense of the problem. The unidentified presenter takes a call from a listener who has a lot to say on the topic and veteran of the pirate scene Ken Sheehan (Edwards) comments that the new Sunshine Radio has set an example by choosing the other end of the band. The recording ends with the Big D song, which was recorded by one of the DJs, John Paul.

Hear a better quality version of the song here, courtesy of Kieran Murray.