More Jason Maine on early Sunshine Radio

More Jason Maine on early Sunshine Radio
Early Sunshine car sticker (courtesy of Ian Biggar)

Today we bring you another recording from the first few weeks of Sunshine Radio, the station which broke the mould of Irish pirate radio when it launched officially on 29th September 1980.

The recording runs from 0953-1006 and again from 1013-1041 on 19th October 1980. It’s a cold and sunny Sunday morning and Jason Maine is in a relaxed vibe. The early Sunshine slogan ‘the dance station of the 80s’ is heard intermittently. This was used until around Christmas when the format changed to Top 40 and oldies. There are ads voiced by Tony Allan for the Sands Hotel where Sunshine was based and Tamango’s Nightclub next door. Jason also announces thousands of pounds’ worth of prizes in the coming week, a sign that Sunshine meant business.

More Jason Maine on early Sunshine Radio
Declan Meehan in the Sunshine studio in 1981 (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar).

This recording was made from 531 kHz by Ken Baird in Ayrshire in Scotland and co-channel interference can be heard from the Swiss German station underneath. Many thanks to Ian Biggar for sharing it with us.

Tony Allan in the early days of Sunshine Radio

Tony Allan in the early days of Sunshine Radio
Tony Allan at Radio Nova’s official closedown in May 1983 (photo courtesy of Joe King).

Tony Allan (1949-2004) was one of the best-known voices of Irish pirate radio in the decade from 1978-1988 and among the finest broadcasters of his generation. Heard originally on British offshore stations such as Radio Caroline in the 1970s, he did voice-overs, jingles and presentation on many Irish pirates. Tony was among those who joined Sunshine Radio when it went on the air in September 1980 and stayed with the station for the first few months doing commercials and presenting programmes. He left in January 1981 and would later be heard regularly on Sunshine’s great rival, Radio Nova.

Tony Allan in the early days of Sunshine Radio
The original Sunshine studio at the Sands Hotel, Portmarnock in 1981 (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar).

This is a recording of Tony on Sunshine on Saturday 18th October 1980, as heard on 531 kHz AM in Ayrshire in Scotland by Ken Baird. It runs from 1501-1608 and again from 1647-1704. Although there is co-channel interference due to the time of year and the Swiss station underneath, it is quite listenable and Tony’s unique style shines through the ether. The voice of Sunshine boss Robbie Robinson (Dale) can be heard on some of the ads.

We thank Ian Biggar for sharing this valuable recording with us.

2020: 40 years since the launch of Sunshine Radio

2020: 40 years since the launch of Sunshine Radio
An early Sunshine compliments slip with original logo (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

2020 is the 40th anniversary of one of Ireland’s biggest pirate radio stations, Sunshine Radio, which broadcast from Portmarnock on the northside of Dublin from 1980-1988. The first broadcast took place on Saturday 13th September 1980 from the kitchen of Suite 101 in the Sands Hotel overlooking the Irish Sea. The frequency was 531 kHz, announced as 539 metres to rhyme with Sunshine as the correct conversion is in fact 565 metres. Backing the new venture were former Radio Caroline DJs Robbie Robinson (Dale) and Chris Cary who had spotted the opportunities for successful commercial radio in Ireland due to the loophole in the broadcasting laws.

Sunshine’s 100-foot high aerial which had cost £5,000 was sabotaged on the following Monday 15th September, setting back the plans for the station’s launch. The station began broadcasting officially at 7am on Monday 29th September 1980 and among those on air on the first day were Robbie Robinson, Chris Cary and Tony Allan. They would soon be joined by other DJs such as Tony Fenton, Peter Madison, Declan Meehan and Manon Christie who was Robinson’s daughter.  

2020: 40 years since the launch of Sunshine Radio
Sunshine staff in 1980. Clockwise from top left: Declan Meehan, Tony Allan, Timo Jackson, Manon Christie, Robbie Dale, Siobhán Walls, Peter Madison, Chris Cary (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar).

There was talk of a 10 kW transmitter but with the help of an excellent antenna and coastal location, the output of 1 kW travelled well on 531 kHz and reception reports were received from around Leinster, northwest England, Wales and parts of Scotland. Chris Cary left Sunshine in January 1981 and went on to set up Radio Nova. By investing in professional equipment, running high-powered transmitters, pushing FM stereo, employing professional staff and operating a business model, between them the two stations broke the mould of Irish pirate radio. As the Sunshine Radio Review marking the station’s 5th birthday in 1985 claimed: ‘The station’s professionalism soon endeared it to listeners all over Leinster. This was the first “pirate” that didn’t sound deserving of the label’.  

We are delighted to bring you some rare early recordings of Sunshine in the station’s first few weeks, courtesy of Ian Biggar. These were made originally by Ken Baird in Ayrshire in Scotland using a Grundig Satellit 3400 with long wire. Depending on the time of day, there was co-channel interference from a powerful Swiss German station also on 531 kHz but the signal is quite listenable considering the distance involved. Despite the less than optimal quality, these are important historical recordings given the significance of Sunshine in Irish radio history.  

Over the next few days we will bring you a flavour of the weekend of 18th and 19th October 1980 on Sunshine, as recorded in Ayrshire. The first recording is of Jason Maine from 0930-1016 on Saturday 18th October.    

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

Overnight ERI as heard in the English midlands

Overnight ERI as heard in the English midlands
Lucy Potter-Cogan in the ERI newsroom in 1982 or 1983 (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Today we bring you another late-night recording of the Cork pirate giant ERI as heard by the British radio enthusiast Leon Tipler at his home in the English midlands. Tipler (1942-2013) began his radio career on the offshore stations in the 1960s. He made extensive recordings of Irish radio and visited Ireland on many occasions. Recordings of ERI and other Cork stations are to be heard in his renowned documentary covering the early 1980s pirate stations.

This recording was was made from 1305 kHz on 3rd June 1983 from 0030-0105 and 0320-0350. On air is Liam Quigley followed by Ian Richards with the Night Shift programme and overnight news is read by John O’Connor. Despite the distance between Cork and Kidderminster, the signal is reasonable and the fading only adds to the sense of magic of pulling in distant stations on the crowded AM band of the time.

Overnight ERI as heard in the English midlands
Stuart Scott (aka Ian Biggar) in the Ballycotton studio in July 1982 (thanks to Ian for the photo).

ERI began its life in Ballycotton east of Cork City in summer 1982 using about 200 watts of power on 1305 kHz. After investing in a professional 5 kW US-manufactured transmitter in September that year and moving to Cork City, it quickly established itself as the region’s biggest pirate.

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