Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Local Radio Drogheda

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Local Radio Drogheda
Eric Vaughan in Boyneside Radio in 1980 (photo courtesy of Eddie Caffrey).

This is a day-long airchecked recording of Local Radio Drogheda from August 1979 when it was beginning to identify as Boyneside Radio. The programme opens with the end of David Browne’s breakfast show which is followed by David (aka Michael Comyn, now of RTÉ) reading the 10am news which includes the tragedy of the Fastnet yacht race off Co. Cork in which 19 people were killed. Eric Vaughan (aka Griffin) is then heard on the mid-morning show which is followed at 12 noon by a religious reflection (in later years, Boyneside would broadcast the Angelus at 12 and 6pm). Future Irish presidential candidate Gavin Duffy is next, followed by Heady Eddie Caffrey from 2-4pm. Main lunchtime news is read by Áine Ní Ghuidhir who refers to the ‘LRD newsdesk’, and Áine herself is to take over as presenter at 4pm following Eddie.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Local Radio Drogheda
A photograph of the Boyneside transmitter at Donaghy’s Mill from the Swedish magazine DX Gnisten (photo courtesy of Eddie Caffrey).

This is a unique opportunity to experience the early sound of Local Radio Drogheda as it transformed itself into Boyneside Radio. The recording was made from 0942-1600 on 14th August 1979 and is courtesy of Ian Biggar.

Northeast series: Local Radio Drogheda/Boyneside Radio

Northeast series: Local Radio Drogheda/Boyneside Radio
Early Boyneside Radio sticker, courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

Today we resume our series on the pirates of the northeast from the late 1970s to the end of 1988, beginning with a series of recordings of Boyneside Radio from Drogheda. We thank Ian Biggar for writing a history of the station and both Ian and Eddie Caffrey for donating recordings.

After the success of Radio Carousel in Dundalk from 1978 it was no surprise when a radio station started in the busy town of Drogheda in the south of Co. Louth. Local businessman Eobain McDonnell along with other investors like Frank Buckley made plans to start Local Radio Drogheda (LRD) in the town. The location was on top of the imposing Donaghy’s Mill sitting on the banks of the River Boyne. Studios were set up and a low power transmitter of only 9 watts was installed.

The station came on air in late November 1978 and was an immediate success with the local population. Initial transmissions were logged around 1310 kHz, but the station soon settled on its mainstay frequency of 1305 kHz, always announced as 225 metres.

In January 1979, LRD increased power to 50 watts and a couple of weeks later to 160 watts using an ex-IBA 2Kw rig, although it was not properly loaded into the aerial. However, in May the station suffered some technical problems along with an attempted raid. Despite this and the arrival of RTÉ Radio 2, listeners remained loyal to their local station. Another power increase in July 1979 to 400 watts eliminated some of the technical problems and the station was being heard well within a 45-mile radius of Drogheda.

By now LRD was employing 10 full time DJs covering the daily schedule from 0730-2100, along with two newsreaders and an NUJ news editor. Gavin Duffy and ‘Heady’ Eddie Caffrey joined the station from Radio Dundalk, as well as Eric Vaughan from Radio Carousel and Dara Nelson from NER. Later in 1980 Peter Madison, who was working as a chef in the Boyne Valley Hotel joined, initially presenting a weekly oldies show before going full time on breakfast.

Northeast series: Local Radio Drogheda/Boyneside Radio
Compliments slip for Eobain McDonnell who was also a builder and estate agent (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

As the station coverage grew beyond Drogheda, the station began to identify as Boyneside Radio, before dropping the LRD call sign all together by late summer 1979. The station was now well established and seen as one of the pioneers of local radio in Ireland. Despite Radio Carousel moving into the town in early 1980, Boyneside Radio was now established as the local station in Drogheda and was not impacted by the new arrival. It is likely that Carousel was viewed as a Dundalk station and therefore not particularly accepted in Drogheda. 

In the latter half of 1980 listeners were surprised to hear a loop tape on 1071 kHz identifying as Boyneside Radio 2. This was heard far and wide during the night. Eddie Caffrey has said that this was really just to hold the frequency as he had heard that Carousel might be planning to put a transmitter on there. Boyneside entered 1981 broadcasting 24 hours a day on 1305 kHz with around 1.5kW, as well as an FM frequency for the town on 99.2 MHz and another on 98.1 MHz. The latter was located on high ground to the north of Drogheda and gave good reception as far as south Co. Dublin.

In July 1981 Eobain McDonnell made an offer to Gavin Duffy and Eddie Caffrey that they could run the station for a weekly fee and that he would take no part in the operations of Boyneside. This was agreed and implemented, but very shortly Eobain had a change of heart and wanted to withdraw the offer. This was unacceptable for the team and resulted in a split in the station. Gavin, Eddie, Richard Crowley and others broke away with the intention of starting their own station. They took the high power transmitter, leaving Boyneside Radio only on FM. The studio equipment and records remained at Mill Lane, along with staff like Eric Vaughan, Dara Nelson and Áine Ní Ghuidhir (Ní Chairbre). What happened next was an interesting time for radio in Drogheda.

This recording is of Heady Eddie presenting the Top 30 on Boyneside on a Sunday afternoon from 1503-1600 in August 1979. Many thanks to Ian Biggar for the recording.

Interview: Kieran Murray (Part 2)

Interview: Kieran Murray (Part 2)
Kieran Murray in the Boyneside Radio Kells studio (photo courtesy of Kieran Murray).

In this second part of the interview, Kieran Murray tells Brian Greene about his move from Radio Carousel to its biggest rival, Boyneside Radio, in 1983. Like Carousel, Boyneside had become a regional network and Kieran took over management of its satellite station in Kells, Co. Meath, which had its own opt-out programming.

Interview: Kieran Murray (Part 2)
A rate card for Boyneside Radio Kells (courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

Kieran also describes his involvement with Radio Rainbow International, a hobby station set up by Boyneside co-owner Eddie Caffrey. Rainbow could be heard far and wide due to its powerful shortwave signal and Kieran presented a weekly FRC programme which attracted correspondence from across Europe. Part 2 ends with Kieran’s memories of returning to Dublin to work for Liberty 104 at the end of the pirate era in 1987-88.

Interview: Kieran Murray (Part 2)
A QSL for Radio Rainbow International signed by Kieran (courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

There’s an interview with Eddie Caffrey about Radio Rainbow International here. We’ll bring you recordings of Rainbow at a later stage in our series about the pirates of the northeast.

Airchecks: Radio Dundalk

Airchecks: Radio Dundalk
Radio Dundalk badge (courtesy of Eddie Caffrey)

Today we bring you three short airchecked recordings of Radio Dundalk from 1978. The first recording above features a very young (Heady) Eddie Caffrey, reading a statement on behalf of the station criticising an article published in the Sunday World newspaper that morning. The context for the announcement was that there was a raid on Radio Carousel on the 7th of July 1978, but Radio Dundalk was left untouched. The Sunday World was suggesting that Radio Dundalk had contacts in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and hence was not raided. That was loosely true as one of the owners, Hugh McKittrick, worked for the department but had nothing to do with the radio division. The statement was the Radio Dundalk’s response to the article. We estimate that this recording was made on Sunday the 9th of July 1978, two days after the Carousel raid. Radio Dundalk itself was raided on the 13th of July.

Airchecks: Radio Dundalk
The now renovated Fairways Hotel from where Radio Dundalk broadcast (photo by John Walsh).

The two short recordings below were made on the 14th of May 1978. There are plenty of requests from Dundalk and surrounding towns.

Tommy Tubridy presenting the Radio Dundalk Top 20 on 14 May 1978.

This recording was made about 20km from Dundalk and there is interference on the channel. The presenter reads a live advert for a music shop in Dundalk and there are lots more requests.

Michael Harrison (aka Hughes) on Radio Dundalk on 14 May 1978.

Many thanks to Eddie Caffrey for the recordings and to both Eddie and Ian Biggar for background information.

Full recording: Radio Dundalk

Full recording: Radio Dundalk
Radio Dundalk letterhead (courtesy of Eddie Caffrey)

Welcome to our special series documenting the pirate radio history of Counties Louth and Meath since the 1970s, in collaboration with Ian Biggar of DX Archive.

Following the success and growth of pirate Radio in Dublin, it was only a matter of time before some enterprising businessmen saw the potential of the medium in other towns and cities. Dundalk was no exception and such a group, including Hugh Hardy, was planning to put Radio Dundalk on the air. As often happened, there was a disagreement and Mr Hardy left with the intent of starting his own station.

Initial transmissions were made from a two-storey house on Lisdoo Road with the long wire aerial running to a flag pole on the Newry Road garage. The original transmitter was built by Con McParland from Cork, initially on 100 watts and then increased to 400 watts. The station announced 220 metres and was logged on frequencies around 1360 kHz.

Test transmissions started on Sunday 7th May 1978 and again the following weekend bringing six hours of music and chat to the people of Dundalk. Initially it was intended to broadcast only at weekends, but when Radio Carousel began daily broadcasts, Radio Dundalk did likewise. The station launched officially on Saturday May 20th 1978 and proved popular with the audience. In mid-June 1978 Radio Dundalk moved to a more permanent base in the Fairways Hotel on the Dublin Road just outside Dundalk.

Full recording: Radio Dundalk
The new Fairways Hotel outside Dundalk. The original Fairways on this site was the home of Radio Dundalk (photo by John Walsh)

Of course the Department of Posts and Telegraphs was active during this early period of pirate radio and Radio Dundalk was hit on Thursday July 13th 1978, when the raiding party, complete with sledgehammers, entered the premises. The 400 watt rig was taken in the raid which received front page coverage in the local press. The standby 100 watt transmitter got Radio Dundalk back on air within hours.

Presenters on Radio Dundalk included Gavin Duffy and station manager (Heady) Eddie Caffrey, both of whom later moved to Boyneside Radio in Drogheda. The transmitter taken in the raid was returned in February 1979 but interestingly by this time the station was broadcasting with a transmitter belonging to Radio Carousel. A contact knew the person who built the rigs and managed to get one for Radio Dundalk. Apparently Hugh Hardy was not best pleased! Eddie Caffrey bought the ‘raid rig’ from Radio Dundalk and later rebuilt it to be used for Boyneside Radio.

A report in The Argus on 2nd March 1979 stated that Radio Dundalk had left the air indefinitely after claiming their frequency was being jammed by another station. A spokesman for Radio Carousel stated ‘it has nothing to do with us’. Radio Dundalk did return to the air, but a combination of technical problems, the departure of key staff and strong competition from Radio Carousel meant its days were numbered. At this point a Gerry Duffy was heavily involved and as Radio Dundalk was about to close, he set about getting backers for a replacement that turned out to be North East Radio. That station will be covered later in this series.

The long recording above from July 31st 1979, featuring Brian Jones and Rick Wallace, was made towards the end of Radio Dundalk’s life. The shorter recording below is from around Christmas 1978 and features Des Wilson on air, reading a poem sent in by Eddie Caffrey’s mother.

Radio Dundalk audio from December 1978, courtesy of Eddie Caffrey.

FRC Ireland reported that Radio Dundalk closed on 28th August 1979 due to financial difficulties. We thank Ian Biggar for compiling this entry and Ian and Eddie Caffrey for donating the recordings.