The sound of Dublin pirate radio in June 1986

The sound of Dublin pirate radio in June 1986

The Dublin pirate scene was alive and well in the summer of 1986. Radio Nova had closed suddenly in March, to be replaced by Energy 103. Other super-pirates Sunshine Radio and Q102 took advantage of the change to consolidate their positions in the crowded market. Smaller stations continued to chug along serving their own niche audiences or communities while pirates from nearby counties could be heard easily in the capital, particularly on AM.

This airchecked recording captures some of the variety to be heard in Dublin that summer and includes excerpts from KISS FM (Dublin 1), Capitol Radio, Radio Dublin, Q102, Sunshine 101, Energy 103, Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB), Community Radio Fingal (CRF) and Boyneside Radio. It was made on 19th June 1986 and is from the Anoraks Ireland Collection.

Pirate.ie in three minutes

Pirate.ie in three minutes
Nova’s big giveaway as advertised in the Sunday World, 19th June 1983 (courtesy Alan McSimoin).

This three-minute clip gives a sense of the variety of content in the Pirate.ie archive. It covers stations big and small, in Dublin and elsewhere, playing mainstream pop or featuring specialist programming. The first segment features Ireland’s best-known pirate Radio Nova and its ‘Dublin Today’ programme on 30th August 1983, the day of the giveaway.

Pirate.ie in three minutes
ICBS flyer from the station’s later years (courtesy Ian Biggar).

The second segment is from the Irish Christian Broadcasting Service from 3rd September 1983, just four days before a divisive referendum about inserting a ban on abortion into the Irish constitution. The presenter announces an interview with a US campaigner.

Pirate.ie in three minutes
BLB car sticker from c. 1986 (courtesy DX Archive).

The third segment features a promo for community radio broadcast in 1987 on Bray Local Broadcasting south of Dublin. Among the voices is the then Minister for Communications, the late Jim Mitchell, whose party did not favour community radio. BLB was a leading member of the National Association of Community Broadcasters.

Pirate.ie in three minutes
Boyneside Radio North’s AM mast right on the border (courtesy Eddie Caffrey).

The next segment is a jingle for Boyneside Radio (1978-1988) based in Co. Louth which became a regional station covering an area stretching from Belfast to Dublin. The station had transmitters along the border and an opt-out service aimed at Northern Ireland.

Pirate.ie in three minutes
John ‘the Man’ Frawley of Raidió Luimní (courtesy Svenn Martinsen).

The next segment features one of Ireland’s best-known pirate broadcasters, the late John ‘the Man’ Frawley opening Raidió Luimní on 20th April 1983. The station broadcast from Limerick for ten years from 1978-1988 and the popular Frawley had listeners over a wide area. He begins by greeting listeners in Irish.

Pirate.ie in three minutes
Energy 103 flyer signed by Bob Gallico (courtesy DX Archive).

Finally we hear the late Bob Gallico reading the news on New Year’s Day 1988 on Energy 103, a popular professional station that emerged from the ashes of Radio Nova in 1986.

Bob Gallico reading news on Energy 103

Bob Gallico reading news on Energy 103
L-R: Sybil Fennell, Declan Meehan and Bob Gallico at the Radio Nova closedown in 1983 (photo by Joe King).

This is a recording of veteran newscaster the late great Bob Gallico reading the lunchtime news on New Year’s Day 1988 on Dublin super-pirate Energy 103. Bob’s voice was one of the most familiar and iconic of the 1980s Dublin pirates.

Bob Gallico reading news on Energy 103
Image courtesy of dxarchive.com

Energy 103 emerged from the ashes of Radio Nova on 29th April 1986 and broadcast until 11th March 1988, when it closed suddenly. Within hours its frequencies were taken over by Q102. Bob Gallico died in 2013 at the age of 83 in Massachusetts. You can read tributes here.

Full recording: Q102 (Dublin)

Full recording: Q102 (Dublin)
Q102 logo from Alan MacSimoin collection.

This recording of Dublin super-pirate Q102 from May 1988 was made just before it was relaunched as ‘Super Q 102’. The new format was the work of American radio consultant Bill Cunningham, who had transformed Sunshine Radio into ‘Sunshine Hot Hits 101’ in 1986. Q102 had acquired the transmitters and equipment of Energy 103 the previous March and, along with Sunshine, was one of the two biggest players in the Dublin pirate radio market.

The recording is from 1218-1340 on the 17th of May 1988 and features Jason Maine, followed by the start of Greg Gaughran’s show. There are regular mysterious promos for the new ‘super sounds’ format to be launched within hours, and a competition to win tickets to the Michael Jackson concert in Cork at the end of July. The recording also contains advertisements for the Mosney holiday centre north of Dublin (now a direct provision centre for asylum seekers), an event to choose Miss Ireland 1988 at Rumour’s Nightclub, regular promos for the Evening Herald small ads and a Tony Allan voiceover for Bewley’s coffee.

We thank Ian Biggar for his donation of this recording.

Full recording: Q102 (Dublin)

Full recording: Q102 (Dublin)
Q102 rate card from Alan MacSimoin collection.

Q102 shook up the Dublin scene when it came on the air on the 23rd of January 1985. In contrast to Radio Nova which had been plagued by union problems for some time, Q102 marketed itself as ‘Irish owned and operated’ in the early years. The station attracted big names or launched many radio careers and was one of Dublin’s most successful pirates of the 1980s. It broadcast initially on 828 kHz AM and 102 FM, later adding 103.5. In October 1985 it moved to the clearer channel of 819 kHz, causing problems for Cavan Community Radio which was on the same frequency.

Among the successful initiatives was the ‘Eye in the Sky’ traffic news service, broadcast by station manager Mike Hogan from a helicopter circling Dublin. The helicopter was piloted by Ciaran Haughey, son of the Fianna Fáil leader and future Taoiseach Charles Haughey. ‘Eye in the Sky’ was sponsored by Fiat Ireland, and gave commuters an up-to-the-minute morning traffic report four years ahead of a similar service on RTÉ. This recording from 0815-0900 on the 23rd of January 1986 (the station’s first birthday) is of the breakfast programme presented by Greg Gaughran with traffic reports from Mike Hogan and Gary Hamill (Seán McCarthy) on news.

Full recording: Q102 (Dublin)
A photo of Mike Hogan from an Irish Times report about the new Eye in the Sky service, January 1986 (Alan MacSimoin collection).

In March 1988, Q102 bought the equipment of its rival Energy 103 after its sudden closure and took over all its frequencies, giving it prominence on the AM and FM bands. In June 1988, the station was relaunched as ‘Super Q’ by the American radio consultant Bill Cunningham who had transformed the sound of Sunshine previously. It broadcast until the 30th of December 1988. You can read more about the history of Q102 and hear further recordings here.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.