This is a recording of WLS Music Radio in the Pirate.ie feature on the Galway pirates of the 1980s. Made on the 9th of October 1986 from 1132-1232, it features one of the best-known pirate radio voices of the era, Tony Allan. Tony worked on many British offshore pirates including Radio Caroline in the 1960s and the Voice of Peace anchored off the Israeli coast in the 1970s. He came to Ireland in 1979 and his voice was heard on pirate station idents throughout the country throughout the 1980s including WLS and Coast 103 in Galway. He also presented on various stations including Radio Nova, voicing the famous closedown promo of 1983. Shortly after the vast majority of the pirates left the airwaves at the end of 1988 due to new broadcasting legislation, Tony and Steve Marshall of Coast 103 set up Quincentennial Radio in Galway. Tony passed away in 2004 at the age of 54 following a cancer diagnosis. There is a tribute to him here.
In December 1986, WLS moved to spacious new offices on Prospect Hill off Eyre Square in Galway. Anoraks UK commented that the facilities were at the standard of any British ILR station of the time. Many thanks to Ian Biggar of DX Archive for sharing this recording.
This is a recording of WLS Music Radio from Galway, in the early months of the station in 1985. At this stage WLS was broadcasting from Kiltartan House on Forster Street, just across the road from its rival Atlantic Sound. Leading Atlantic DJs Keith York (RIP) and Don Stevens left Atlantic in March 1985 to set up WLS.
WLS broadcast initially on 846 kHz AM and 104 FM. This recording is of Richie O’Shea from 1303-1427 (with Sarah Myers on news) on the 28th of May 1985. This was just a few days after RTÉ was granted a temporary injunction against Don Stevens and Keith York of WLS preventing them from causing interference to television reception in Galway. According to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report, WLS moved to 102.7 FM before the court case in order to stop the interference. In June 1986 a permanent injunction was granted to RTÉ preventing WLS from interfering with television reception of RTÉ 2. RTÉ were claiming a £30,000 loss in advertising revenue due to WLS.
Despite the audio processing and clear FM signal on this recording there are a few on-air glitches and adverts are pretty thin on the ground, possibly as a result of adverse publicity around the interference. However following the closure of Atlantic in June 1985, WLS quickly mopped up local advertising revenue and went on to become Galway’s largest commercial station until its closure in 1987. Our thanks to Ian Biggar for sharing this recording.
WLS Music Radio was a successful and professional pirate broadcasting to Galway for more than two years from March 1985 to June 1987. WLS stood for ‘West Local Station’ and was set up by former offshore DJs Don Stevens and Keith York (RIP) who came to Galway from Cork and joined the existing pirate, Atlantic Sound in 1984. WLS was launched around the 17th of March 1985 and broadcast on 846 kHz AM and 104 FM in stereo, later adding shortwave on 6240 kHz.
From the beginning, WLS Music Radio meant business and broadcast 24 hours a day with an hourly news service from 7am to midnight and it wasn’t long until Atlantic folded. The technical set-up was impressive from the start with high quality Gates turntables and Spotmaster cart machines, according to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report in March 1985. There was a setback in May when RTÉ was granted a temporary injunction in the High Court against Don Stevens and Keith York preventing WLS from causing interference to television transmissions in Galway. In advance of the court hearing, WLS had moved to 102.7 FM to avoid interference. They also increased power to 520 watts ERP, claiming to be the largest FM transmitter ever heard in Galway. AM power was increased to 300 watts and reception reports came from as far away as Wales and Devon. By June 1986, Anoraks UK described WLS as ‘one of the best equipped stations in Ireland, with a sound to go with it’ and reported that it had many local and national advertisers. Presenters included Keith York, another former offshore DJ Steve Marshall and a veteran of the Dublin scene, Tony Allan, who joined in 1986. RTÉ claimed loss of £30,000 in advertising revenue in Galway and in June 1986 the High Court granted a permanent injunction preventing WLS from causing interference to television reception of RTÉ 2.
In June 1987 the Free Radio Show on Radio West reported that WLS had gone off the air after an irate investor unhappy with his return arrived at the station and dismantled equipment. WLS presenters could be heard on other Galway stations such as KFM and County Sound. In July, Steve Marshall and Keith York set up another successful Galway station Coast 103 which lasted until the end of 1988.
This recording is from 0850-0955 on the 27th of April 1985, during the early days of WLS. It features Don Stevens on the breakfast show and Laura Landers on news. The audio and presentation style is professional and reminiscent of the larger commercial stations in Dublin and Cork. There’s even a reference to the weather forecast ‘for the bay area’, borrowed from Radio Nova! Many thanks to Ian Biggar for the recording.
We’re delighted to bring you the first instalment in a week-long series of recordings of pirate radio in Galway in the 1980s.
Atlantic Sound broadcast from late 1983 to June 1985 to Galway city. It was set up by Alan Russell who ran the 1970s Capitol Radio in Dublin and had a broad-based format to begin with, including a news service and specialist programmes. In July 1984, following the closure of South Coast Radio in Cork, Atlantic Sound was taken over by former offshore DJs Keith York (RIP) and Don Stevens. They were later joined by another former South Coast colleague, Steve Marshall, who came from WKLR in west Cork. The station moved to 1026 kHz AM around this time and added 95.4 FM. Atlantic Sound is featured in the October 1984 tour of Ireland by DX Archive who were full of praise for the Galway station. They reported that a move from 1026 to 846 kHz was imminent but this didn’t happen until the Cork trio left Atlantic Sound in March 1985. According to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report, Marshall, York and Stevens ‘moved across the road’ to another premises in Forster Street and set up WLS Music Radio on 846 kHz and 104 FM. The technical set up was superior and it wasn’t long before WLS overtook Atlantic. Having lost many of its key staff, Altantic Sound closed down suddenly in June 1985.
This recording is from 1447-1608 on the 28th of May 1985, towards the end of Atlantic’s existence, and features Shane Martin and Gerry Browne on air. There are plenty of Tony Allan idents and an on-air auction for tickets to the forthcoming Bruce Springsteen concert at Slane on the 1st of June. Our thanks to Ian Biggar of DX Archive for this recording.
We’ve covered the Limerick pirate scene regularly in this archive and there’s no doubt that despite its size, Limerick punched above its weight in radio terms during the pirate era. We’re delighted to bring you an interview with Ger Sweeney who worked in many of the city’s stations from the early 1980s.
Ger began broadcasting when only 13 years old on Raidió Luimní run by the popular character John ‘The Man’ Frawley from 1978 to 1988. Raidió Luimní was a community station with a difference featuring local characters, death notices and all sorts of eclectic programming.
Ger moved to City Centre Radio (CCR) in 1985 where production standards were higher and the emphasis was on pop music. He switched to Hits 954 in 1987, a slicker station featuring many former Radio Caroline presenters. His final stint with pirate radio was with Coast 103 in Galway up to the closedown at the end of 1988. The interviewer is John Walsh.
Ger went on to work in licensed local stations Clare FM and Radio Limerick One. You can hear a documentary about the Limerick pirates here and another interview about Limerick pirate history here.