Community Radio Drogheda covers rescue attempt of Irish woman in San Francisco

Community Radio Drogheda covers rescue attempt of Irish woman in San Francisco
Community Radio Drogheda sticker (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

In September 1981, a Donegal man attempted to rescue his daughter from a compound owned by the Unification Church (the ‘Moonies’) in San Francisco. After they were refused admission, James Canning and about 30 Irish-American supporters tried to break into the building and remove Mary Canning. Drogheda journalist Niall O’Dowd, who worked with the Washington Post, was the only reporter to witness the incident and was contacted by media all over the world for comment.

Knowing that a local man was on the ground, Community Radio Drogheda (CRD) wanted to cover the drama and on his lunchtime show on 16th September 1981, Gavin Duffy interviewed Niall O’Dowd about the incident. No doubt it helped that Niall’s brother Michael was news editor at CRD. Niall O’Dowd went on to become a highprofile figure in Irish America, founding the Irish Voice Newspaper and Irish America magazine as well as the website Irishcentral.com. Another brother Fergus became a Fine Gael TD for Louth.

Community Radio Drogheda broke away from Boyneside Radio in July 1981 and operated a separate service until May 1982 when the two stations merged again. We thank Eddie Caffrey for his donation of this recording, which begins with an ad break before the interview.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/CRD (1982)

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/CRD (1982)
Richard Kenny (Crowley) at CRD in 1982 (photo courtesy of Ken Baird).

After breaking away from Boyneside Radio in July 1981, Community Radio Drogheda went its own way until May 1982 when the two stations merged once again. The economic reality of two pirate radio stations in the one town had hit home and given that Boyneside had more financial backing, it was unsurprising that it won out in the end.

According to Eddie Caffrey, Gavin Duffy had had enough of the final nine months of CRD and announced that he was moving on and that anyone who wished to return to Boyneside was welcome to do so. Eddie and Richard Crowley (pictured above) met Boyneside owner Eobain McDonnell and brokered a merger involving every second presenter from both stations. Some Boyneside staff were not happy about the return of the prodigal sons but Eobain persisted. Around the same time, a meeting was also arranged with Radio Carousel in Dundalk which was trying desperately trying to break into the Drogheda market. That came to nothing as Carousel owner Hugh Hardy’s offer was too weak.

The merged station was known as Boyneside Community Radio but the name Boyneside/CRD was also used for a time before references to CRD were dropped entirely by the late summer.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/CRD (1982)
The CRD transmitter on 1233 kHz on the Baymore Road (photo courtesy of Ken Baird).

Other DJs such as Mike Cluskey, Neil O’Brien and Seán Neilon were regulars on Boyneside following the merger doing weekend and holiday cover. This recording was made from 1540-1639 on 19th June 1982 and begins with a reference to the forthcoming Rolling Stones concert at Slane Castle in Co. Meath. Mike Cluskey is the presenter and uses Boyneside/CRD on air. We thank Ian Biggar for the donation of this recording.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Community Radio Drogheda (1981)

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Community Radio Drogheda (1981)
Community Radio Drogheda sticker (courtesy Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

Today we bring you the history of the split in Boyneside Radio in July 1981 and the new station Community Radio Drogheda (CRD), courtesy of Ian Biggar. Following the split, premises were found for CRD and studios and an office were set up at 15 Fair Street. CRD commenced a 24-hour broadcast using the Boyneside medium wave transmitter that was owned by Eddie Caffrey (although he had been accused of stealing it!). This was located at a good site, the former Rosnaree Hotel on the Dublin Road.

Meanwhile, Boyneside Radio continued on 98.1 and 99.2 FM, but soon added a medium wave transmitter in Donaghy’s Mill, built by Peter Gibney. This was originally on 1314 kHz, only two channels next to CRD. This, combined with the fact the transmitter was not operating properly, meant that Boyneside could barely be heard in the town. To compound this, CRD put a second transmitter on 1323 kHz, meaning Boyneside was sandwiched between the two transmitters.

This was the situation when the DX Archive team arrived in mid August 1981. Boyneside Radio was desperate for some technical help to resolve the situation with the AM transmitter and was having difficulty in tracking down Peter Gibney. During this visit another FM transmitter appeared on 102 MHz with non stop music that soon began transmitting the CRD programming. By mid-September 1981 Boyneside Radio had obtained a new transmitter built by Con McParland from Cork. This was operating on 1262 kHz with an output of no more that 200 watts. An agreement was reached with CRD resulting that Boyneside was able to move that transmitter to the better channel of 1323 kHz. Throughout all this, both Boyneside Radio and Community Radio Drogheda announced they were broadcasting on 225 metres.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Community Radio Drogheda (1981)
CRD brochure from 1981 (courtesy of Eddie Caffrey).

There commenced a battle with each station trying to outdo the other. Firstly, Boyneside tried to break into the Navan market in October 1981, spurred on mainly by the opening of a new shopping centre. This was just as Radio Carousel had opened their new station located in the Navan Shopping Centre. An aerial was erected at the greyhound track in the town and a transmitter was installed by Con McParland on 1404 kHz. A studio of sorts consisting mainly of disco gear was installed above a hairdressers. The station would relay the Drogheda service with some opt-outs for Navan. This service was short lived and was off the air within a month or so.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Community Radio Drogheda (1981)
Boyneside Radio and Television sticker (courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

The next project was Boyneside Television. A 10-watt television transmitter was obtained from Italy and aerials erected at Donaghy’s Mill. A studio was built consisting of Betamax machines with no mixing facilities but buttons used to switch between programme sources. The equipment was basic but due to the skill of the staff a sterling effort was made to put something credible together. The station came on air in November 1981 with transmissions usually commencing around 4pm which featured the on air DJ presenting his radio programme. This lasted until 6.15pm when there was a news bulletin presented by Áine Ní Ghuidhir followed by sport with Eric Vaughan. This lasted until around 6.45pm when a local film would be broadcast until closedown around 7.30pm. Although reception could be patchy around the town, a small amount of advertising was obtained.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Community Radio Drogheda (1981)
Boyneside TV listing, Sunday Journal, April 1982 (courtesy Eddie Bohan)

Programmes were extended over time with a lunchtime broadcast on Saturdays featuring a discussion programme with Dermot Kierans. Into 1982 and daily programmes had been extended as seen in the printed schedule from the Sunday Journal (see left). All TV programmes were relayed on Boyneside Radio due to interference which could not be eliminated.

The station was used by local politicians, especially during the general election of February 1982. This seemed to worry the authorities enough to place a mobile jamming transmitter behind the main post office in Drogheda. This was discovered by the Boyneside staff who surprised the occupants!

Meantime CRD had been focussing on bringing a local radio service to Drogheda, as well as experimenting on various medium wave frequencies. The December 1981 edition of Short Wave News notes reception of CRD on 1071 kHz and the March 1982 issue notes them on 1197 kHz (Telstar Community Radio in Dundalk were off the air at this point). These were of course in parallel with the main transmitter on 1305 kHz.

Around the end of 1981 some staff left Boyneside Radio with a view to starting a rival to Radio Carousel in Navan. The CRD staff provided some technical support to this station to be called Radio Tara. The station had obtained the transmitter used by Radio Meath in 1979 and intended to use it on 255 metres medium wave. An advertisement for prospective staff appeared in one of the Sunday newspapers. However, Eddie Caffrey remembers the transmitter did not function properly and there was great difficulty in setting it up. There were reports of Radio Tara being heard on air, but the station did not last long due to these technical problems.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Community Radio Drogheda (1981)
Radio Tara ad courtesy of Eddie Bohan.

Ken from the DX Archive visited Drogheda at the end of March 1982. He found that CRD had moved premises from the town centre to a house on the Baymore Road. A second AM transmitter was operating from that location on 1233 kHz as well as an FM on 98.6 MHz linking to the main transmitter at the Rosnaree.

Both stations had entered 1982 battling for advertising, with each trying to undercut the other. Boyneside Radio had the advantage of a wealthy businessman owner, whereas CRD was very much dependant on income from advertising sales. The situation had to reach breaking point, which it did in the second half of April 1982. CRD had pretty much run out of money and left the air. Gavin Duffy and Richard Kenny (Crowley) headed to Dublin and Radio Leinster. After negotiations, others like Eddie Caffrey and Dermot Finglas rejoined Boyneside Radio. As the promos said, Boyneside and CRD are ‘back together again’ as Boyneside Community Radio. At this point Boyneside could be heard on 1305, 1314, 1323 and 1332 kHz! Boyneside Television continued for a short time following the merger but a transmitter fault put the station off the air in early summer 1982 and it never returned.

An announcement of the Boyneside-CRD merger on 2nd May 1982, recorded by Ken Baird in Scotland.

The long recording above is an aircheck of the 13th August 1981 from 0853-1330 on CRD featuring Dermot Finglas, Richard Kenny and Gavin Duffy. We thank Ian Biggar for his donation of the these recordings and will bring you more about this period of Boyneside and CRD in the coming week.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio (1980-1)

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio (1980-1)
L-R: Ken Murray, Eric Vaughan, Gavin Duffy & Eddie Caffrey at Boyneside in 1981 (photo courtesy Eddie Caffrey)

Today we bring you three short recordings of Boyneside Radio in 1980 and 1981. The first recording above is a bit of a scoop – an interview by Ken Murray with Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich on 19th March 1980. The Catholic Primate of All Ireland was in Drogheda to accept the award of freeman of the town. Cardinal Ó Fiaich was well aware of the importance of local radio but stopped short of calling for it to be licensed!

The second recording below is an airchecked version of Eddie Caffrey’s afternoon show with Áine Ní Ghuidhir on news on April 14th 1980.

Finally, from sometime in 1981, a recording of Gavin Duffy announcing a meeting in Drogheda to discuss the future of local radio, presumably called after the publication of the Independent Local Radio Authority Bill on 1st May that year.

We thank Eddie Caffrey for donating these recordings.

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Local Radio Drogheda (1979)

Northeast series: Boyneside Radio/Local Radio Drogheda (1979)
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 (1979)
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.