This is the final edition of the popular weekly Radio West Anoraks’ Show a short time before the station’s closure at the end of 1988. Broadcast from Mullingar every Sunday morning, the programme was fronted by station boss Shaun Coyne and a variety of presenters including the late Don Allen, himself a veteran of the offshore stations. Both Shaun and Don are heard on this show along with Willie Harte, Michael Tiernan, Gerry Reilly, John Gartlan, Myles Johnson and Eddie Caffrey. There’s plenty of nostalgia about the pirate era that is about to end and speculation about the new legal regime due to come into effect. Essential listening!
This programme was recorded from 1053-1145 on Sunday 18th December 1988 from 100.1 FM and has been donated kindly by John Breslin.
This is a recording of part the Anoraks Show on West National Radio 3 from December 1988, towards the end of the popular show’s run as the pirates prepared to close down. Station boss Shaun Coyne interviews radio engineer Gerry Reilly from Co. Cavan, who reckons that he set up between 30 and 40 pirate stations in the 1980s.
The discussion gives a fascinating insight into the economics and technology of the pirates and there are nuggets of information about how certain stations made big profits and provided much needed work in their areas. There’s also plenty of speculation about the new licensed era in 1989. Following the Anoraks Show we hear part of the final edition of the weekly farming programme Landlink.
This recording was made from 1052-1141 on Sunday 11th December 1988 from 100.1 FM. We thank John Breslin for the donation. Listen to our own interview with Gerry Reilly in 2018 here.
Breffni Radio was a popular station broadcasting from Cavan from 1984 to 1988 with a number of regional offshoots. This edited station history is based on information kindly provided by Seán Brady.
Breffni Radio began broadcasting in December 1984 from a converted cottage at Drumloman near Kilnaleck in Co. Cavan. ‘Breffni’ is based on the Irish word Bréifne, a medieval Gaelic kingdom in north Leinster and north Connacht. The cottage consisted of one an on-air studio, an extensive record library and a production studio. The technical gear was basic, but served its purpose very well. Breffni broadcast a mix of Irish and American country music, from 7am to 1am. Engineer Gerry Reilly looked after the technical side of Breffni Radio and set up its transmission facilities. For many years the station broadcast with 1 kW output of power on 1170 kHz. In 1985, Breffni experimented with FM and planned to expand into the midlands with a service in Longford.
Breffni Central Radio took to the air on 10th June 1985 from Ballymahon Street in Longford on 1035 kHz. This new service was intended for reception in counties Longford, Roscommon, Galway and Mayo. The signal was in fact heard over a very wide area, extending from Galway to Cavan. Breffni Central Radio, like its sister station in Kilnaleck, broadcast a mix of Irish and American country music from 7am to 1am. An FM service was introduced on 17th February 1986 from a site on Arkill Mountain near the studio. On 10th March, Breffni introduced split programming, 1170 kHz carrying the usual Irish and American country music fare, with 96.6MHz broadcasting the pop music of Channel 2. Reception was excellent with the station being received as far away as Kildare but Channel 2 was shortlived due to poor demand from listeners. The FM transmitter was later increased to 1kW and covered a wide area.
Reflecting its music policy, Breffni held a number of successful country music awards. In 1986 alone there were two such galas featuring 20 Irish country music artists. There were also successful outside broadcasts from the Oldcastle Agricultural Show in Co. Meath.
In 1987, Breffni purchased a 5 kW AM transmitter from the US but sold it on to another local operator, believed to be KISS FM in Monaghan. Following ongoing coverage problems with 1170 kHz, in March 1988, Breffni moved to 657 kHz giving it stronger local coverage. Bray Local Broadcasting in Co. Wicklow made an official complaint as it was broadcasting on the same frequency. In June 1988 a sister station of Breffni, Galtee Radio, took to the airwaves in Limerick and broadcast the same diet of Irish and American country music. As a result of new broadcasting legislation, Breffni went off the air at midnight on 30th December 1988. The station applied unsuccessfully for a licence and returned for three weeks in November 1989 before being raided.
This recording was made from 95.6 FM from 1457-1544 on 27th December 1988, a few days before closedown. Gerry Boylan is on air and there are plenty of requests and advertising. Many of the ads are voiced by Seán Brady. FM reception is fair with some fading and it appears that this was recorded some distance from the transmitter. We thank John Breslin for the donation.
Midwest Radio was one of the west of Ireland’s most successful pirate stations broadcasting initially for a few months at the end of 1978 and returning full-time from 1985 to the end of 1988.
Midwest was set up by local dancehall promoter Paul Claffey in the garden shed behind his parents’ home in Castlerea, Co. Roscommon. The first broadcast was on September 29th 1978 and the event was reported upon in the Evening Herald of that day. The station played pop and rock music and continued until early 1979. At the time, the pirates were taking off in Dublin leading to the establishment of RTÉ Radio 2 on 31st May which was supposed to silence unlicensed radio.
Claffey had worked on the dancehall scene all over Connacht throughout the 1970s and decided to concentrate on developing his business following the first outing of Midwest. Financial problems struck in the recessionary early 1980s and Claffey struggled with his new venture, the Midas Nightclub in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo. A visiting band suggested that he contact radio engineer Gerry Reilly from Co. Cavan who had installed dozens of transmitters for pirates around the country. Claffey later teamed up with DJ Chris Carroll who raised £1,500 for the transmitter which was installed by Reilly in what he described as a ‘haunted house’ near Ballyhaunis.
Midwest Radio returned to the air on 1332 kHz from the cloakroom of the Midas Nightclub on Monday November 25th 1985. The station broadcast from 10am to 7pm daily but had just two presenters, Claffey and Carroll, both of whom kept up their regular jobs. The first ad was for a local supermarket but after receiving a large electricity bill in early 1986, it was clear that the station needed a more stable income. Midwest closed down for two days while the presenters hit the road to seek more advertisers. The diet of music was Irish and country, hugely popular in rural Ireland in the 1980s but ignored by RTÉ to its cost.
Midwest grew rapidly and by Christmas 1986, commercial breaks could last as long as ten minutes per hour. In 1987, a second AM transmitter was installed by Gerry Reilly in Kiltimagh on 1233 kHz which brought the station to listeners in north Mayo. This was followed by FM transmitters in Achill Island to the west and Balla in the centre of the county. Claffey also launched a live weekly broadcast of a concert from the Midas, ‘Sunday Night Live’, which proved hugely popular with listeners. Busloads of people came from all over Mayo every Sunday night to get in on the action which included competitions and prizes. Claffey himself was regularly on stage at the Midas, as was retired Garda John Duggan who began his career at Midwest when still a serving member of the force. Duggan presented the final show on Midwest before its closure on December 30th 1988 and the station said its final farewell to listeners at a packed concert at the Midas.
There’s an excellent account of the station’s history in Magic and Madness: The Midwest Radio Phenomenon by James Laffey and we are indebted to that book for most of the information in this post. Midwest Radio was one of the few pirates to be licensed in 1989 and remains among Ireland’s most successful local stations.
This recording is from 98.6 FM on 20th November 1988 from 2128 to 2217. It features the lead-in to ‘Sunday Night Live’ with Johnny Oosten which includes a fantastic musical tribute to Midwest a month before its closure. This is followed by John Duggan hosting live from the Midas. We thank John Breslin for donating this recording and James Laffey for assisting us with sourcing photos.
We are delighted to host a documentary about the 1980s pirates in and around Athlone, Co. Westmeath with the kind permission of Athlone Community Radio.
‘Heartland Pirates’ was originally broadcast on 2nd November 2020 from 1700-1755 and features stations such as Signal 102, Midland Radio and Radio Carol Ann. Among those taking part are many of those involved in the original Athlone pirates including Pete Casey, TR Dallas, Noel Lackey, Roy Jennings, Peter Mooney, Geraldine O’Sullivan, Barry Flynn, Val Beaumont and Gerry O’Reilly. Our own interview with Gerry is available here.
‘Heartland Pirates’ was edited and produced by Athlone Community Radio manager Irena Djak Cvetkovic. The documentary was supported by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the television licence fee. For further information, click here.