Full recording: Radio Carousel (Dundalk)

Full recording: Radio Carousel (Dundalk)
Radio Carousel sticker courtesy of Ian Biggar.

In early 1978 and following a split from the backers who were to form Radio Dundalk, a newspaper report appeared stating that a ‘Borderside Radio’ would start transmissions to the Dundalk area. This was apparently the working title for the new radio station that would be fronted by Hugh Hardy. Hugh made a fact-finding trip to Big D Radio in Dublin and ‘poached’ some of their DJs, namely Kieran Murray, Eric Vaughan and John Paul. An initial rudimentary studio was constructed on the top floor of the Dundalk Shopping Centre and an aerial mast built on the roof. All was ready to go, except the station didn’t have a name. Kieran Murray spotted a K-Tel album called ‘Carousel’, containing the song ‘Don’t stop the carousel’ by Roy Taylor and the Nevada. Radio Carousel was born with a ready-made station theme!

The station transmitter was built by Bill Ebrill and installed behind the studio. Power output was given as 350 watts and initial frequency was 1134 kHz, announced as 265 metres. The station remained around this spot throughout its life, although a change was made to 1125 kHz. The station officially signed on air on Saturday May 20th 1978 and immediately established itself with the listening public. Daily broadcasts were initially from 0800-2200 and the station positioned itself as having ‘something for everybody’, from pop to country, golden oldies to new releases, Irish dance music to Tamla Motown and from the big band sounds of Glen Miller to the modern sounds of Horslips and Rory Gallagher. Full national and local news bulletins were broadcast daily at 1.15 and 6.15.

Full recording: Radio Carousel (Dundalk)
Press advertisement for Radio Carousel, undated (Alan MacSimoin collection).

It didn’t take long before the Department turned their attention to Radio Carousel and the station was raided on June 1st, although the transmitter was not located. A further raid on July 7th resulted in the transmitter being taken but Carousel was quickly back on air with a standby rig. The initial listener response to the station was very encouraging. In fact, a petition to legalise Carousel was organised by two local women in Dundalk and gained 23,000 signatures in a very short space of time. The station coverage was not limited to Dundalk and its surrounds, but Radio Carousel had a healthy listenership in Newry, Armagh and other Northern towns. This was obvious from the number of commercials aired from the area. Radio Carousel went from strength to strength in Dundalk, adding an FM outlet on 98.4 MHz in late 1979.

Hugh Hardy always had his eye on expansion and building a network, so Radio Carousel established an outlet in Drogheda. A studio and transmitter were installed in the Boyne Valley Hotel just outside the town and came on air on Sunday February 8th 1980. The station relayed the output from Dundalk, apart from 1100-1200 and 1500-1700 daily when local programmes were broadcast. The station used 1386 kHz and had good coverage of the town and surrounds. However, Carousel did not really establish itself in Drogheda and with competition from Boyneside Radio, it was difficult to get a foothold. The frequency was changed to 1413 kHz around September 1981, just prior to Radio Carousel using 1386 kHz in Navan.

The local programmes from Drogheda became irregular and the main output was simply the relay from Dundalk. Another attempt at local output was made in Spring 1982, but again it was short-lived. Transmissions continued until the latter part of 1982 when the transmitter was switched off. Radio Carousel continued from Dundalk throughout the 1980s on AM and FM with a varying degree of success due to competition from stations like Telstar Radio, as well as Hugh focusing on other ventures.

To the surprise of many, Radio Carousel in the Dundalk Shopping Centre closed in mysterious circumstances. There had been rumours for some time that the station was up for sale, but Hugh Hardy gave the details on the Radio West Anorak Show on 25th January 1987. He explained that Department of Communications officials had visited on the afternoon of Thursday 22nd and ordered the station to cease broadcasting following complaints of interference to mobiles of a licensed operator. The officials would not leave until Hugh gave a commitment to close, which he agreed to do by 2pm on the next day. So after almost 9 years on air, Radio Carousel ceased broadcasting from the Dundalk Shopping Centre at 1pm on Friday January 23rd 1987.

Full recording: Radio Carousel (Dundalk)
A QSL letter from Kieran Murray to Ian Biggar in 1978.

At this point Radio Carousel Navan continued as normal, as well as the Northern Ireland service on 1260 kHz. This was the former Drogheda transmitter which had been installed just inside Co. Louth on the border with Jonesborough, Co. Armagh about a year or so earlier. A studio was installed in the Carrickdale Hotel where live programmes were broadcast by the likes of local personality ‘Big O’ (Oliver McMahon).

By the middle of February, non-stop music was being broadcast on 1125 kHz and it was believed that this could be the return of Radio Carousel from Dundalk, and indeed it was! The transmitter and studios had been installed at the former Radio Dundalk location, the Fairways Hotel on the Dublin Road. Regular transmissions restarted around Monday 1st March 1987. Initially the station relayed the same output as that on 1260 kHz, including Hugh Hardy with ‘Country Call’. Hugh’s intention was to broadcast ‘Country Call’ from the Fairways through the link on 87.6 MHz which would then be relayed on 1260 kHz and 100.67 MHz. While programmes were not being broadcast from Dundalk, the programmes from Carrickcarnon would be re-broadcast. By very early 1988 transmissions from both Dundalk and Carrickcarnon had become erratic and at one point both 1125 kHz and 1260 kHz were relaying Radio Carousel Navan or simply a blank carrier.  The AUK Weekly Report of 10th April 1988 reported that both transmitters had disappeared and that seemed to be the end of Carousel operations in Co. Louth.

The recording above is of Eric Vaughan on Radio Carousel from 1415-1455 on 18th December 1978. Audio quality is fair at best because the recording was made in Blackpool without an external aerial. It includes the song ‘Disco Duck’ by Rick Dees who would go on to become a famous DJ on American radio and of course on Radio Nova in Dublin. The voice of Hugh Hardy can be heard on adverts. We thank Ian Biggar for compiling this entry and Gary Hogg for the recording.

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.

Full recording: KLAS 98 (Dublin)

Full recording: KLAS 98 (Dublin)
KLAS logo from 1986 from Alan MacSimoin collection.

KLAS 98 (later Class) was an easy listening station which broadcast to Dublin from November 1986 until the closedowns of December 1988. It was set up by the founder of the Radio Carousel network, Hugh Hardy, and based first at a garage behind his north Dublin home. News bulletins from KLAS and overnight programming were relayed on occasion from Dublin to the Carousel stations in Navan and Dundalk. After Hardy stepped back in early 1988, KLAS moved to Dame Street in the city centre and was managed by David Baker. It then moved to Harcourt Street where it was taken over by television aerial salesman John J. May.

This recording from 98.5 FM is of Hugh Hardy presenting on the 26th of December 1986 from 1637-1722. News is read by a very young John Walsh. The voice of the late Bob Gallico is heard on an advert. There are no time checks or references to St. Stephen’s Day in the links so this could be one of the automated 8-hour VHS tapes used by KLAS for overnights.

John Walsh has written his memories of KLAS here and we have further recordings in the archive here. This recording is courtesy of DX Archive.

Aircheck: Radio Carousel (Navan)

Aircheck: Radio Carousel (Navan)
Image courtesy of Ian Biggar

This is an aircheck of a full day’s broadcasting on Radio Carousel Navan on the 28th of April 1983. The station was one of four in the Radio Carousel network in Counties Louth and Meath and along the border which by 1982 was claiming to cover 30% of Ireland from Belfast to north Dublin. The recording begins at 8am and includes presenters Kieran Murray (who also does news), Tina Anderson, station boss Hugh Hardy on a relay from Dundalk, Mike Ahern (aka Richard McCullen), Robbie Byrne and Nick Butler. The studio was situated in a glass booth in the middle of Navan shopping centre, showing that the days of pirates hidden in sheds and attics were over.

Carousel began broadcasting from Dundalk on the 19th of May 1978 and gradually expanded throughout the region. A 1982 advertising brochure lists four stations in Dundalk (265 metres), Drogheda (215 metres), Navan (210 metres) and Newry (212 metres). There was also a short-lived station in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan. By April 1988 the Carousel network was being wound up by Hugh Hardy who moved into video production and promotion of live artists. Radio Carousel Navan was the last station on air, closing in June 1988. Hear a panel discussion on the Louth pirates here and the memories of former Carousel broadcaster Ian Biggar here.

Aircheck: Radio Carousel (Navan)
Image courtesy of Ian Biggar.

Radio Carousel Navan announced 210 metres but in fact broadcast on 1386 kHz as well as 95.1 FM. This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.

Interview: Ian Biggar (part 2: ERI, Zee 103)

Interview: Ian Biggar (part 2: ERI, Zee 103)
John Walsh interviewing Ian Biggar

Here is the second part of our interview with one-time broadcaster and long-time Irish pirate radio enthusiast Ian Biggar, recorded at his home in Harrogate in England.

In this part, Ian remembers his involvement with ERI in Cork and Zee 103 in Omeath, Co. Louth in the 1980s. He also tells us how he recorded thousands of hours of Irish pirates over the past 40 years and gives his views on the radio scene today.