Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh (RIP) on Bray Local Broadcasting

Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh (RIP) on Bray Local Broadcasting
Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh (top left) at the launch of Raidió na Life in 1993 (courtesy Saol/Raidió na Life).

We were saddened to learn of the death on 17th November 2021 of Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh, a pioneering broadcaster with Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) in the 1980s. After developing Irish language programmes on BLB, Rónán went on to be the manager of the licensed Irish language station Raidió na Life in 1993.

BLB was one of the leaders in local community broadcasting during the pirate era and played a key role in the National Association of Community Broadcasters (NACB) which lobbied for licensed community radio. It began broadcasting in 1979 and continued until the closedowns at the end of 1988, making it one of the country’s longest-running pirate stations. As a community station, BLB prided itself on catering for minority groups and audiences served poorly by mainstream radio, including Irish speakers in its catchment area of north Wicklow and south Dublin. Irish was marginal on pirate radio, particularly among commercial stations, but community radio across the country regularly broadcast programmes in Irish. There were also Irish language pirate stations such as Saor-Raidió Chonamara in the Connemara Gaeltacht in 1970 (which led to the establishment of Raidió na Gaeltachta) and Raidió an Phobail in Dublin in 1979.

Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh (RIP) on Bray Local Broadcasting
BLB car sticker (courtesy of DX Archive).

Mar stáisiún pobail, chuir BLB roimhe freastal ar ghrúpaí mionlaigh agus daoine nach raibh freastal mar is ceart á dhéanamh orthu ag na stáisiúin mhóra raidió, ina measc cainteoirí Gaeilge i dtuaisceart Chill Mhantáin agus deisceart Bhaile Átha Cliath. Bhí an Ghaeilge imeallach ar an raidió bradach, go háirithe ar na stáisiúin tráchtála, ach craoladh cláracha Gaeilge ar stáisiúin raidió pobail ar fud na tíre. Bhí stáisiúin bhradacha Ghaeilge ann chomh maith, ina measc Saor-Radio Chonamara i nGaeltacht Chonamara in 1970 (a thug ann do Raidió na Gaeltachta) agus Raidió an Phobail i mBaile Átha Cliath in 1979.

This is an extract from the final half hour (2030-2100) of one of BLB’s Irish language programmes Timchuairt Bhré (a trip around Bray), presented by Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh on 9th November 1983. Rónán went on to present Irish language programmes on the successor licensed station to BLB, Horizon Radio (John Walsh of Pirate.ie also worked on those programmes) and he became the first manager of the licensed Raidió na Life in 1993. The recording features Irish traditional and folk music and is followed by the station closedown at 2100.

Seo í an leathuair an chloig deireanach (2030-2100) de cheann de chláracha Gaeilge BLB, Timchuairt Bhré, á chur i láthair ag Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh ar 9 Samhain 1983. Lean Rónán air ag cur cláracha Gaeilge i láthair ar Horizon Radio, an stáisiún ceadúnaithe a tháinig i gcomharbacht ar BLB. D’oibrigh John Walsh ó Pirate.ie ar na cláracha sin chomh maith. Ceapadh Rónán ina chéad bhainisteoir ar an stáisiún ceadúnaithe Raidió na Life in 1993. Ar an taifeadadh seo, cloistear ceol Gaelach agus traidisiúnta agus ina dhiaidh sin dúntar an stáisiún ar 2100.

Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh (RIP) on Bray Local Broadcasting
9 Prince of Wales Terrace, Quinsboro Road, Bray from where BLB broadcast in its later years. Horizon Radio was also based here (photo by John Walsh).

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

Irish language show on KISS FM

Irish language show on KISS FM
KISS FM flyer (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The Irish language was marginal on most of Irish pirate radio, although there were notable exceptions such as Saor-Radio Chonamara (1970), which led to the establishment of RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. The Irish language body Conradh na Gaeilge set up its own station Raidió an Phobail in Dublin in 1979, but it was short-lived and beset with technical problems. In the 1980s, Conradh na Gaeilge collaborated with community stations such as North Dublin Community Radio (NDCR), Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) and Kilkenny Community Radio (KCR), which had Irish programmes. Belfast’s licensed Irish language community station, Raidió Fáilte, has its roots in a pirate dating back to the 1980s. Other niche stations featured some Irish, such as Radio na nGael in Swords in north Co. Dublin, and Irish was used occasionally on the irregular stations run by republican groups.

Bhí an Ghaeilge imeallach ar an raidió bradach den chuid is mó, cé go raibh eisceachtaí ann ar nós Saor-Radio Chonamara a spreag bunú RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. In 1979, bhí stáisiún dá chuid féin ag Conradh na Gaeilge, Raidió an Phobail ach bhí fadhbanna teicniúla aige. Ina dhiaidh sin, thacaigh an Conradh le cláracha Gaeilge ar na stáisiúin bhradacha phobail ar fud na tíre. Ba mar stáisiún bradach a thosaigh Raidió Fáilte i mBéal Feirste. Bhíodh roinnt Gaeilge ar shainstáisiúin eile ar nós Radio na nGael agus stáisiúin ócáideacha á rith ag poblachtánaigh.

Irish was notably absent on commercial radio, although some stations offered discounts to advertisers using Irish. This is a rare recording of an Irish programme on none other than the Radio Nova offshoot, KISS FM. It was made from 1005-1112 on Sunday 3rd April 1983 and the presenter is Jim Cotter. Most notable is the use of Irish to present the chart hits, something that was unheard of in Irish radio at the time. Presenting contemporary pop music in Irish was very far-sighted of Chris Cary and was an approach that would be adopted by the licensed station Raidió na Life in Dublin from 1993. RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta banned songs with English lyrics until 2005, and even then only after 9pm. There has been an online Irish language chart music station, Raidió Rí-Rá, since 2008.

Bhí an Ghaeilge in easnamh ar fad, nach mór, ar an raidió tráchtála, cé gur thairg stáisiúin áirithe lascaine d’fhógraí Gaeilge. Seo taifeadadh neamhchoitianta de chlár Gaeilge ar KISS FM, fostáisiún de chuid Radio Nova. Údar suntais is ea an Ghaeilge a úsáid chun popcheol comhaimseartha a chur i láthair, rud nach ndéantaí ar an raidió in Éirinn ag an am. Ghlacfadh sé deich mbliana eile go dtí go ndéanfaí a leithéid go rialta nuair a bunaíodh Raidió na Life i mBaile Átha Cliath in 1993. Bhí cosc ar liricí Béarla ar RnaG go dtí 2005. Tá an stáisiún popcheoil Raidió Rí-Rá ag sruthú ar líne ó 2008.

This recording is courtesy of Ian Biggar and DX Archive.