Today we bring you another recording from the first few weeks of Sunshine Radio, the station which broke the mould of Irish pirate radio when it launched officially on 29th September 1980.
The recording runs from 0953-1006 and again from 1013-1041 on 19th October 1980. It’s a cold and sunny Sunday morning and Jason Maine is in a relaxed vibe. The early Sunshine slogan ‘the dance station of the 80s’ is heard intermittently. This was used until around Christmas when the format changed to Top 40 and oldies. There are ads voiced by Tony Allan for the Sands Hotel where Sunshine was based and Tamango’s Nightclub next door. Jason also announces thousands of pounds’ worth of prizes in the coming week, a sign that Sunshine meant business.
This recording was made from 531 kHz by Ken Baird in Ayrshire in Scotland and co-channel interference can be heard from the Swiss German station underneath. Many thanks to Ian Biggar for sharing it with us.
2020 is the 40th anniversary of one of Ireland’s biggest pirate radio stations, Sunshine Radio, which broadcast from Portmarnock on the northside of Dublin from 1980-1988. The first broadcast took place on Saturday 13th September 1980 from the kitchen of Suite 101 in the Sands Hotel overlooking the Irish Sea. The frequency was 531 kHz, announced as 539 metres to rhyme with Sunshine as the correct conversion is in fact 565 metres. Backing the new venture were former Radio Caroline DJs Robbie Robinson (Dale) and Chris Cary who had spotted the opportunities for successful commercial radio in Ireland due to the loophole in the broadcasting laws.
Sunshine’s 100-foot high aerial which had cost £5,000 was sabotaged on the following Monday 15th September, setting back the plans for the station’s launch. The station began broadcasting officially at 7am on Monday 29th September 1980 and among those on air on the first day were Robbie Robinson, Chris Cary and Tony Allan. They would soon be joined by other DJs such as Tony Fenton, Peter Madison, Declan Meehan and Manon Christie who was Robinson’s daughter.
There was talk of a 10 kW transmitter but with the help of an excellent antenna and coastal location, the output of 1 kW travelled well on 531 kHz and reception reports were received from around Leinster, northwest England, Wales and parts of Scotland. Chris Cary left Sunshine in January 1981 and went on to set up Radio Nova. By investing in professional equipment, running high-powered transmitters, pushing FM stereo, employing professional staff and operating a business model, between them the two stations broke the mould of Irish pirate radio. As the Sunshine Radio Review marking the station’s 5th birthday in 1985 claimed: ‘The station’s professionalism soon endeared it to listeners all over Leinster. This was the first “pirate” that didn’t sound deserving of the label’.
We are delighted to bring you some rare early recordings of Sunshine in the station’s first few weeks, courtesy of Ian Biggar. These were made originally by Ken Baird in Ayrshire in Scotland using a Grundig Satellit 3400 with long wire. Depending on the time of day, there was co-channel interference from a powerful Swiss German station also on 531 kHz but the signal is quite listenable considering the distance involved. Despite the less than optimal quality, these are important historical recordings given the significance of Sunshine in Irish radio history.
Over the next few days we will bring you a flavour of the weekend of 18th and 19th October 1980 on Sunshine, as recorded in Ayrshire. The first recording is of Jason Maine from 0930-1016 on Saturday 18th October.
This recording of Dublin super-pirate Q102 from May 1988 was made just before it was relaunched as ‘Super Q 102’. The new format was the work of American radio consultant Bill Cunningham, who had transformed Sunshine Radio into ‘Sunshine Hot Hits 101’ in 1986. Q102 had acquired the transmitters and equipment of Energy 103 the previous March and, along with Sunshine, was one of the two biggest players in the Dublin pirate radio market.
The recording is from 1218-1340 on the 17th of May 1988 and features Jason Maine, followed by the start of Greg Gaughran’s show. There are regular mysterious promos for the new ‘super sounds’ format to be launched within hours, and a competition to win tickets to the Michael Jackson concert in Cork at the end of July. The recording also contains advertisements for the Mosney holiday centre north of Dublin (now a direct provision centre for asylum seekers), an event to choose Miss Ireland 1988 at Rumour’s Nightclub, regular promos for the Evening Herald small ads and a Tony Allan voiceover for Bewley’s coffee.
We thank Ian Biggar for his donation of this recording.
In the second part of our extended interview, long-time broadcaster Declan Meehan discusses his move from Sunshine to Radio Nova in 1982 which was by then the biggest station in Dublin. He tells us how Chris Cary copied the sound of KIIS FM in Los Angeles to bring a new broadcasting style to Ireland. Despite his love for Radio Nova, Declan left the station because of the bitter NUJ strike in 1984. Although he moved into licensed radio in the UK and Ireland after that, Declan’s involvement with the pirates didn’t quite end there. The interview concludes with Declan’s thoughts on the pirate legacy and his views on the state of radio today.
You can hear the first part of this interview here.