A day on Radio Dublin from 1978

A day on Radio Dublin from 1978
Radio Dublin sticker (courtesy DX Archive).

This unique recording is of an entire day’s programming on Radio Dublin from Monday 20th February 1978, including some DJs who would go on to become household names on local and national radio. Starting just after 8am, DJ Sarge comments on the cold weather and heavy snow outside. He is followed at 9.30 by Gerry Campbell and at 1pm by James Dillon. DJ Sylvie takes over at 4pm and the Mike Eastwood request show begins at 6pm. Denis Murray is on from 8-10pm and the night’s programming is completed by John Clarke from 10pm until midnight.

Radio Dublin had been broadcasting continuously since January 1978 and built up a loyal listenership across Dublin. This recording contains plenty of ads, some pre-recorded and some read live by DJs, and various segments of the day are sponsored by different businesses. The station’s iconic ‘253’ jingles are heard regularly also, an early branding exercise by Irish pirate radio. A separate recording of part of the James Dillon show, undated but also from February 1978, is heard below.

James Dillon show from February 1978.

Two months later, James Dillon led a walk-out of most Radio Dublin staff following allegations that station owner Eamonn Cooke was involved in child abuse. Dillon formed a breakaway station, the Big D, which lasted until 1982. Radio Dublin closed down permanently in 2002 following Cooke’s conviction for sexually abusing children. He was jailed in 2003 and again in 2007 and died in 2016 while on temporary release. If you require support with this issue, you can contact the organisation One in Four.

This recording is from the Anoraks Ireland Tapes Collection, donated to us by Paul Davidson.

Interview with John Clarke of Radio Nova

Interview with John Clarke of Radio Nova
John Clarke in Radio Nova in 1983 (photo courtesy of Svenn Martinsen)

This is the original full recording of an interview by Leon Tipler with veteran DJ John Clarke on Radio Nova in September 1982. It was conducted in studio in the busy period leading up to 6pm and John chats away in between lining up music and ads on carts. An edited version was included in the documentary series ‘The Irish Pirates’.

He speaks about the history of Nova and describes the differences between it and its great rival, Sunshine Radio. Chris Cary wanted to begin broadcasting on FM and pushed a ‘clutter-free’ format with sweeps of music. The reaction from listeners was very positive from the start and Nova was soon a hit in boutiques, shops and factories with advertising flooding in. AM came later and the powerful signal increased the station’s popularity even more.

John also discusses the recent RTÉ jamming of Nova and a survey that established Nova’s dominance in the Dublin market. He says that most listeners to Nova and Sunshine were unaware of their pirate status because of the stations’ professionalism. The interview concludes with a mention of Kieran Murray’s Free Radio Campaign and the importance of logging pirate radio history. We’ll second that!

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

John Clarke on KELO

John Clarke on KELO
KELO flyer (courtesy of Dave Daly).

KELO began broadcasting officially on 16th March 1981 from Swords in north Co. Dublin. This recording is of veteran broadcaster John Clarke from the following day, St. Patrick’s Day. John, who went on to work in Radio Nova and RTÉ, remembers his early involvement in KELO and believes the station’s achievements should be recognised:

‘Pirate radio from the mid-70s was forever evolving, with every station that appeared seeking to be better than the previous one. In the early incarnations, studios were in bedrooms and outhouses, with enthusiasts arriving with whatever records they had and playing them. Some were hobby DJs, others had a passion for music, others had the additional influences of the pirate ships of the 60s, in particular Radio Caroline North during the day and Radio Caroline South at night. In Ireland from 1975 pirate radio (‘unlicensed commercial’ is a better way to describe the stations) was evolving quickly, talent was beginning to shine through, technology was advancing and engineers were creative. In the early 80s the landscape was preparing for the super-pirates (Sunshine and Radio Nova), but in advance of their arrival a new station began broadcasting on 244 metres. It was once said a station is as good as its signal, so it’s worth mentioning Peter Gibney who built a great rig. By 1981 the standard of DJ had vastly improved and likeminded people gravitated to each other. And so it was with KELO. I found a set of jingles (from an American station) and these were used, giving the station a professional sound. All the DJs recruited had worked their way through many of the early pirates. Davitt Kelly, an early pioneer, did the recruiting. Brendan Lawless was the station owner and its studios were located in north Co. Dublin (Swords). The studio was well-equipped and of a high standard in its day’.

‘But what was different and unique about the station was the music: it was Top 40 in format with the addition of quality album tracks. It had a playlist of 40 songs but not necessarily 40 hits of the day, it was the station Top 40. Everyone was in unison in wanting to play these core songs. We all contributed to albums that would sound good on the station. And there was free choice as well, four an hour, but every jock used their own knowledge to mix and match what was played across any given programme. So, there was a quality control to the overall sound. The standard of jock was good, with a few showing signs of real radio talent, some of whom went on the have long careers in the industry. Another piece of the jigsaw at KELO was that the station played records in sweeps of twos and threes and kept the mindless DJ patter to a minimum. It was the humble beginnings of ‘clutter free’, which later became a benchmark for the super-pirate Radio Nova (Nova for 5 years became one of the most successful commercial radio operations in these isles). KELO rightly deserves a chapter in the radio history books, as it did something different and became successful’.

John Clarke on KELO
KELO transmitter (photo courtesy of DX Archive).

This recording of John Clarke begins at 1454 on 17th March 1981 and was recorded in Scotland by Ken Baird, hence the DX reception. Thanks to John and Ian Biggar for their assistance. Listen here to an interview with Dave Daly about his memories of KELO.

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 3)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 3)
Some of the episodes of ‘The Irish Pirates’ as found in the Leon Tipler Collection (photo by Brian Greene).

Volumes 3 and 4 of Leon Tipler’s ‘The Irish Pirates’ make up Part 2 of the documentary. The third recording focuses mostly on Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova, the new superpirates which emerged in Dublin in the early 1980s. Tipler begins by visiting Sunshine Radio in 1981 and interviews its director Robbie Robinson. He tours the Sunshine studios in Portmarnock and hears its professional jingles produced by Alfasound. The documentary covers the controversy caused by politicians appearing on pirate radio and the coverage given by Sunshine to community events in its area. The episode also includes a feature on Community Radio Fingal in north Dublin in 1982. It ends with a visit to the Radio Nova studios at Herbert Street and a long interview with Nova boss Chris Cary.

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.

Index of Volume 3

00:00 1981 visit to Sunshine
01.38 Interview with Robbie Robinson
07:06 Sunshine jingles
08:35 Visit to Sunshine studios
11:30 Establishment of Radio Nova
14:52 Irish Association of Independent Broadcasters
15:30 Controversy over politicians on pirate radio
18:15 Sunshine covering community events
24:40 1982 visit to Community Radio Fingal
33:15 Visit to Radio Nova in Herbert Street
34:15 Interview with John Clarke
40:55 KISS FM
43:09 Interview with Chris Cary

Interview: Declan Meehan (part 2: 1982-1989)

Interview: Declan Meehan (part 2: 1982-1989)
Declan Meehan and John Walsh at East Coast FM in Bray where Declan has worked since 1994.

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.