This is a flavour of some of the final day of the Monaghan pirate station KISS FM that rocked the radio world along the border and in Northern Ireland during its short nine months on air in 1988. Other Irish pirates had tried and failed to break the Belfast market and in November 1987, engineer Miles Johnston decided to set up a high powered FM station right on the border with proper coverage of the North. KISS FM came on the air on AM and FM in March 1988 and quickly made a mark, much to the consternation of the local ILR station, Downtown Radio, in Belfast. Its FM signal was so powerful that it could be heard in stereo in Scotland and Downtown attempted to have the Monaghan station jammed and raided.
The recording above is of the final 45 minutes of KISS FM on December 30th 1988 from 1720-1805. Tom Hardy, who worked previously on Radio Caroline, Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova, is in the DJ’s chair and is joined by Miles Johnston, Susan Charles and Dennis Murray. In an echo of the famous Radio Nova closedown in 1983, Tom asks motorists to blow their horns at 6pm and they duly oblige.
The recording below is of part of the final shows of Owen Barry (Larkin) and Dennis Murray from 1132-1210. Both were made from 103.7 FM and are courtesy of John Breslin.
For a comprehensive account of the 1988 closedowns, see the Radiowaves site.
This three-minute clip includes highlights related to the transnational nature of Irish pirate radio in the late 1970s and 1980s. By accident or design, stations were heard beyond the borders of the Irish state on FM and especially on AM and there were also part-time shortwave operators aimed at international DXers.
The first segment is of Arklow Community Radio as heard by the late British radio enthusiast Leon Tipler on FM in Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast on 13th August 1983. This is followed by a night-time recording of Radio Nova playing a request for Leon at his home in Kidderminster in the English midlands on 17th September 1982.
The third segment is the iconic top-of-the-hour ident of Radio Nova recorded on 17th July 1984. This is voiced by station boss Chris Cary who stresses that Nova broadcasts from and not to Dublin on 738 kHz. The AM transmitter was using 50 kW at the time in order to reach the British market.
The fourth segment is of KISS FM, a high-powered FM and AM station based in Monaghan on the border and aiming its signal at the lucrative Belfast market. This was recorded in Scotland on 13th June 1988. The firth extract is an advert on the Louth station Boyneside Radio promoting a céilí in an Irish centre in Lankashire. Although recorded in Ireland, it is evidence that Boyneside had listeners across the Irish Sea. The final extract is from August 1985 and features one of the many Irish shortwave stations that aimed at international audiences. Radio Rainbow International broadcast on 6240 kHz but this is a studio recording.
These recordings are from our various collections and are discussed in more detail in our podcast focusing on the transnational nature of Irish pirate radio.
‘Malcolm’s Problems’ was a comedy segment broadcast on the Monaghan super-pirate KISS FM which was on air for just eight months in 1988. It was a regular feature on the show presented by Owen Barry (aka Larkin), who was a familiar voice on stations in the northeast during the pirate era. Owen did all the voices and was co-producer of the inserts along with the late Roland Burke.
This is the final edition of ‘Malcolm’s Problems’ which was broadcast at 3pm on Christmas Day 1988, just a few days before KISS FM closed down. The station left the air at just after 6pm on 30th December. Despite its short existence, KISS FM shook up the staid radio landscape in Northern Ireland by beaming its powerful signal into Belfast and beyond.
We thank John Breslin for his donation of this recording.
We’re delighted to announce episode #2 of the Pirate.ie podcast which explores themes covered in our growing archive of Irish pirate radio.
AM broadcasting, widely used by the pirates up to the end of the 1980s, allowed radio signals to travel far and wide beyond the borders of the state. Even small stations could be carried long distances thanks to the magic of night-time AM propagation but dozens of pirates along the border deliberately beamed their signals northwards. With 50 kW of power at its peak, the Dublin super-pirate Radio Nova aimed specifically at the northwest coast of Britain. Ireland also had many hobby shortwave pirates which could be heard thousands of miles from home.
In episode #2, John Walsh and Brian Greene explore how AM spillover, both accidental and deliberate, brought the Irish pirates to a bigger audience.
KITS was one of the many ‘border blasters’, stations which popped up along the border during the 1980s and beamed their signals north in the search for advertising and listeners. KITS went on air towards the era of the pirate era on 19th December 1987 and broadcast from Monaghan town on 837 kHz AM and 101 FM. The station closed on 31st December 1988 in line with new broadcasting legislation.
Although less powerful than its audacious neighbour KISS FM – which aimed unashamedly at the Belfast market – KITS had its own strong following on both sides of the border and marketed itself as ‘Ulster’s favourite music station’. Here is its jingle package from our own collection. Listen to an interview with Gareth O’Connor about KITS here.