Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 7)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 7)
Part of ‘The Irish Pirates’ from the Leon Tipler Collection (photo by Brian Greene).

Continuing with Part 3 of Leon Tipler’s documentary ‘The Irish Pirates’, we hear more from the Cork radio scene in 1983 and also learn about the Limerick pirates. The hour begins with a visit to the 10 kW South Coast Radio AM transmitter site in Cork in the company of John Lewis. That is followed by a visit to ERI and an interview with veteran broadcaster Don Allen. There is also a rare insight into the earliest days of the Cork pirates in an interview with Con McParland. Tipler then continues to Limerick where he calls into two local stations, Big L and Raidió Luimní. The episode concludes with interviews with Mike Richardson of Big L and the popular John ‘the Man’ Frawley of Raidió Luimní.

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 7)
Big L logo, courtesy of DX Archive.

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

Index to Volume 7

00:00 Visit to South Coast Radio TX site
09:11 Visit to ERI studios
16:30 Interview with Don Allen
25:00 ERI heard in UK
26:10 John Lewis on South Coast Radio
27:45 Interview with Con McParland of Radio Sundown
30:00 Visit to Limerick
30:50 Raidió Luimní
33:00 Big L
35:00 Visit to Big L
36:50 Interview with Mike Richardson
44:05 John ‘the Man’ Frawley on Raidió Luimní
46:06 Visit to Raidió Luimní
49:00 Interview with John ‘the Man’ Frawley

Full recording: Coast 103 (Galway)

Full recording: Coast 103 (Galway)
Coast 103 compliments slip courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

Coast 103 was on air for 18 months in 1987 and 1988 and was the last of the large commercial Galway stations of the era. It emerged from WLS Music Radio and began testing on the 10th of July 1987 as Coast 100. The station was set up by Steve Marshall and Keith York (RIP) who had been involved in both WLS and an earlier station, Atlantic Sound. Coast was located at 24 Prospect Hill, the same address as WLS. It soon moved to 103 FM and added a 1 kW transmitter on 1566 kHz AM. According to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report, the backers were Keith York himself, another pirate station WKLR in Bandon and a number of Galway businessmen.

In April 1988 the Limerick station Hits 954 closed and merged with Coast 103, calling itself Coast Hot Hits and covering Galway, Clare and Limerick. The original Hits 954 AM transmitter was used to relay the Galway signal although there were problems with the antenna and power was never too high. There is poor audio quality on this promo for the new station, voiced by Stuart Clark, recorded from AM in Limerick.  

Promo for the merged Coast Hot Hits, courtesy of Liam Byrne.

A chain of FM transmitters was installed between Galway and Limerick allowing FM reception to the south almost as far as Cork city and well into counties Kerry, Tipperary. The Galway FM transmitter, with an estimated maximum power of 3 kW ERP was brought to a higher location to allow improved reception to the north into Counties Mayo and Roscommon. The AM signal could be heard in Scotland but FM was the priority in the station’s last year. Coast Hot Hits was one of a number of stations to carry the satellite service Radio Nova International on overnights in 1988. It also made a number of successful outside broadcasts from Limerick and Galway. In the competitive Galway pirate scene of 1988, there was intense rivalry with the other big station County Sound. Coast presenters included Tony Allan, Steve Marshall, Stuart Clark, Brian Walsh, Ger Sweeney and Shane Martin. The station closed at the end of 1988 in line with the new broadcasting legislation. You can listen here to an interview with Ger Sweeney in which he remembers his time at Coast.

This recording, courtesy of Ian Biggar of DX Archive, is from the 1st of November 1988 from 1113-1200 and features Steve Marshall on air with the great Tony Allan’s voice on many ads and promos.

Full recording: Raidió Luimní (Limerick)

Full recording: Raidió Luimní (Limerick)
1988 clipping from the Limerick Leader about John ‘the Man’ Frawley, courtesy of Eddie Bohan

One of the longest-serving pirates in the country from 1978 to 1988, Raidió Luimní had many loyal listeners in its core area of Limerick, Clare and Tipperary due largely to the unique broadcasting style of its owner the late John ‘the Man’ Frawley. After installing a new AM transmitter on 1125 kHz in 1985, the signal could be heard further afield, adding to the station’s listenership and Frawley’s popularity.

Here’s another recording of John ‘the Man’ from the 5th and 6th of November 1984 featuring his quirky mixture of gossip, news and music which was unrivalled on Irish radio at the time or arguably since. In the first part of the recording, Frawley lends his support to the local campaign against the water tax in advance of a court case on November 6th. He attempted to enter politics himself, standing in the 1981 and February 1982 elections but polling poorly despite his popularity as a broadcaster.

The recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin. You can hear more of the Limerick pirates here.

Full recording: Raidió Luimní (Limerick)

Full recording: Raidió Luimní (Limerick)
Raidió Luimní notepaper, courtesy of Ger Sweeney

We’ve covered the Limerick scene regularly on this page as it had many notable pirates in the late 1970s and 1980s. One of the more memorable stations was Raidió Luimní run by the inimitable John ‘the Man’ Frawley (RIP) from 1978 to 1988.

Full recording: Raidió Luimní (Limerick)
John ‘the Man’ Frawley on air. Photo courtesy of

This recording, courtesy of Ian Biggar, is of John the Man on his popular breakfast programme from 0734-0855 on the 20th of April 1983. The shorter recording below from the 17th of August 1981 is courtesy of Liam Byrne. You can hear plenty more about the Limerick pirates here.

Full recording: WRKY Rocky 103

Full recording: WRKY Rocky 103
WRKY flyer from 1985 courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive

WRKY Rocky 103 broadcast from Co. Kerry under different guises and from different locations. It was launched in September 1984 in Killarney on 103.2 FM with a repeater to the south in Farranfore on 97.2 FM. WRKY emerged from Mike Richardson’s popular Big L Radio in Limerick which closed in April 1985. In 1986 WRKY was hit by scandal when £10,000 raised as part of the global Sport Aid initiative went missing along with one of its presenters. In September Phoenix magazine reported that staff at WRKY walked out after demanding a pay rise from station owner Donal O’Doherty, having been offered more money by another local businessman planning to set up a rival, unnamed station.

Horizon Radio was a spin-off of WRKY set up in June 1986 by Mike Richardson and Francis Jones. It began in Killorglin but later moved to a hotel near Tralee before closing in 1987. Richardson ran a station called Rocky 103 from Listowel in north Kerry in 1988. Thanks to Ian Biggar, Liam Byrne and Martin Ryan for additional information.

This recording from 103 FM from 1.03pm was made on Friday the 7th of June 1985. The presenter is unidentified but sports news is read by Vincent Casey and news is read by Mary O’Sullivan at 1.30pm. The format is a mixture of pop, Irish showband and country and there are community notices and ads for local traders. The recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin. Further jingles can be heard below.

WRKY jingles courtesy of Liam Byrne.