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.
Limerick really punched above its weight in the golden age of pirate radio prior to 1989. There is some good material online about the Limerick stations including a blog about Big L, Liam Byrne’s radio site, the DX Archive Limerick pages and our own entries featuring Limerick. This recording from July 1986 provides a snapshot of one of the city’s lesser-known pirates at the time, the Munster Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) which despite the grandiose name operated from a tiny attic studio on Catherine Street in the city centre.
MBC was linked to earlier Limerick stations Radio Vera and Radio Munster. A corporation it wasn’t, and it certainly didn’t broadcast to the whole of Munster, although there were some ads from Tipperary and they claimed to have three FM frequencies covering Limerick, Clare and Tipperary. There was nothing remarkable about the music on MBC – it was the usual diet of the Top 40 – but it was a presenter calling himself Will Rogers who made an impact during our short visit to Limerick in 1986. He did a lunchtime show and also voiced most of the ads and jingles in one of the stranger mid-Atlantic accents of pirate radio in the 1980s.
We’ve covered the Limerick pirate scene regularly in this archive and there’s no doubt that despite its size, Limerick punched above its weight in radio terms during the pirate era. We’re delighted to bring you an interview with Ger Sweeney who worked in many of the city’s stations from the early 1980s.
Ger began broadcasting when only 13 years old on Raidió Luimní run by the popular character John ‘The Man’ Frawley from 1978 to 1988. Raidió Luimní was a community station with a difference featuring local characters, death notices and all sorts of eclectic programming.
Ger moved to City Centre Radio (CCR) in 1985 where production standards were higher and the emphasis was on pop music. He switched to Hits 954 in 1987, a slicker station featuring many former Radio Caroline presenters. His final stint with pirate radio was with Coast 103 in Galway up to the closedown at the end of 1988. The interviewer is John Walsh.
Ger went on to work in licensed local stations Clare FM and Radio Limerick One. You can hear a documentary about the Limerick pirates here and another interview about Limerick pirate history here.
‘Limerick a Radio City’ documents the history and development of radio in limerick city, from the ground-breaking broadcasts of Jim O’Carroll in the 1930s, the pirate heyday of the 70s and 80s, to the current licensed stations that exist there today.
The story is told by the pirates themselves most of whom progressed to legal licensed stations and some who still currently work in the licensed radio industry. Their anecdotal accounts are both factual as well as entertaining, as they describe the characters and incidents, especially throughout the 70s and 80s pirate era. Brushes with the law, the freedom and fun of alternative radio, the flamboyant talent and the positive impact pirate radio had on modern broadcasting, ‘Limerick a Radio City’ has got it all.
In this interview, John Walsh visited Limerick and spoke with anorak Liam Byrne who has all the details on the old Limerick pirate radio scene from the late 1970s to the pirate Radio Limerick One in the 1990s and beyond. This interview was first broadcast on Wireless on Flirt FM.