The Free Radio Show that survived a raid but was never broadcast

The Free Radio Show that survived a raid but was never broadcast
The Radio Rainbow International transmitter (courtesy of Kieran Murray).

Kieran Murray was a well-known voice on the pirates from the late 1970s and had a deep knowledge of the Irish scene, presenting Free Radio Shows on various stations. Here, he shares a fascinating story about one programme that was never broadcast due to a raid by the authorities but survived nonetheless.

When I left Radio Carousel (Navan) to join Boyneside Radio in early 1985, Eddie Caffrey told me about the shortwave station he had been running called Radio Rainbow International. The station broadcast each Sunday morning, 09:00 to about 13:00, on 6240 kHz (in the 48-meter band) and with a powerful signal, using about 500 watts, it reached most of Europe and beyond.

The Free Radio Show that survived a raid but was never broadcast
Radio Rainbow International logo (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The format was oldies, requests and relays for other pirate radio stations (mostly from those in other European countries that risked being raided in their own countries if they broadcast). The listeners loved it and the reception reports came flooding in – from Europe and beyond. We even received a reception report from the United States!

So, Eddie invited me to present a weekly 60-minute show, which we called ‘The Free Radio Show’. Each show was given a number, rather than a date, because I just was never sure what date that show would be broadcast on and because the shows were not date specific, it left the option open to repeat a programme if we needed. As it turned out, we never had to do this!

So, we began with Free Radio Show #1. Each show was recorded by me, over the course of a week, in the spare studio of Boyneside Radio, in Donaghy’s Mill, Drogheda, Co. Louth. I used a C120 cassette (single use only, as the recording tape was so thin, so I never re-used them). The show consisted of segments; the intro, listeners’ letters, 5 minutes of jingles, radio station feature and finally free radio news from the past week. The theme tune I used was a track called ‘Man Of Action’ by the Les Reed Orchestra, an old pirate favourite tune, as this had previously been used as the theme for the offshore radio station Radio Northsea International in the 1970s.

The Free Radio Show that survived a raid but was never broadcast
Eddie Caffrey of Radio Rainbow International and Boyneside Radio (courtesy of Kieran Murray).

So, each show got recorded, numbered and completed by Friday and was ready for broadcast that Sunday. Meanwhile, Eddie (who was the engineer and part-owner of Boyneside Radio) added an AM transmitter (1 KW AM on 1521 kHz) and then added an FM stereo transmitter, completing the output of Radio Rainbow International – on AM, FM and short wave.

The shows continued each week, until we got to Show #49, which was due for broadcast on Sunday 19th April 1987. I did the intro, listeners’ letters, 5 minutes of jingles and the radio station feature – and that is where the recording stops. The last bit was for the free radio news but I never got to complete this. When Boyneside Radio was raided on Wednesday 15th April 1987, I was ready to record the free radio news when the Gardaí and Department of Communications officials arrived and took everything: cassette decks, records, mixers, turntables, microphones, tapes – anything that wasn’t nailed down! Among the cassettes they took was the C120 cassette that had my part-finished Show #49.

So we had no Free Radio Show for the following two Sundays, 19th and 26th April 1987, but we came back for a special show on 3rd May and featured an interview with Eddie that discussed the raid on Boyneside Radio. The studio recording attached here was never actually broadcast, because I had to do an entirely new show featuring details of the raid and the interview with Eddie Caffrey about what happened. After each show was broadcast, I used to receive requests for copies of each show from various listeners, so the C120 cassette of the previous week would be posted out to someone who requested this. As a result, I do not have any studio copies of the Free Radio Show except for this one, the ‘unfinished’ Free Radio Show #49. The only reason we have this original recording is because all the equipment was returned after the raid, including that famous C120 cassette. So, in a roundabout way, the Gardaí did us a favour in helping to preserve a studio copy of this show!

The breakfast show on Boyneside Radio

The breakfast show on Boyneside Radio
Boyneside sticker (courtesy of DX Archive).

The history of Boyneside Radio has already been well-documented in our special Northeast Series and numerous full recordings, airchecks and jingles can be heard here. This newly-digitised recording is of the original tape of Boyneside made by British radio enthusiast Leon Tipler during a 1982 trip to Ireland and featured in his documentary ‘The Irish Pirates’.

The date is Monday 13th September and Mike Cluskey is on the breakfast programme, standing in for Daire Nelson. The recording begins at 0818 and includes news headlines and plenty of ads, including one for units to let at Donaghy’s Mill in Drogheda, where Boyneside was based. 225 metres medium wave and 98 and 99 FM are announced.

The breakfast show on Boyneside Radio
The Boyneside FM mast at Tullyesker near Drogheda (photo courtesy of Eddie Caffrey).

There is interference towards the end of the recording, which was made in Dublin. This was the beginning of a period of growth for Boyneside after the station was reunited with the breakaway Community Radio Drogheda in the summer of 1982.

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

Royal County Radio from Navan

Royal County Radio from Navan
Flyer for Royal County Radio (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Royal County Radio (RCR) broadcast from 1982 to 1984 from Navan in Co. Meath and was a rival to Radio Carousel, which was based in the town’s shopping centre. It was set up by Canadian ex-offshore DJ Don Allen (RIP) who was a familiar voice on the Irish pirates of the 1980s and had formerly worked with Carousel. RCR was launched on 8th October 1982 and broadcast from a shopping arcade in Navan town centre. The station used the former Southside Radio transmitter from Dublin and moved around the AM band before settling on 846 kHz. Navan was probably too small to support two pirates and RCR closed around the middle of 1984.

This recording is of Oliver Callan on his lunchtime show from 1145-1235 on 28th October 1982, only a few week’s after the station was launched. 305 metres is announced which is roughly equivalent to 981 kHz although the actual frequency may have been the slightly off-channel 1000 kHz where RCR was located for a time. The voice of Don Allen is heard on ads and promos and Peter reads news headlines at midday. We thank Ian Biggar for this donation.

Launch of Radio 257 as covered by Radio Rainbow International

Launch of Radio 257 as covered by Radio Rainbow International
Ian Dempsey at the Crofton Airport Hotel (photo courtesy of Dave Reddy).

Radio 257 was the new name for Alternative Radio Dublin (ARD), a pioneering station of the late 1970s that itself had broken away from Radio Dublin. Radio 257 was launched on 4th January 1980 and based at the Crofton Hotel near Dublin Airport, but reverted to the former ARD name at a later stage. Household names of the future were among the early ARD/Radio 257 crew, including John Clarke, Mike Moran, Tony Allan (RIP), Paul Vincent and Ian Dempsey. The station closed in 1982, a casualty of super-pirates Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio, which had come to dominate the Dublin radio market.

Launch of Radio 257 as covered by Radio Rainbow International
Tony Allan (RIP) in ARD before the relaunch as Radio 257 (photo courtesy of DX Archive).

This recording is of edition #47 of the Free Radio Campaign show on Radio Rainbow International, presented by Kieran Murray on 5th April 1987. It begins with a 5-minute jingle sweep, followed by a recording of the launch of Radio 257 at 12 noon on 4th January 1980. Dave C is in the chair and the launch includes an interview with new breakfast DJ Ian Dempsey and the iconic Tony Allan 257 jingles. The show ends with a weekly round-up of free radio news from Ireland and abroad.

Launch of Radio 257 as covered by Radio Rainbow International
Radio 257 sticker (courtesy of DX Archive).

Radio Rainbow International was a hobby station set up by Boyneside Radio engineer Eddie Caffrey from his home in Co. Louth. It broadcast every Sunday on shortwave, AM and FM for three years from 1985 to the end of 1988. As well as the weekly FRC show, Radio Rainbow also leased airtime to British pirate stations at risk of being raided. We thank Eddie Caffrey for sharing this recording.

Community Radio Drogheda covers rescue in San Francisco

Community Radio Drogheda covers rescue in San Francisco
Community Radio Drogheda sticker (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

In September 1981, a Donegal man attempted to rescue his daughter from a compound owned by the Unification Church (the ‘Moonies’) in San Francisco. After they were refused admission, James Canning and about 30 Irish-American supporters tried to break into the building and remove Mary Canning. Drogheda journalist Niall O’Dowd, who worked with the Washington Post, was the only reporter to witness the incident and was contacted by media all over the world for comment.

Knowing that a local man was on the ground, Community Radio Drogheda (CRD) wanted to cover the drama and on his lunchtime show on 16th September 1981, Gavin Duffy interviewed Niall O’Dowd about the incident. No doubt it helped that Niall’s brother Michael was news editor at CRD. Niall O’Dowd went on to become a highprofile figure in Irish America, founding the Irish Voice Newspaper and Irish America magazine as well as the website Irishcentral.com. Another brother Fergus became a Fine Gael TD for Louth.

Community Radio Drogheda broke away from Boyneside Radio in July 1981 and operated a separate service until May 1982 when the two stations merged again. We thank Eddie Caffrey for his donation of this recording, which begins with an ad break before the interview.