Finding a good spot on the crowded AM band was a challenge for all pirates, especially before the development of FM in the 1980s. With no formal process to regulate frequencies and the presence of powerful signals from Britain and across Europe, ensuring that the intended audience heard you was not simple. There were turf wars over the best frequencies, with smaller stations sometimes bullied out by larger operators and banished to less than ideal positions on the AM band. Night-time interference was common and stations were sometimes drowned out after dark by big European operators.
ARD was one station that suffered issues with its AM spot after its temporary closure on December 31st 1979 before it was relaunched as Radio 257. Rival station Radio City jumped on ARD’s original frequency of 1161 kHz when it closed and the new Radio 257 had to settle for 1152 kHz, an inferior channel due to interference from local stations in the UK. At some point in 1980, ARD/Radio 257 moved to 1143 kHz but due to poor night-time reception, it switched to 1134 kHz after dark and back to 1143 in the morning. This airchecked recording was made in Scotland on 7th June 1981 and begins at 0752. It features Owen Conroy followed by Derek Jones, who is standing in for Uncle Bren (Brendan O’Carroll). The change of frequency is announced at 0800 and the receiver is retuned. Co-channel interference can be heard due to the distance from the transmitter.
This recording is courtesy of Ken Baird. Thanks to Ian Biggar for background information and the copy of the letter.
ARD continued to broadcast from the Crofton Airport Hotel throughout 1981. By that time, the station was feeling the pressure of the arrival of the super-pirates on the Dublin scene and it was its last full year of broadcasting. Although ARD had by now dispensed with much of its speech programming due to cost, it continued to broadcast niche shows at the weekend, calling it ‘the weekend service of ARD’.
This recording was made on 31st July 1981 from 2021-2104 and consists mostly of the Tony King (Plunkett) show in which he interviews the late Derry singer Eamonn McGirr. Tony is followed at 9pm by Paul Downey with his ‘Touch of Country’ programme. Paul was a popular DJ on 1980s stations including Radio Dublin and Tony went on to present a sports programme on Sunshine Radio.
Thanks to David Baker for his donation of this recording and to Ian Biggar for background information.
Following the relaunch as Radio 257 on New Year’s Day 1980 and a move to the Crofton Airport Hotel, the station had resumed using the ARD name by the autumn of that year. The arrival on the scene of super-pirates Sunshine Radio in 1980 and Radio Nova in 1981 changed everything and smaller stations such as ARD began to feel the pinch. It moved back into the city centre in early 1982 but closed later that autumn, making its final broadcast on September 15th. According to Radio Radio (1988) by Peter Mulryan: ‘After the emotional closedown, the microphones were kept open on FM, and Dublin listened to the sad sound of the studios being dismantled’.
This is a recording of a very young David Baker presenting the Saturday breakfast programme from the Crofton on 1st August 1981. The recording was made from 99 FM from 0820-0905 and includes news read by Al O’Rourke. Both David and Al would go on to work in many other Dublin pirates, including the network of temporary festival stations run by the Community Broadcasting Co-operative.
We thank David Baker for his donation of this recording. Listen here to our podcast with David in which he shares his memories of pirate days.
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.
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.
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.
In May 2020, we were delighted to receive a large donation of cassettes belonging to the late Leon Tipler (1942-2013), a British pirate radio enthusiast and broadcaster who recorded thousands of hours of Irish pirate stations in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You can read a tribute here. We thank Steve England for sending us this important collection, which provides a unique insight into a critical period in Irish pirate radio, the years just before and after the arrival of the ‘super-pirates’ in the form of Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio.
We’ll be featuring this collection over the coming months, but we begin with Tipler’s well-known series of documentaries covering the period 1979-1982, ‘The Irish Pirates’ by Alfasound Tapetrix Productions. These eight hour-long recordings are reference copies from the documentary maker himself and are in high quality audio.
Volume 1 documents Tipler’s first visits to Dublin in 1979 and 1980 and includes recordings of and interviews with stations on the air in the capital at the time.
These include ARD, Big D, Radio Dublin, Radio City, Radio 257, Southside Radio and Capitol Radio. Tony Allan can be heard reading news and presenting a talk programme on ARD. There’s an interview with Robbie Robinson of the new Sunshine Radio about the loophole in the 1926 Wireless Telegraphy Act although Sunshine itself is not discussed until a later episode. Tipler also covers the launch of RTÉ Radio 2 in 1979 which, although forced by the pirates, did nothing to quell the success of the illegal broadcasters. As Tipler says, the best was yet to come.