Pirate Pioneers: trouble brews for Dublin pirate radio in 1972

Pirate Pioneers: trouble brews for Dublin pirate radio in 1972
Radio Dublin QSL sent to Carlow in 1974 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Following a brief period as Static Radio on 225 metres in late 1971 or early 1972, Radio Dublin re-established itself as a regular weekend broadcaster. Broadcasts resumed on 253 metres (1183 kHz) with a power of 50 watts fed into a V-antenna. At this point the station was located in Roger Lloyd’s flat in Crumlin. They were very pleased to get a reception report from a listener in Cheshire for a normal Sunday lunchtime broadcast.

Regular broadcasts were made every Sunday from noon until 2pm with Prince Terry (Roger Lloyd) and Mark T (Mark Storey) each doing an hour. The station served the young people of Dublin who had a penchant for heavier music. However, in the latter part of 1972 trouble first appeared on the horizon for the Dublin free radio stations. A white Volkswagen tracker car was spotted in the vicinity of Radio Galaxy, with the operator Tony Boylan quickly informing the other pirates in the city. The car, along with another, duly turned up in the area fairly close to Radio Dublin, which was forced to abruptly terminate its broadcasts one Sunday.

As a result, the operators of Radio Dublin decided to suspend transmissions on medium wave, with a plan to move to short wave which attracted less attention from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. Reluctantly Radio Dublin made its final broadcast for the time being in October 1972, a wise move considering the raid that followed on Radio Milinda just a few weeks later. We will cover the Milinda story in another post.

This recording, which was supplied by Roger Lloyd, features Prince Terry and Mark T with their goodbye shows. The American jingle package of WDEE ‘the Big D’ is heard throughout. There is also a taped appearance at the end of the transmission from Ken Edwards (Sheehan), the founder of Radio Dublin. We thank Ian Biggar for the text and for sharing this rare recording.

Pirate Pioneers: trouble brews for Dublin pirate radio in 1972
Radio Dublin QSL sent to Hertfordshire in 1974 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Radio Dublin did make some transmissions on shortwave in 1973 and 1974 as the QSL received by Mike Barraclough in Herfordshire shows, as well as sporadic transmissions on 253 metres as illustrated by the QSL received by John Dowling in Carlow.

Pirate Pioneers: early Radio Dublin jingle package

Pirate Pioneers: early Radio Dublin jingle package
Early Radio Dublin masthead (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

In our ongoing series about the pirate pioneers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, here’s a real piece of radio gold: a jingle package used in the early days of Radio Dublin. In the early 1970s Radio Dublin used the tag line ‘the Big D’, which can be heard in these jingles. The set may be originally from WDEE, a US country music station on air around this time as that callsign can be heard in some of the cuts.

These jingles pre-date the pirate named Big D, which was set up after a split in Radio Dublin in 1978 and went on to be a successful station in its own right. Many thanks to Kieran Murray for his donation of this valuable recording, which was taken from a 5-inch reel tape machine.

Pirate Pioneers: the early days of Radio Dublin

Pirate Pioneers: the early days of Radio Dublin
Radio Dublin leaflet from 1972 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Radio Dublin or ‘Radio Baile Átha Cliath’ started as a technical point to point experiment by Ken Sheehan (Kenneth Edwards) in 1966 from his home in Drimnigh in Dublin. At about 10 watts, power was too low to travel further than about a mile but over the next three years, the transmitter was modified and power doubled to 20 watts. A new transmitter was installed in 1969 and regular taped music programmes were broadcast, normally on Sunday afternoons. The above information sheet from 1972 gives a flavour of the early history of the station. It’s interesting to see ‘Big D’ being used, years before the split that led to the breakaway station of that name.

Our first recording above of the early days is undated but may be from 1969. It features Radio Baile Átha Cliath on its early 217 metre wavelength. We’re not certain who the DJ is, nor was Ken Sheehan when he heard the recording. The second recording is of Ken Sheehan himself and although again undated, is probably from 1971. By now Radio Dublin was the station name and the wavelength had changed to the well-known 253 metres. The address given was that of the Brighton Independent Radio Movement in England and was used by most of the Irish pirates of the period. There is a short taped insert from ‘Mark Welby’ who might be Mark T. Storey, later to be very involved in the early pirate scene, and a home-made sung jingle. This is pirate gold at its best!

These unique recordings were supplied by Roger Lloyd (Prince Terry) who was an integral part of the pioneering days of Radio Dublin. Thanks to Ian Biggar for the research and for sharing the recordings with us. You can hear an interview with Ken Sheehan here.

Radio Dublin station news from 1991

Radio Dublin station news from 1991
Radio Dublin car sticker from the mid-1980s (courtesy of DX Archive).

Radio Dublin’s weekly Station News was normally delivered by its owner Eamonn Cooke but on Sunday 17th February 1991, station manager Joe Doyle (Joe Rossa) took to the air unexpectedly following days of back-to-back music on the station. There was speculation that a summons was to be served in connection with a previous raid and Radio Dublin was lying low and had ceased live programming. The rumour mill was in overdrive and Joe Doyle gives listeners a flavour of some of the conspiracy theories circulating but doesn’t explain what exactly is going on. He then attacks teenage DJs Barry Dunne and Gary Cruise (O’Connell) for their claims about low-powered station KHTR, a forerunner to the much bigger 1990s pirate Sunset FM. Other pirates logged that weekend were WABC in Donegal and Dublin stations Dún Laoghaire Weekend Radio, Signal Radio, Rock 103.1 and The Yahoo on 106.2.

Thanks to Barry Dunne for his donation of this recording.

Radio Dublin flies the pirate flag into 1989

Radio Dublin flies the pirate flag into 1989
Brian Greene’s Radio Dublin 253 badge.

Radio Dublin was one of just two stations to continuing broadcasting without interruption into 1989, the other being Radio Star Country in Monaghan. It seems that both stations ran tapes on New Year’s Day but soon resumed live programming and within days other pirates crept back on the air. However, few could match the longevity of Radio Dublin or indeed Radio Star Country, which is still broadcasting today.

The eyes of the press were on Radio Dublin because of its high-profile position in the capital and the defiant stance of its owner Eamonn Cooke, announced during his ‘Station News’ on Christmas Day 1988. This recording of Radio Dublin is one of the earliest from 1989 and gives a sense of the excitement at the station as it carried on in defiance of the new broadcasting law. It was made from 1148-1233 on Tuesday 3rd January 1989 and features Mike Wilsom on air, who has plenty of requests and messages of support from the public. One listener to phone in his support is Kevin Branigan from Stillorgan who closed down his own pirate Kiss 106 on New Year’s Eve. The second recording below was made the same day from 1239-1321. Both were recorded from 1188 kHz in Scotland and are donated kindly by Ian Biggar.