County Sound went on the air on St. Patrick’s Day 1987 from Tuam, 30km north of Galway City on 98.5 FM. In January 1987 it moved to Prospect Hill near Eyre Square in Galway City, just across the road from rival station Coast 103. After the move, County Sound broadcast to Galway on 101 FM, on 96.4 FM from Abbeyknockmoy in the east (from where it covered the county) and on 98.5 FM to the town of Ballinasloe. The Galway market was highly competitive in 1988 with both Coast and County Sound dominating, ahead of the smaller KFM. Radio West from Mullingar, which had been rebranded as West National Radio 3, also had AM and FM relays in the city. On the 30th of September 1988, the local City Tribune reported on a row between County Sound and Coast 103 over use of FM frequencies. When Coast began broadcasting on 100.1 FM, County Sound Managing Director Benen Tierney accused them of jamming County Sound on 101. This was denied by Keith York of Coast who said there was enough space between the two stations. Gardaí were reportedly alerted after Coast alleged that they received threatening phone calls from their competitors.
County Sound closed at midnight on the 31st of December 1988. It was an unsuccessful applicant for the local Galway licence which was awarded in 1989. The successful bid was made by a consortium of local businesses, community groups and newspapers as well as the former Mullingar pirate Radio West which had already gained a foothold in Galway. The new licensed station was also called Radio West and came on the air on the 18th of August 1989. It was relaunched as Galway Bay FM in 1993.
This recording is an aircheck of Ciaran Wilson (Brannelly) on air on the 24th of July 1988. There are adverts for businesses in Tuam and Galway City, many voiced by Jon Richards who would go on to work for Radio West/Galway Bay FM. There is a promo for Tuam Festival Radio on 106 FM, a pop-up station run by County Sound in the town where it originated, from the 26th of July to the 10th of August 1988. There is also a competition for tickets to a Michael Jackson concert. Many thanks to Ciaran Brannelly for donating this recording.
Radio West was a large station broadcasting to the midlands from 1982, first on 1071 kHz and then on 765 kHz as in the compliments slip. Acquiring the old Radio Nova 10kW transmitter, it could be heard far and wide especially when it moved to the clearer channel of 702 kHz. By 1988 Radio West was styling itself as ‘West National Radio 3’ and claiming to be nationwide, based on the 10kW AM rig and a chain of FM transmitters stretching from Dublin to Galway.
This recording is from the 18th of May 1983 from 1908-1925 and features Davina Carr on air with a country programme, a style of music popularised by rural stations such as Radio West. There is no mention of the raid on Radio Nova that morning, although Davina explains that the station had been off the air earlier due to technical issues. Radio West was among those stations to close down temporarily following the other raid on Sunshine Radio on the 19th of May. You can hear airchecks and jingles from Radio West here.
On January 29th 2019 we were honoured to take part in a special edition of the Radio Survivor podcast dedicated to this archive. You can listen back here to an hour of discussion with Brian Greene and John Walsh about the story of Irish pirate radio, the aims behind the archive and the plans for the future.
Radio West was a popular station which began broadcasting from Mullingar in Co. Westmeath in 1982. On low power initially on 1071 kHz, it bought Radio Nova’s original 10 kW transmitter and moved to 765 and then 702 kHz where it remained until the end of 1988.
By 1988, it also had a series of low-power FM transmitters and was boasting that it could be heard in 23 of the 26 counties. It even re-branded itself as ‘West National Radio 3’ and perhaps saw itself as a contender for a national commercial station as the licensed era approached. West also had an AM relay on 711 kHz covering Co. Galway and this promo from 1988 is aimed at attracting Galway businesses to advertise. Its owner Seán Coyne was involved in the licensed Galway station of the same name in the early 1990s. Radio West was eventually re-branded as Galway Bay FM.
Here is the introduction to the 6pm news from 30.08.88 including the end of an ad for Dunnes Stores, the top of the hour ident voiced by Derek Flood and the start of the news with Kevin Palmer.
The end of the 6pm news of the same date including part of the mart report for Tullamore. Radio West took its rural audience seriously and had regular mart reports for farmers.
More airchecks from 1988 including ads and jingles.
A jingle and news sting from 1987. 96.3 FM was just one of many FM frequencies used by Radio West.
A Tony Allan ident emphasising the ‘national’ coverage.
In this fascinating interview with engineer Gerry O’Reilly, the Radio West 10 kW transmitter is discussed.
On October 20th 2018 over 100 radio anoraks gathered in the Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin. The purpose was to meet and record oral history of the pirate radio era.
In this interview, Walter Hegarty talks to Gerry Reilly, a radio engineer from Co. Cavan. Gerry worked on transmitters for almost 50 stations including Kandy Radio, Galway District Radio (GDR), Hometown Radio, Big M, Erneside, NWCR, CCR, Breffni Radio, Midwest Radio. East Coast Radio (Louth), Melvin Radio, Radio North, Riverside Radio, Boyneside Radio, DCR Letterkenny, Radio West, Rainbow Radio, Star Radio, North Star, KISS FM, KITS, North Atlantic Radio and many more.