John ‘the Man’ Frawley was among the best known and most popular of Ireland’s pirate radio presenters, running the unique station Raidió Luimní from Limerick City for ten years from 1978-1988. He began broadcasting with Radio Limerick Weekly Echo (RLWE) in 1978 but left after a few months to set up his own station in Catherine Street, later moving into a derelict building in Lower Shannon Street. There was a hole in the roof, which was said to be useful for John the Man’s weather forecasts! When the station moved to a tiny shed near the old City Theatre, John persuaded a Christian brother to allow him run a wire across Sexton Street to the tall school building which was an ideal spot for his aerial. After a few more moves, the station’s final premises was at the corner of Gerald Griffin Street and Williams Street. Raidió Luimní closed in the early hours of 24th December 1988, a week ahead of the deadline for the pirates to leave the airwaves.
This broadcast is from Monday 7th November 1988 towards the end of the station’s existence and features the inimitable style of John’s morning Snap, Crackle and Pop programme, including his own weather forecast based on what he could see from the studio. The Master Butcher downstairs gets a mention and John’s voice is heard on most of the adverts. There’s also the popular daily call to the ‘dressing gown brigade’ to get out of bed. Paul Davidson of Anoraks Ireland is in studio during the recording and John comments on the gap to be left by the pirates at the end of 1988. He also reads the death notices, including one of Raidió Luimní presenter Larry Foxy O’Brien, for whom the station had closed for a few days as a mark of respect. Death notices are commonplace on local radio today, but the tradition was started by Raidió Luimní.
John the Man died prematurely in 1989, before the licensed stations got up and running. According to his obituary published in The Limerick Tribune on 17th June 1989, John ‘became an articulate and amusing radio personality in the pirate days. He portrayed the Limerick jargon and way of life to a tee … There will never be another John Frawley and the freedom that he and his presenters were allowed on pirate radio is now sadly a thing of the past’.
This recording was made from 103.05 FM. Part 1 above runs from 0907-0953 and part 2 below from 0954-1040.
Thanks to Eddie Bohan and Liam Byrne for assistance with images. The recording is from the Anoraks Ireland Tapes Collection, donated by Paul Davidson.
When it closed just before Christmas in 1988, Raidió Luimní brought ten unique and memorable years of broadcasting to a close. While many Limerick stations came and went, Raidió Luimní was a constant presence in the city throughout the pirate era and had a huge following due largely to the unconventional style of its owner, John ‘the Man’ Frawley. It also had listeners well beyond Limerick city, thanks to an efficient Irish-made transmitter on 1125 kHz.
The station closed down a week earlier than other the pirates at the end of 1988, leaving the air at 0130 on Christmas Eve. This recording is of the final half-hour of the station with Alf de Lacy who says a long goodbye to Raidió Luimní listeners and staff and even thanks local Gardaí for their hard work over Christmas! A few bars of Denis Allen’s song ‘Limerick, You’re a Lady’ are played and then the national anthem brings Raidió Luimní to the end of its colourful life.
The recording was made from 103 FM from 0100-0130 on 24th December 1988. We thank John Breslin for the donation. You can listen here to John the Man’s final show.
A comprehensive overview of the 1988 closedowns is available on the Radiowaves site.
Raidió Luimní was one of the longest-serving pirates in the country, broadcasting from Limerick City from 1978 to 1988. It had a large following of loyal listeners in counties Limerick, Tipperary and Clare due to the eccentric broadcasting style of its owner, the late John ‘the Man’ Frawley. Raidió Luimní was a community station with a difference featuring all sorts of local characters and unusual programming. It was also one of the first stations to feature death notices, a tradition that continues on local radio today.
This is part of John the Man’s final show on 23rd December 1988, the station’s last day of broadcasting. There are letters and requests from loyal listeners who are sad to see Raidió Luimní close and an emotional farewell from one of the more memorable pirate broadcasters of the 1980s.
The recording made from 1033-1118 from 103 FM and is kindly donated by John Breslin.
This three-minute clip gives a sense of the variety of content in the Pirate.ie archive. It covers stations big and small, in Dublin and elsewhere, playing mainstream pop or featuring specialist programming. The first segment features Ireland’s best-known pirate Radio Nova and its ‘Dublin Today’ programme on 30th August 1983, the day of the giveaway.
The second segment is from the Irish Christian Broadcasting Service from 3rd September 1983, just four days before a divisive referendum about inserting a ban on abortion into the Irish constitution. The presenter announces an interview with a US campaigner.
The third segment features a promo for community radio broadcast in 1987 on Bray Local Broadcasting south of Dublin. Among the voices is the then Minister for Communications, the late Jim Mitchell, whose party did not favour community radio. BLB was a leading member of the National Association of Community Broadcasters.
The next segment is a jingle for Boyneside Radio (1978-1988) based in Co. Louth which became a regional station covering an area stretching from Belfast to Dublin. The station had transmitters along the border and an opt-out service aimed at Northern Ireland.
The next segment features one of Ireland’s best-known pirate broadcasters, the late John ‘the Man’ Frawley opening Raidió Luimní on 20th April 1983. The station broadcast from Limerick for ten years from 1978-1988 and the popular Frawley had listeners over a wide area. He begins by greeting listeners in Irish.
Finally we hear the late Bob Gallico reading the news on New Year’s Day 1988 on Energy 103, a popular professional station that emerged from the ashes of Radio Nova in 1986.
In episode #6 of the Pirate.ie podcast, we analyse the politics and economics of Irish pirate radio from 1978-1988. The pirates emerged because of the political failure to develop diversity in radio and became a thorn in the side of the authorities, especially from the early 1980s with the arrival of high-powered, professional operators.
Many stations practised corporate social responsibility in an effort to appear respectable but once they began to attract advertising revenue away from RTÉ, they were raided or jammed. Political instability and ideological differences stymied the development of legislation to regulate the radio sector, with several failed radio bills in the 1980s.
In this episode, listen to Brian Greene and John Walsh explore the politics and economics of the era with the help of extracts from our archive including news programmes, interviews, commercial breaks and advertising promos. This discussion is based on our article published in 2020 in the Journal of Radio and Audio Media.