Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 8)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 8)
Crowds at Herbert Street on the day of Radio Nova’s official closedown, 19 May 1983 (photo by Joe King).

In the final instalment of Part 3 of ‘The Irish Pirates’, Leon Tipler returns to Dublin. Volume 8 covers his visits to Sunshine and Radio Nova in September 1983 to get the views of the staff about the raids of the previous May which put both stations off the air temporarily. Tipler interviews Sybil Fennell, Chris Cary and Robbie Robinson and also features the iconic Nova closedown with Tony Allan at 6pm on the 19th of May 1983. He also recounts the horrified political reaction to Cary’s plans for Nova Television. This final episode ends with Tipler’s analysis of the political implications of the raids and changed attitudes to the pirates in their aftermath.

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 8)
Equipment removed from Sunshine Radio, 19 May 1983, with RTÉ television crew filming (photo by Joe King).

This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England. We will bring you more from this valuable collection over the coming weeks and months.

Index to Volume 8

00:00 Visit to Galway – no pirates on air
00:30 Visit to Sunshine Radio offices
01:15 Visit to Radio Nova
02:00 Interview with Sybil Fennell
04:30 Nova TV
08:10 Chris Cary on Nova in May 1983
09:40 RTÉ coverage of 1983 raid on Nova
10:40 Interview with Chris Cary about raids
15:50 Interview with Robbie Robinson about raids
17:55 Interview with Sybil Fennell about raids
18:20 Continuation of interview with Cary
20:20 Continuation of interview with Robinson
25:00 Sunshine closedown in 1983
27:40 Radio Nova closedown on 19.05.83
33:05 Interview with Sybil Fennell about closedown
33:50 Tony Allen closing Nova
42:00 Continuation of interview with Cary about closedown
46:00 Continuation of interview with Robinson about closedown
51:45 Return of Sunshine
55:00 Changed political response
55:45 Conclusion

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 4)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 4)
One of the episodes of ‘The Irish Pirates’ from the Leon Tipler Collection (photo by Brian Greene)

This is the final volume of Part 2 of ‘The Irish Pirates’, Leon Tipler’s acclaimed documentary on the Irish scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s. This hour covers Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova in more detail, including a visit to the Nova transmitter site and interviews with Chris Cary and Stuart McLoughlin about the economics of radio and the ratings wars. There are also interesting clips of specialist programmes such as the current affairs show ‘Dublin Today’ and the religious hour ‘Life is a Celebration’. Tipler discusses the local radio legislation proposed in 1981, one of the many failed attempts to legalise the sector, and offers an in-depth analysis of the state of play at the time. The hour finishes with a long and fascinating bandscan of Dublin pirate radio. Tipler refers to Part 2 of ‘The Irish Pirates’ being in production and we will bring you those recordings shortly.

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

Index to Volume 4

00:11 Dublin Today
02:12 Life is a Celebration
03:45 Trip to TX site
07:35 KISS FM promos
10:45 Chris Cary on Nova ratings
17:00 Interview with Stuart McLoughlin of Nova
27:10 1981 Local Radio Bill
31:55 Aim of the documentary
36:20 Possibility of local RTÉ opt-out for Dublin
37:00 Pirates raise money for charity
40:48 Thanks to those who appeared in Part 1
41:43 Final bandscan

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 3)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 3)
Some of the episodes of ‘The Irish Pirates’ as found in the Leon Tipler Collection (photo by Brian Greene).

Volumes 3 and 4 of Leon Tipler’s ‘The Irish Pirates’ make up Part 2 of the documentary. The third recording focuses mostly on Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova, the new superpirates which emerged in Dublin in the early 1980s. Tipler begins by visiting Sunshine Radio in 1981 and interviews its director Robbie Robinson. He tours the Sunshine studios in Portmarnock and hears its professional jingles produced by Alfasound. The documentary covers the controversy caused by politicians appearing on pirate radio and the coverage given by Sunshine to community events in its area. The episode also includes a feature on Community Radio Fingal in north Dublin in 1982. It ends with a visit to the Radio Nova studios at Herbert Street and a long interview with Nova boss Chris Cary.

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

Index of Volume 3

00:00 1981 visit to Sunshine
01.38 Interview with Robbie Robinson
07:06 Sunshine jingles
08:35 Visit to Sunshine studios
11:30 Establishment of Radio Nova
14:52 Irish Association of Independent Broadcasters
15:30 Controversy over politicians on pirate radio
18:15 Sunshine covering community events
24:40 1982 visit to Community Radio Fingal
33:15 Visit to Radio Nova in Herbert Street
34:15 Interview with John Clarke
40:55 KISS FM
43:09 Interview with Chris Cary

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 1)

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 1)
Some of the hundreds of cassettes in the Leon Tipler collection (photo by Brian Greene).

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.

Documentary: The Irish Pirates (Volume 1)
Leon Tipler (photo courtesy of offshoreradio.co.uk)

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.


Index of Volume 1

00:00 signature tune
00:42 intro
00:55 Nova name check for Leon
02:32 Discover Ireland Radio Advert
03:01 The flight
03:35 Aer Lingus
05:03 RTE Radio 1 Weather
06:26 Aircheck 1 Capitol
07:34 ARD Radio
07:46 Big D Simon Young
08:58 Radio Dublin politics
11:02 Phone in Quiz
12:29 ARD Radio News
13:33 ARD Radio News
14:19 Big D News
15:17 RTE Radio 2 launches
17:32 Irish Radio History
19:10 Larry Gogan
19:40 The expansion of RTE
20:50 Visit 1 leads to visit 2
21:34 Tony Allan
22:16 Tony Allan ARD News
23:15 Dublin is where the action is
26:31 Not all pop music
27:06 ARD visit
29:16 ARD aircheck / jingles / promos
32:25 Radio Dublin – Aidan J
37:59 Land Pirates and the law
38:39 Robbie Robinson explains the loophole
40:40 Radio Dublin 1966
45:07 Visit #3 1980 bandscan
58:32 Hotels and Pirates

Interview: Declan Meehan (part 2: 1982-1989)

Interview: Declan Meehan (part 2: 1982-1989)
Declan Meehan and John Walsh at East Coast FM in Bray where Declan has worked since 1994.

In the second part of our extended interview, long-time broadcaster Declan Meehan discusses his move from Sunshine to Radio Nova in 1982 which was by then the biggest station in Dublin. He tells us how Chris Cary copied the sound of KIIS FM in Los Angeles to bring a new broadcasting style to Ireland. Despite his love for Radio Nova, Declan left the station because of the bitter NUJ strike in 1984. Although he moved into licensed radio in the UK and Ireland after that, Declan’s involvement with the pirates didn’t quite end there. The interview concludes with Declan’s thoughts on the pirate legacy and his views on the state of radio today.

You can hear the first part of this interview here.