The economics and technology of pirate radio

The economics and technology of pirate radio
West National Radio 3 sticker from 1988 (courtesy DX Archive).

This is a recording of part the Anoraks Show on West National Radio 3 from December 1988, towards the end of the popular show’s run as the pirates prepared to close down. Station boss Shaun Coyne interviews radio engineer Gerry Reilly from Co. Cavan, who reckons that he set up between 30 and 40 pirate stations in the 1980s.

The economics and technology of pirate radio
Shaun Coyne pictured in 1986 (photo by Andy Carter, courtesy of Ian Biggar).

The discussion gives a fascinating insight into the economics and technology of the pirates and there are nuggets of information about how certain stations made big profits and provided much needed work in their areas. There’s also plenty of speculation about the new licensed era in 1989. Following the Anoraks Show we hear part of the final edition of the weekly farming programme Landlink.

This recording was made from 1052-1141 on Sunday 11th December 1988 from 100.1 FM. We thank John Breslin for the donation. Listen to our own interview with Gerry Reilly in 2018 here.

Don Allen on the Radio West Anoraks Show

Don Allen on the Radio West Anoraks Show
Landlink was heard after the Anoraks Show on Radio West every Sunday (courtesy Ian Biggar).

One of the presenters of the Radio West Anoraks Show was the late Don Allen, himself a veteran of the offshore pirate scene and an accomplished broadcaster on the Irish pirates of the 1980s. Here he is presenting the Anoraks Show in 1987 with station boss Shaun Coyne, who talks about the station’s expansion into Galway on both AM and FM. There are adverts for Anoraks Ireland and Anoraks UK and discussion of a pirate radio magazine that was being prepared at the time, although it seems it never materialised.

This recording was made from 1045-1145 on Sunday 19th July 1987 from an unspecified FM frequency. It was donated to us by Ian Biggar.

Radio West Anoraks Show from 1986

Radio West Anoraks Show from 1986
Radio West compliments slip from c. 1986 (courtesy DX Archive).

Radio West broadcast from Mullingar from 1982 until the end of 1988 and achieved wide coverage after it began using the former Radio Nova 10kW transmitter on 765 kHz and later 702 kHz. It was popular with radio watchers because of the lively and often unpredictable Sunday morning Anoraks Show presented by station owner Shaun Coyne and others. A diet of radio gossip, colourful rumours and regular updates from anoraks throughout the country made the show essential listening each week.

This edition of the Anoraks Show was recorded in Dublin from 765 kHz from 1100-1230 on 8th June 1986 and features Philip Hilton with Shaun Coyne. There’s a promise of link-ups with ABC in Waterford and WKLR in Cork but these don’t materialise and the presenters joke that these stations are blacklisted! The Anoraks Show is followed at midday by the first half hour of the traditional music programme Céilí Lár Tíre.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.

Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)

Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)
Radio Carousel owner Hugh Hardy complete with cowboy hat in 1980 (photo courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

The owner and operator of the Radio Carousel network was country music impresario Hugh Hardy from Omeath in Co. Louth. He presented the popular lunchtime Country Call programme which was relayed from Dundalk to the other satellite stations at the height of Carousel’s operations. Hugh lived in Dublin and commuted to Dundalk but in November 1986 he set up KLAS, an easy listening station aimed at the Dublin market, in a garage complex at the back of his home.

Radio Carousel Dundalk closed on Friday 23rd January 1987 after a surprise visit from officials of the Department of Communications who complained about interference to mobiles and directed the station to close down. Carousel left the air the following day at 1pm but its other stations in Navan and at the border continued.

Interview: Hugh Hardy (Radio Carousel)
An advertisement for one of Hugh Hardy’s programmes in the Sunday World from 1985 (Alan MacSimoin Collection).

This recording features a renowned interview with Hugh Hardy on the Radio West Anoraks Programme on Sunday 25th January. The weekly show was always unpredictable and relied heavily on rumour and hearsay, as station owner Shaun Coyne openly admitted. The recording opens with a heated argument between Hugh and Shaun with both trading accusations. Hugh then explains the reasons for Carousel Dundalk leaving the air and announces that given the success of KLAS, he is to concentrate on the easy listening station from then on. Both station owners compare notes about their experience of presenters down the years, with Hugh Hardy recounting how one of his newsreaders resigned live on air the previous week. The other presenter Don Allen tries to get a word in from time to time without much success but the interview ends amicably.

Radio Carousel Dundalk would in fact return in mid-February 1987 but by early 1988 both the Dundalk and border stations were in decline, leaving only Radio Carousel Navan. Hugh Hardy did not get involved in the licensed stations after 1989 but developed his video production business instead. He died in 2008.

There is a strong whiff of the drama of 1980s pirate radio in this recording: pirates encroaching on each other’s frequencies, RTÉ ordering pirates to move, stations being forced to close down and rumours circulating about those working in the business. We thank Ian Biggar for sharing this recording.