The Pirate.ie Podcast #2

The Pirate.ie Podcast #2

We’re delighted to announce episode #2 of the Pirate.ie podcast which explores themes covered in our growing archive of Irish pirate radio.

AM broadcasting, widely used by the pirates up to the end of the 1980s, allowed radio signals to travel far and wide beyond the borders of the state. Even small stations could be carried long distances thanks to the magic of night-time AM propagation but dozens of pirates along the border deliberately beamed their signals northwards. With 50 kW of power at its peak, the Dublin super-pirate Radio Nova aimed specifically at the northwest coast of Britain. Ireland also had many hobby shortwave pirates which could be heard thousands of miles from home.

In episode #2, John Walsh and Brian Greene explore how AM spillover, both accidental and deliberate, brought the Irish pirates to a bigger audience.

Northeast series: Radio Rainbow International (1987-1988)

Northeast series: Radio Rainbow International (1987-1988)
The Radio Rainbow International transmitter (photo courtesy of Kieran Murray).

Today we bring you more recordings from Radio Rainbow International, Eddie Caffrey’s high-powered shortwave pirate which broadcast from the Drogheda area on Sunday mornings from 1985-1988. Radio Rainbow could also be heard on 1521 kHz AM and on FM locally. There was no mast at the house, so the antenna cable was extended by attaching a stone to it and throwing it up over a power line at the bottom of the garden. Sometimes the transmission arrangements of the pirates were not for the faint-hearted!

Northeast series: Radio Rainbow International (1987-1988)
The Radio Rainbow ‘antenna system’ attached to a power line (photo courtesy of Kieran Murray).

One of those involved in Radio Rainbow was Kieran Murray who also worked in Boyneside Radio along with Eddie and had been with Radio Carousel previously. Kieran presented a weekly FRC show on Rainbow with news and information about the exciting world of pirate radio in Ireland and abroad. The recording above is an extract from one such programme in April 1987. The second recording below is from January 1988 and features a relay of John Dean (aka Colin Strong) presenting his own free radio show on the Scottish pirate WLR (no connection with the Waterford station).

In its later years, Radio Rainbow regularly relayed UK pirate stations which were facing harassment by the authorities. We thank Eddie Caffrey for sharing these recordings.

Northeast series: Radio Rainbow International (1985-1986)

Northeast series: Radio Rainbow International (1985-1986)
Eddie Caffrey with the Radio Rainbow International transmitter (photo courtesy of Kieran Murray).

Radio Rainbow International was a high-powered shortwave pirate operated by Boyneside Radio DJ and engineer Eddie Caffrey from the summer of 1985 until the end of 1988. It was first logged by Anoraks UK in the west midlands on 21st July 1985 on 6240 kHz with a strong signal and continued to be heard regularly on Sunday mornings from 1000-1300 for the next three and a half years. In contrast with other shortwave pirates from Ireland operating on low power, Radio Rainbow International put on a transmitter of more than 1 kW with plenty of compression and modulation. Reception reports were received from all over Europe and from as far away as Russia. As well as Eddie Caffrey, other Boyneside DJs Jim Agnew and Kieran Murray were also involved, with Kieran presenting a popular weekly FRC show giving the latest news about the Irish radio scene. In an interview with Pirate.ie, Kieran described Radio Rainbow as the ‘Radio Nova of shortwave’, such was its large coverage area.

Northeast series: Radio Rainbow International (1985-1986)
Radio Rainbow logo as seen on a QSL from 1986 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

As well as shortwave, Radio Rainbow broadcast on 1521 kHz AM with up to 1 kW output and there were also local FM broadcasts. From 1987 onwards, the station relayed the output of other pirates such as WLR in Scotland and Radio Sovereign in London. In 1988, Eddie Caffrey also relayed another UK station, Radio Fax, on 6220 kHz by day and 1611 kHz by night from another transmitter in the Drogheda area. You can hear an interview with Eddie about his involvement with shortwave stations here.  

The recording above is part of Kieran Murray’s FRC show from 6th April 1986. Below is a recording of Jim Agnew from August 1985 reading out a reception report from West Berlin.

The second clip below is of a Radio Rainbow jingle and multilingual station idents in French and German.

We thank Eddie Caffrey for sharing these recordings.

Interview: John Brady (Radio Ireland International)

Interview: John Brady (Radio Ireland International)
Image from the Radio Ireland International QSL card (courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

Radio Ireland International was one of several hobby shortwave stations operating from Ireland in the 1980s, usually on the air on Sunday mornings. The station was set up by two 20 year-olds, John Brady and Tony Healy (Clarke on air), on 1st May 1983 using an output power of 90 watts on 6293 kHz. Programmes were mostly pre-recorded with occasional live shows. Shortwave logs from that period are scant but Radio Ireland was heard relaying Radio Nova by Anoraks UK on 9th December 1984 on 6310 kHz. An address in Glasnevin North was given and a recording from around that time said that the station was broadcasting from near Dublin Airport.

Interview: John Brady (Radio Ireland International)
1983 letter from Radio Ireland International to Ian Biggar, giving further station information.

Radio Ireland International was logged again on 6312 kHz on 30th December 1984 and from 1985 on, was a regular on the Irish shortwave scene. An Anoraks Ireland listing from 1986 gave 31 Mountjoy Square, Dublin 1 as the address. On 12th April 1987, Anoraks UK reported that the station had closed for ‘personal reasons’.

Interview: John Brady (Radio Ireland International)
1983 Radio Ireland International QSL (courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

In this interview, John Brady tells Eolann Aitken about the early days of Radio Ireland International and described how they used a low-powered FM link to avoid being raided. The interview was conducted on 20th October 2018 at the Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin at a meet-up of people involved in Irish pirate radio over the years.

Full recording: Capital Radio International

Full recording: Capital Radio International
A Capital QSL from 1981 (courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

Capital Radio International began broadcasting from Dublin in 1981, one of many shortwave pirates from Ireland during that decade. It broadcast for the most part on 6268 kHz with a strong signal – the QSL above records an output of 180 watts which was well above average for the hobby shortwave stations. Capital Radio sometimes operated from the site of another shortwave pirate Radio Valleri.

Our recording was made from 6268 kHz from 1120-1205 on Sunday 11th August 1985 and features the station operator Aidan Hughes. The signal is indeed strong but over-modulated in places and seems to drift slightly off channel. Capital returned to the air in the early 1990s but came to an end when Aidan Hughes died prematurely.

For more information about the shortwave pirates see the DX Archive and Pirate Memories websites. This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.