Alternative listening with the Sunshine Cake

Alternative listening with the Sunshine Cake
A feature on the Sunshine Cake in the Sunshine Review of 1985 (courtesy of DX Archive).

The Sunshine Cake was a specialist programme broadcast by Sunshine Radio on Sunday mornings from 1985 on its FM frequency only, as an alternative to the station’s regular output on AM. It was a good example of the creativity of some of the pirates in using the existing technology to serve a broader audience, and also a reminder that niche programming was not only done by RTÉ.

In a feature in the Sunshine Review of 1985, presenter Justin McKenna wrote: ‘The idea for the Sunshine Cake was hatched when it became obvious that there was not one single programme on Irish radio which catered for the over 30 listener who enjoyed a wide range of music’. The Sunshine Cake included classical, jazz, blues and comedy slots and gained a regular audience around Dublin. In an interesting commentary on the continued dominance of AM radio in 1985, McCarthy wrote: ‘It’s been gratifying to note that a lot of the younger audience, who I would have expected to move down to the medium wave band, have stayed with FM and listened to the Cake’.

Alternative listening with the Sunshine Cake
The White Sands Hotel today, known as the Sands Hotel in Sunshine’s time (photo by John Walsh).

This recording was made from 101 FM from 1025-1122 on Sunday 31st March 1985. It includes the comedy slot and a diverse musical mix, a cinema review with Paul Vincent and a voice competition.

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

Final morning of Radio Leinster

Final morning of Radio Leinster
Radio Leinster logo courtesy of DX Archive.

Radio Leinster was one of Dublin’s niche pirates, featuring an easy listening and chat format in contrast with the chart music played on many stations. It began on 29th April 1981 from an elevated site in Sandyford overlooking the city. A professional 1 kW transmitter on 738 kHz travelled well by day but was subject to interference at night.

This recording is of interest because it is from the last day of Radio Leinster, 19th May 1983. Like many other stations, Radio Leinster was spooked by the raids on Radio Nova and Sunshine and closed down suddenly at lunchtime. This recording which begins at 10.20am gives no impression of a crisis, and presenter Mike Moran even announces a competition. The recording is from 93 FM. Sadly, Radio Leinster was never to return but future stations in the same easy listening vein would be Magic 103, KISS FM (for a period) and KLAS.

Radio Leinster presenters included many experienced broadcasters and launched the careers of others. One of the station’s presenters was Gavin Duffy who led the consortium to be awarded the local radio licence for counties Meath and Louth in 1989. Peter Mulryan’s book Radio Radio (1988) reports that in 1982 Duffy announced that he would interview senior Sinn Féin figures including Gerry Adams, in breach of Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act. The station received a warning from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and Duffy was fired.

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

Sunshine Radio charity auction

Sunshine Radio charity auction
An ad by the Central Remedial Clinic in the Sunshine Radio Review from 1985.

Some of the pirates engaged in corporate social responsibility, raising money for various charitable and voluntary groups. One of the larger stations to do so was Sunshine Radio, which built a relationship with the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC), an organisation supporting people with physical disabilities. Sunshine held an annual auction on air in aid of the CRC along with the Sunshine Extravaganza, an evening event that listeners could pay to attend, with the proceeds going to the charity. In the first five year’s of Sunshine’s existence, the station raised over £100,000 for the CRC, a considerable sum in the cash-strapped 1980s.

Sunshine Radio charity auction
Pat Courtenay as pictured in the Sunshine Review from 1985.

This recording is of part of the 5th CRC auction as recorded from 531 kHz AM from 1035-1120 on 13th April 1985. In studio are Kieran Ryan and Pat Courtenay, who looks after the bids. Items are up for auction in various lots and include a helicopter trip, a weekend in a Dublin hotel, a bonsai tree, an electronic telephone, attic insulation, a home brew kit, toys, gym membership, beauty treatments, silverware, a Philips radio recorder and even 22 tonnes of sand or gravel!  Irish cabaret singer Tony Kenny, who is taking part in the 5th Sunshine Extravaganza evening in aid of the CRC, is interviewed by station owner Robbie Dale (Robinson), who then joins Pat Courtenay in studio to promote the Sunshine Extravaganza. An ad break includes a promo for the Sunshine Cake, an FM opt-out service of easy listening music on Sunday mornings.

Sunshine Radio charity auction
Robbie Dale as pictured in the Sunshine Review 1985.

This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International was a shortwave station broadcasting from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.

Late night Waterford Local Radio

Late night Waterford Local Radio
WLR logo (courtesy of DX Archive).

Waterford Local Radio (WLR) was one of Ireland’s longest-running pirates, broadcasting from 1978 until the closedowns at the end of 1988. It was also one of the few to be granted a county licence under the new regime in 1989, and continues to broadcast to this day, using the same name.

In its pirate days, WLR broadcast on 1197 kHz AM (announced as 252 metres) and 88.8 FM. The origins of the station went back to 1972 when Rick Whelan and radio technician Egidio Giani managed to broadcast over a range of only a few hundred metres within Waterford City. The station began full-time broadcasting on 23rd June 1978 from Rick Whelan’s garage in Butlerstown to the west of the city and soon boosted its signal to cover a 20-mile radius. In September 1979, WLR moved into the city and linked its signal by FM to the AM site in Butlerstown. Rick’s brother Des became manager in 1978 and closed down WLR ten years later on 31st December 1988. The licensed WLR returned to the Waterford airwaves on 8th September 1989 and Des Whelan is still the managing director.

This recording was made from 88.8 FM on 24th March 1986 and is of part of a late night show presented by John O’Shea. It is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International was a shortwave station broadcasting from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin. Listen here to an interview with Eoin Ronayne about his memories of the pirate WLR.

Radio from the Garden County: Wicklow Community Radio

Radio from the Garden County: Wicklow Community Radio
WCR car sticker (courtesy of DX Archive).

Wicklow Community Radio (WCR) began broadcasting in the second half of 1982 on 1512 kHz AM (198 metres). It emerged from temporary festival stations set up in Wicklow Town, the first of which was by RTÉ in 1980. As happened in towns and villages across the country, the RTÉ community radio experiment spawned local pirates, and Wicklow was no exception.

In the summer of 1981, the Community Broadcasting Co-operative (CBC), which would run pop-up stations around Dublin throughout the decade, set up Wicklow Regatta Radio to coincide with a local festival. In a 1984 documentary, manager of WCR Leo Doyle said that the CBC station was more professional and popular than the scripted and controlled RTÉ experiment. As a result, he decided to set up a full-time station with two other locals.

Radio from the Garden County: Wicklow Community Radio
Andy Scott (Scott Williams) on WCR (photo courtesy of DX Archive).

WCR was originally aimed at Wicklow Town and surrounding areas and was mostly a voluntary operation with a strong community focus. There was a breakfast show with various slots, music and chat and a mid-morning programme aimed at housewives featuring recipes and aerobics sessions. The station had extensive local news and sports coverage, specialist jazz, country, traditional and ballads shows and ‘The Young Ones’, researched, presented and produced by children with an average age of 12. Among the DJs were Andy Scott, later known as Scott Williams, who went on to become a big name on Dublin radio.  

WCR was relaunched as WLCB (Wicklow Local Community Broadcasting) in the summer of 1985 with a larger coverage area and more commercial outlook. A 1.2 kW transmitter was installed on 1602 kHz and FM coverage improved due to a good hilltop site near Wicklow Town. WLCB changed its name again to Viking 105 in 1987 and continued until the end of the 1988.

This recording is from 1118-1203 on 10th April 1985 and features Mick Duggan followed by Jackie Scott on news. Sound quality is fair at best with some electrical interference and it seems the recording was made in Dublin outside the core coverage area. The recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International was a shortwave station broadcasting from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.