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.

Tony Christie on Radio Dublin

Tony Christie on Radio Dublin
Radio Dublin car sticker from the mid-1980s (courtesy of DX Archive).

Tony Christie was a familiar voice on many pirates in the 1980s including Liberty 104, Radio Dublin and KISS FM in Co. Offaly to where he moved in 1987. Here he is on Radio Dublin from 105 FM on Sunday 24th August 1986 from 1512-1600 with a show sponsored by the No Name Fashion Depot in Walkinstown. Along with regular live promos for No Name, the voices of Robbie Robinson and Tony Allan can be heard on ads. Tony Christie is now a broadcaster on Midlands 103.

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

The original Christmas station: Radio Snowflake

The original Christmas station: Radio Snowflake
A Radio Snowflake flyer from c. 1986 (courtesy of Ian Biggar).

Radio Snowflake was the original Christmas station, set up by Dave Reddy of the Community Broadcasting Co-operative (CBC) in 1982. The CBC rang temporary festival stations around Dublin in locations such as Glasnevin, Ringsend and Donnybrook and also broadcast Radio Snowflake around Christmas each year.

This recording was made from 1512 kHz AM on this day, 15th December 1984 from 1345-1430. David Baker, a well-known voice of CBC and other pirates, is on air with his usual mix of easy listening music and community news. There is plenty of co-channel mixing, possibly from Wicklow Community Radio on the same frequency. 1512 or 1530 were the usual AM frequencies for CBC with various low-powered FM channels in operation. 99.9 MHz is announced in this recording.

David Baker continued to run Radio Snowflake online until 2019, using many of the original presenters. Christmas FM comes on air every year on a temporary licence in various cities and towns across Ireland.

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

Pop-up community radio: STYC Radio

Pop-up community radio: STYC Radio
The Stella Cinema where STYC Radio was based (photo courtesy www.cinematreasures.org)

Because radio technology was so accessible in 1980s Dublin, all sorts of groups could get involved including youth clubs and community associations. Another station which began under the Community Broadcasting Co-operative (CBC) banner was St. Teresa’s Youth Club Radio (STYC) in the Dublin suburb of Mount Merrion.

Following the usual CBC model, STYC Radio came on the air first in August 1983 to coincide with a local festival and was due to return the following summer but never did so. The station was back on 17th August 1986 from the old Stella Cinema under the direction of John Marren and Greg Manahan.

Pop-up community radio: STYC Radio
The demolition of the Stella Cinema in February 2019 (courtesy @brianedempsey / Twitter)

There was a still a link with CBC through the FM transmitter which was supplied by Dave Reddy. Although output was only about 40 watts, the signal on 88 FM got good coverage because of the height of the antenna on the roof of the cinema which was only demolished recently. From 1986 STYC also broadcast on 963 kHz AM using the old Dún Laoghaire Local Radio transmitter, formerly Radio South County from Cabinteely in 1980.

The recording above was made on 24th August 1986 and features the final day of STYC Radio that summer. A giddy presenter at the start has mic problems and is followed by Greg Manahan, one of those running the station. There are references to festival events including a kids’ party, car treasure hunt and double DJ disco that night. It’s an Irish music show and bootlegs of U2 are among the songs played. Given that the destructive storm Hurricane Charley hit Ireland that very night, it was just as well that this was STYC’s final day. 

The short airchecked recording below is also from August 1986 and includes Kevin O’Leary & Ken Kelleher with their punk show followed by Greg Manahan. The voice of John Marren is heard on the advert.

The long recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International was a shortwave station broadcasting from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin. The shorter clip is shared courtesy of Kevin Branigan. Thanks to Dave Reddy, Paul Murray and Kevin Branigan for background information.