Spring 1984 was the height of the RTÉ jamming campaign against super-pirates such as Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio in Dublin and South Coast Radio in Cork. On 26th April 1984, Sunshine boss Robbie Dale (Robinson) attempted to ring RTÉ live on air during his mid-morning programme. RTÉ were jamming Sunshine on 531 kHz at the time from the Radio 2 site in Beaumont, claiming that they were testing on the frequency. Robbie Dale spoke to the RTÉ press office but failed to get through to Assistant Director-General Bobby Gahan.
A few days later on Dublin Community Radio, David Baker was more successful. During a special programme about the radio scene, he managed to speak to Bobby Gahan live on air and ask him about the jamming. According to Peter Mulryan’s book Radio Radio, the Minister for Communications Jim Mitchell requested RTÉ in April 1984 to stop jamming as control of the airwaves was a matter for government and not for the state broadcaster. Such was the audience for pirate radio, it appeared that the government feared the political implications if popular stations couldn’t be heard.
These recordings were broadcast by Gerard Roe on the FRC programme on Radio Annabel on 17th June 1984. Our recording was made from 1035 kHz AM. The photo is of Bobby Gahan in 2015 when he was Lord Mayor of Stepaside in Dublin and is by the Evening Herald.
We’re delighted to announce episode #3 of the Pirate.ie podcast which explores themes covered in our growing archive of Irish pirate radio.
The 1980s can be described as the decade that Ireland changed from black and white to colour and pirate radio was very much part of that social change. While many pushed for liberalisation, conservative forces opposed moves towards opening up Irish society and pirate radio reflected such tensions. Larger commercial stations were dominated by men’s voices while women and minority groups were better represented in specialist and community radio. Community radio itself developed a more inclusive model of participation and access and even large commercial stations practised corporate social responsibility from time to time. Religion also played a key role, with several pirates representing Catholic values which were still powerful in Irish society.
In episode #3, John Walsh and Brian Greene explore the social influence of pirate radio during its heyday.
Sunshine Radio was the first Dublin station to earn the label of ‘super-pirate’ when it launched in September 1980. With massive investment, professional equipment and a powerful transmitter, it shook up the Dublin radio market and the pirate scene would never be the same again.
Peter Madison (RIP) was another talented broadcaster who joined Sunshine in the early days and would later broadcast on other pirates such as Boyneside Radio and Radio Nova. He is heard here at the end of his shift from 1442-1500 on Sunday 19th October 1980 and is then followed by another broadcasting giant, Tony Allan (RIP) from 1500-1525.
The short recording below is of Peter Madison a few days earlier, 16th October 1980, from 1206-1227. Quality is poor due to electrical interference but Peter can be heard telling listeners that he has cycled 10 miles to the studio in Portmarnock!
These recordings from 531 kHz AM were made in Ayrshire, Scotland by Ken Baird. We thank Ian Biggar for sharing them with us.
Today we bring you another recording from the first few weeks of Sunshine Radio, the station which broke the mould of Irish pirate radio when it launched officially on 29th September 1980.
The recording runs from 0953-1006 and again from 1013-1041 on 19th October 1980. It’s a cold and sunny Sunday morning and Jason Maine is in a relaxed vibe. The early Sunshine slogan ‘the dance station of the 80s’ is heard intermittently. This was used until around Christmas when the format changed to Top 40 and oldies. There are ads voiced by Tony Allan for the Sands Hotel where Sunshine was based and Tamango’s Nightclub next door. Jason also announces thousands of pounds’ worth of prizes in the coming week, a sign that Sunshine meant business.
This recording was made from 531 kHz by Ken Baird in Ayrshire in Scotland and co-channel interference can be heard from the Swiss German station underneath. Many thanks to Ian Biggar for sharing it with us.
Tony Allan (1949-2004) was one of the best-known voices of Irish pirate radio in the decade from 1978-1988 and among the finest broadcasters of his generation. Heard originally on British offshore stations such as Radio Caroline in the 1970s, he did voice-overs, jingles and presentation on many Irish pirates. Tony was among those who joined Sunshine Radio when it went on the air in September 1980 and stayed with the station for the first few months doing commercials and presenting programmes. He left in January 1981 and would later be heard regularly on Sunshine’s great rival, Radio Nova.
This is a recording of Tony on Sunshine on Saturday 18th October 1980, as heard on 531 kHz AM in Ayrshire in Scotland by Ken Baird. It runs from 1501-1608 and again from 1647-1704. Although there is co-channel interference due to the time of year and the Swiss station underneath, it is quite listenable and Tony’s unique style shines through the ether. The voice of Sunshine boss Robbie Robinson (Dale) can be heard on some of the ads.
We thank Ian Biggar for sharing this valuable recording with us.