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.
Here is a selection of jingles for the Radio Carousel network. The package begins with jingles announcing ‘Radio 265’, referring to the frequency announced, but we are not aware that these were ever used on air. Another refers to ‘Southern Ireland’ but this would have been a controversial term to use, particularly in the border area served by Carousel, and we are not aware that it was used either. The sonovox cuts are a Steve England production.
There are also the more familiar cuts from jingle company CPMG (PAMS) featuring the line ‘with music, news and information, this is your station – Radio Carousel’ and a few jingles from Alfasound with the slogan ‘we belong together…’. The sample finishes with an ident for the well-known Carousel presenter Kieran Murray. Separately below is a message from Waterford Local Radio (WLR) wishing Carousel a happy 5th birthday on May 20th 1983. We thank Eddie Caffrey for sharing these recordings.
Part 3 of Leon Tipler’s documentary ‘The Irish Pirates’ is entitled ‘Hello Again’, and features a return visit to Ireland in September 1983. In this episode, Volume 5 of the 8-part series, Tipler begins with a bandscan of Irish AM and FM from Aberystwyth on the west-Wales coast in August 1983. Returning to Dublin a month later, he comments on the improved sound of Treble TR before boarding a train to Kilkenny and Waterford. Kilkenny Community Radio and Suirside Radio are featured in depth and as usual there are several interesting bandscans.
This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.
Crystal City Sound was one of the 1980s pirates broadcasting from Waterford city. It came on air in October 1985, emerging from the ashes of Suirside Radio which had been on air since February 1979. Crystal City stayed on the same frequency as before, 1332 kHz. The station is listed on AM and FM in Anoraks Ireland reports from 1986 and 1987 but by April 1988 the name had changed to NCR. Crystal City saw itself as offering a broader range of programmes and more specialist music shows than the other major Waterford stations, WLR and ABC. Unusually for the commercial Irish pirates of the time the station was managed by two women, Gracie Sheehan and Sandra Penkert.
This recording was made from 97 FM on the 6th of December 1985 from 7.07pm. The presenter is Joe Patricks who told us that he got touch in touch with Crystal City Sound after being invited to a wedding in Waterford. He then came to Ireland on the boat from Liverpool and did a few shows in Waterford before returning to the pirate station KFM in Stockport in Manchester. See also DX Archive for more audio and here for an interview about the background to Suirside Radio. This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.
On October 20th 2018 over 100 radio anoraks gathered in the Ballsbridge Hotel Dublin. The purpose was to meet and record oral history of the pirate radio era.
In this interview Eoin Ronayne talks about his days at Suirside Radio and Waterford Local Radio (WLR) and describes his path to professional journalism and RTÉ Radio 2. WLR was one of the few former pirates to obtain a license in 1989. The interviewer is John Walsh and this was broadcast onWireless on Flirt FM in November 2018.