Finding suitable frequencies on the crowded AM band of the 1980s was one of the technical challenges facing the Irish pirates and the story of Radio West is a case in point. The midlands station began on 1071 kHz in 1982 before moving to 702 kHz and then 729 kHz, a bad choice given the presence of RTÉ’s Cork opt-out service on the same frequency. Radio West switched to 765 kHz on 27th June 1983, increasing its range within Ireland and beyond. From 1986-1988, it returned to 702 kHz, rebranding itself as ‘West National Radio 3’ and claiming national coverage on AM and a series of FM transmitters.
This tape was made from 765 kHz in the early hours of Saturday 9th July 1983 and features the closedown of Radio West for the night. The unidentified DJ signs off in both Irish and English and then plays the iconic Desiderata song, also used by Sunshine Radio in Dublin at closedown each night. The broadcast ends with the national anthem.
There is plenty of fading as would be expected in late-night DX reception outside the core transmission area. The recording was made in the English midlands and is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.
Despite the claims of its opponents, the Irish pirate radio era was about so much more than pop stations playing nothing but the Top 40. Around the country, many pirates became popular and credible sources of news and information in their own regions, offering a real local alternative to RTÉ. One area where pirate radio really had the edge was sports coverage, especially of local GAA matches.
This recording of popular midlands station Radio West was made in the summer of 1983 and is of a Saturday afternoon sports show with local results and interviews. One such interview features a GAA club in Longford and the recording is a good example of how many pirates, particularly outside Dublin, were templates for the licensed local radio of today. The presenters are unidentified and there are no timechecks but we know that the recording was made on Saturday 13th August 1983 from 765 kHz AM in Aberystwyth on the west Wales coast. The transmitter was capable of running up to 10kW of power at the time, and with Aberystwyth about 250 km from the Radio West site in Co. Westmeath, the recording shows that the station’s groundwave reception was good well beyond its core coverage area.
This recording is from the Leon Tipler Tapes Collection, donated to us by Steve England.
This is the final programme on the Mullingar-based station West National Radio 3 on December 30th 1988. Launched as Radio West in 1981, the station expanded its coverage beyond the midlands on AM and FM and could be heard from Dublin to Galway by 1987. The closing programme is the Country Jamboree, hosted by one of the big names of offshore and Irish pirate radio, the late Don Allen. Don is joined studio by a host of station staff, local business owners and country music artists.
Station owner Shaun Coyne thanks everyone involved and expresses optimism that Radio West will get a licence. He also comments on the costs involving in running the station, including the weekly £500 bill for the generator that kept the 10kW AM transmitter on air. Radio West was supposed to close at 9pm and as the show continues past the deadline, Don Allen jokes that the diesel powering the transmitter will run out!
There is also evidence of how pirate radio supported the Irish country music scene, with warm recognition from country music artists for Radio West’s support. This theme was repeated on many other rural pirate stations when closing down at the end of 1988. The recording above runs from 2032-2106 and the one below from 2106-2205. Both were made from 100.1 FM and are kindly donated by John Breslin.
For a comprehensive account of the 1988 closedowns, see the Radiowaves site.
This is the final edition of the popular weekly Radio West Anoraks’ Show a short time before the station’s closure at the end of 1988. Broadcast from Mullingar every Sunday morning, the programme was fronted by station boss Shaun Coyne and a variety of presenters including the late Don Allen, himself a veteran of the offshore stations. Both Shaun and Don are heard on this show along with Willie Harte, Michael Tiernan, Gerry Reilly, John Gartlan, Myles Johnson and Eddie Caffrey. There’s plenty of nostalgia about the pirate era that is about to end and speculation about the new legal regime due to come into effect. Essential listening!
This programme was recorded from 1053-1145 on Sunday 18th December 1988 from 100.1 FM and has been donated kindly by John Breslin.
This is a recording of part the Anoraks Show on West National Radio 3 from December 1988, towards the end of the popular show’s run as the pirates prepared to close down. Station boss Shaun Coyne interviews radio engineer Gerry Reilly from Co. Cavan, who reckons that he set up between 30 and 40 pirate stations in the 1980s.
The discussion gives a fascinating insight into the economics and technology of the pirates and there are nuggets of information about how certain stations made big profits and provided much needed work in their areas. There’s also plenty of speculation about the new licensed era in 1989. Following the Anoraks Show we hear part of the final edition of the weekly farming programme Landlink.
This recording was made from 1052-1141 on Sunday 11th December 1988 from 100.1 FM. We thank John Breslin for the donation. Listen to our own interview with Gerry Reilly in 2018 here.