This three-minute clip includes highlights related to the transnational nature of Irish pirate radio in the late 1970s and 1980s. By accident or design, stations were heard beyond the borders of the Irish state on FM and especially on AM and there were also part-time shortwave operators aimed at international DXers.
The first segment is of Arklow Community Radio as heard by the late British radio enthusiast Leon Tipler on FM in Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast on 13th August 1983. This is followed by a night-time recording of Radio Nova playing a request for Leon at his home in Kidderminster in the English midlands on 17th September 1982.
The third segment is the iconic top-of-the-hour ident of Radio Nova recorded on 17th July 1984. This is voiced by station boss Chris Cary who stresses that Nova broadcasts from and not to Dublin on 738 kHz. The AM transmitter was using 50 kW at the time in order to reach the British market.
The fourth segment is of KISS FM, a high-powered FM and AM station based in Monaghan on the border and aiming its signal at the lucrative Belfast market. This was recorded in Scotland on 13th June 1988. The firth extract is an advert on the Louth station Boyneside Radio promoting a céilí in an Irish centre in Lankashire. Although recorded in Ireland, it is evidence that Boyneside had listeners across the Irish Sea. The final extract is from August 1985 and features one of the many Irish shortwave stations that aimed at international audiences. Radio Rainbow International broadcast on 6240 kHz but this is a studio recording.
These recordings are from our various collections and are discussed in more detail in our podcast focusing on the transnational nature of Irish pirate radio.
We were saddened to learn of the death on 17th November 2021 of Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh, a pioneering broadcaster with Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) in the 1980s. After developing Irish language programmes on BLB, Rónán went on to be the manager of the licensed Irish language station Raidió na Life in 1993.
BLB was one of the leaders in local community broadcasting during the pirate era and played a key role in the National Association of Community Broadcasters (NACB) which lobbied for licensed community radio. It began broadcasting in 1979 and continued until the closedowns at the end of 1988, making it one of the country’s longest-running pirate stations. As a community station, BLB prided itself on catering for minority groups and audiences served poorly by mainstream radio, including Irish speakers in its catchment area of north Wicklow and south Dublin. Irish was marginal on pirate radio, particularly among commercial stations, but community radio across the country regularly broadcast programmes in Irish. There were also Irish language pirate stations such as Saor-Raidió Chonamara in the Connemara Gaeltacht in 1970 (which led to the establishment of Raidió na Gaeltachta) and Raidió an Phobail in Dublin in 1979.
Mar stáisiún pobail, chuir BLB roimhe freastal ar ghrúpaí mionlaigh agus daoine nach raibh freastal mar is ceart á dhéanamh orthu ag na stáisiúin mhóra raidió, ina measc cainteoirí Gaeilge i dtuaisceart Chill Mhantáin agus deisceart Bhaile Átha Cliath. Bhí an Ghaeilge imeallach ar an raidió bradach, go háirithe ar na stáisiúin tráchtála, ach craoladh cláracha Gaeilge ar stáisiúin raidió pobail ar fud na tíre. Bhí stáisiúin bhradacha Ghaeilge ann chomh maith, ina measc Saor-Radio Chonamara i nGaeltacht Chonamara in 1970 (a thug ann do Raidió na Gaeltachta) agus Raidió an Phobail i mBaile Átha Cliath in 1979.
This is an extract from the final half hour (2030-2100) of one of BLB’s Irish language programmes Timchuairt Bhré (a trip around Bray), presented by Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh on 9th November 1983. Rónán went on to present Irish language programmes on the successor licensed station to BLB, Horizon Radio (John Walsh of Pirate.ie also worked on those programmes) and he became the first manager of the licensed Raidió na Life in 1993. The recording features Irish traditional and folk music and is followed by the station closedown at 2100.
Seo í an leathuair an chloig deireanach (2030-2100) de cheann de chláracha Gaeilge BLB, Timchuairt Bhré, á chur i láthair ag Rónán Ó Dubhthaigh ar 9 Samhain 1983. Lean Rónán air ag cur cláracha Gaeilge i láthair ar Horizon Radio, an stáisiún ceadúnaithe a tháinig i gcomharbacht ar BLB. D’oibrigh John Walsh ó Pirate.ie ar na cláracha sin chomh maith. Ceapadh Rónán ina chéad bhainisteoir ar an stáisiún ceadúnaithe Raidió na Life in 1993. Ar an taifeadadh seo, cloistear ceol Gaelach agus traidisiúnta agus ina dhiaidh sin dúntar an stáisiún ar 2100.
This recording is from the Skywave Tapes Collection. Skywave Radio International broadcast a shortwave station in the 1980s from Baldoyle in northeast Dublin.
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.
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.
Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) was one of the pioneers of community radio in Ireland, broadcasting for almost a decade from 1979 until the end of 1988. It was a leading member of the National Association of Community Broadcasters (NACB) which at its height involved eleven stations around the country all committed to a community model of radio inspired by AMARC principles.
BLB broadcast on 837 and then 828 kHz in its early days but the arrival of Radio Nova on high power in that part of the band in 1981 caused it to move down to 657 kHz. In later years the FM signal on 97.8 MHz got good coverage into Dublin from its high site in Bray. However, in March 1988 Breffni Regional Radio in Co. Cavan moved onto 657 kHz, prompting a complaint from BLB. Such was the world of unregulated pirate radio where competition for suitable frequencies was fierce.
This is an airchecked recording of part of the East Coast Top 40 from BLB in May 1988. The presenter is Timmy Hannigan and the show is produced by Elaine Keogh. Despite the co-channel interference from Breffni Radio underneath, there’s a tight and punchy feel to the programme and it is a good example of how professional BLB could sound. Among the voices heard on ads and promos are BLB manager Adrian Kennedy and afternoon presenter Daphne Mitchell who worked on other stations such as Radio Leinster. There’s also a promo for the ‘new look BLB’ giving a flavour of the variety of programming heard on this innovative station.
The East Coast Top 40 was compiled from record sales in shops from Dundalk to Wicklow and aired every Saturday from 1-4pm on BLB. Timmy Hannigan became a leading name in Irish DJ and electronic music culture using the name Mr Spring. Elaine Keogh went on to work in licensed local radio and is now a freelance journalist. Many of those involved in BLB worked in the short-lived licensed station Horizon Radio in Bray from 1989. By 1992, Horizon had merged with the south Wicklow station Easy 103. The station eventually became East Coast FM which holds the country licence today.
We thank Barry Dunne for his donation of this recording.
Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) was one of the leading community broadcasters of the 1980s and put out a strong signal on 657 kHz AM from Bray in Co. Wicklow. In this promo from 1987 which includes the voice of Minister for Communications Jim Mitchell, BLB extols the virtues of community radio in anticipation of the new licences. Although many of those involved in BLB were behind the licensed Horizon Radio in 1989, that station was to merge with another more commercially-focused broadcaster in Wicklow and community radio proper was not licensed until the mid 1990s. You can read more about Horizon Radio on the Wireless Flirt blog.