Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)
Tony Allan (right) on the day of the Radio Nova closedown in Dublin in 1983 (photo courtesy of Joe King).

This is the third and final recording of WLS Music Radio in our feature on the Galway pirates of the 1980s. Made on the 9th of October 1986 from 1132-1232, it features one of the best-known pirate radio voices of the era, Tony Allan. Tony worked on many British offshore pirates including Radio Caroline in the 1960s and the Voice of Peace anchored off the Israeli coast in the 1970s. He came to Ireland in 1979 and his voice was heard on pirate station idents throughout the country throughout the 1980s including WLS and Coast 103 in Galway. He also presented on various stations including Radio Nova, voicing the famous closedown promo of 1983. Shortly after the vast majority of the pirates left the airwaves at the end of 1988 due to new broadcasting legislation, Tony and Steve Marshall of Coast 103 set up Quincentennial Radio in Galway. Tony passed away in 2004 at the age of 54 following a cancer diagnosis. There is a tribute to him here.

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)
A current view of 24 Prospect Hill, to where WLS moved in December 1986 (photo by John Walsh).

In December 1986, WLS moved to spacious new offices on Prospect Hill off Eyre Square in Galway. Anoraks UK commented that the facilities were at the standard of any British ILR station of the time. Many thanks to Ian Biggar of DX Archive for sharing this recording.

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)
WLS letterhead courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

Here’s a second recording of WLS Music Radio from Galway, in the early months of the station in 1985. At this stage WLS was broadcasting from Kiltartan House on Forster Street, just across the road from its rival Atlantic Sound. Leading Atlantic DJs Keith York (RIP) and Don Stevens left Atlantic in March 1985 to set up WLS.

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)
A current view of Kiltartan House, Forster Street, Galway from where WLS Music Radio broadcast in 1985 (photo by John Walsh).

WLS broadcast initially on 846 kHz AM and 104 FM. This recording is of Ritchie O’Shea from 1303-1427 (with Sarah Myers on news) on the 28th of May 1985. This was just a few days after RTÉ was granted a temporary injunction against Don Stevens and Keith York of WLS preventing them from causing interference to television reception in Galway. According to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report, WLS moved to 102.7 FM before the court case in order to stop the interference. In June 1986 a permanent injunction was granted to RTÉ preventing WLS from interfering with television reception of RTÉ 2. RTÉ were claiming a £30,000 loss in advertising revenue due to WLS.

Despite the audio processing and clear FM signal on this recording there are a few on-air glitches and adverts are pretty thin on the ground, possibly as a result of adverse publicity around the interference. However following the closure of Atlantic in June 1985, WLS quickly mopped up local advertising revenue and went on to become Galway’s largest commercial station until its closure in 1987. More recordings of WLS are available here.

Our thanks to Ian Biggar of DX Archive for sharing this recording.

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)

Full recording: WLS Music Radio (Galway)
WLS Music Radio compliments slip, courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

WLS Music Radio was a successful and professional pirate broadcasting to Galway for more than two years from March 1985 to June 1987. WLS stood for ‘West Local Station’ and was set up by former offshore DJs Don Stevens and Keith York (RIP) who came to Galway from Cork and joined the existing pirate, Atlantic Sound in 1984. WLS was launched around the 17th of March 1985 and broadcast on 846 kHz AM and 104 FM in stereo, later adding shortwave on 6240 kHz.

From the beginning, WLS Music Radio meant business and broadcast 24 hours a day with an hourly news service from 7am to midnight and it wasn’t long until Atlantic folded. The technical set-up was impressive from the start with high quality Gates turntables and Spotmaster cart machines, according to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report in March 1985. There was a setback in May when RTÉ was granted a temporary injunction in the High Court against Don Stevens and Keith York preventing WLS from causing interference to television transmissions in Galway. In advance of the court hearing, WLS had moved to 102.7 FM to avoid interference. They also increased power to 520 watts ERP, claiming to be the largest FM transmitter ever heard in Galway. AM power was increased to 300 watts and reception reports came from as far away as Wales and Devon. By June 1986, Anoraks UK described WLS as ‘one of the best equipped stations in Ireland, with a sound to go with it’ and reported that it had many local and national advertisers. Presenters included Keith York, another former offshore DJ Steve Marshall and a veteran of the Dublin scene, Tony Allan, who joined in 1986. RTÉ claimed loss of £30,000 in advertising revenue in Galway and in June 1986 the High Court granted a permanent injunction preventing WLS from causing interference to television reception of RTÉ 2.

In June 1987 the Free Radio Show on Radio West reported that WLS had gone off the air after an irate investor unhappy with his return arrived at the station and dismantled equipment. WLS presenters could be heard on other Galway stations such as KFM and County Sound. In July, Steve Marshall and Keith York set up another successful Galway station Coast 103 which lasted until the end of 1988.

This recording is from 0850-0955 on the 27th of April 1985, during the early days of WLS. It features Don Stevens on the breakfast show and Laura Landers on news. The audio and presentation style is professional and reminiscent of the larger commercial stations in Dublin and Cork. There’s even a reference to the weather forecast ‘for the bay area’, borrowed from Radio Nova! Many thanks to Ian Biggar of DX Archive for the recording.  

Full recording: Atlantic Sound (Galway)

Full recording: Atlantic Sound (Galway)
Atlantic Sound compliments slip, courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive.

We’re delighted to bring you the first instalment in a week-long series of recordings of pirate radio in Galway in the 1980s.

Atlantic Sound broadcast for a little over a year from April 1984 to June 1985 to Galway city on 1026 kHz AM and 95.4 FM. In August 1984, following the closure of South Coast Radio in Cork, former offshore DJs Keith York (RIP) and Don Stevens moved to Galway and got involved with Atlantic Sound, which was based at Forster Street in the city centre. They were later joined by another former South Coast colleague, Steve Marshall, who moved from WKLR in west Cork. Atlantic Sound is featured in the October 1984 tour of Ireland by DX Archive who were full of praise for the Galway station. They reported that a move from 1026 to 846 kHz was imminent but this didn’t happen until the Cork trio left Atlantic Sound in March 1985. According to the Anoraks UK Weekly Report, Marshall, York and Stevens ‘moved across the road’ in Forster Street and set up WLS Music Radio on 846 kHz and 104 FM. The technical set up was superior and it wasn’t long before WLS overtook Atlantic. Having lost many of its key staff, Altantic Sound closed down in June 1985.

Full recording: Atlantic Sound (Galway)
L-R: Don Stevens, Keith York and a competition winner (date unknown, courtesy of Ian Biggar/DX Archive).

This recording is from 1447-1608 on the 28th of May 1985, towards the end of Atlantic’s existence, and features Shane Martin and Gerry Browne on air. There are plenty of Tony Allan idents and an on-air auction for tickets to the forthcoming Bruce Springsteen concert at Slane on the 1st of June. Our thanks to Ian Biggar of DX Archive for this recording.