Aircheck: Women’s Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman (Galway)

Aircheck: Women's Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman (Galway)
St. Bridget’s Terrace Lower in Galway, from where Women’s Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman broadcast (photo by John Walsh).

Women’s Scéal Radio was an intermittent pirate station broadcasting in Galway from 1986 to 1988. It was run by the peace activist and feminist campaigner Margaretta D’Arcy from her home at Woodquay in Galway City. ‘Scéal’ is the Irish for ‘story’ and the aims were to allow women free access to tell their stories on radio and to campaign against censorship. The station continued in 1989 under the name of Radio Pirate Woman and continued to operate intermittently until about 2010. In 1996 Margaretta D’Arcy wrote about her radio philosophy in a book called Galway’s Pirate Women: a Global Trawl. This video, produced by Radio Pirate Woman, gives a flavour of an anarchic and unique station, undoubtedly the most distinctive in Galway pirate radio history. The voice of Margaretta D’Arcy announcing both stations can be heard on the audio track above.

Technical standards were not important and equipment consisted mostly of a microphone and tape recorder with women sitting around the kitchen table. One of those involved, Maureen Maguire, can be heard here. Margaretta D’Arcy boasted to the City Tribune in 1988 that it had cost her only £50 to go on air. The station generally broadcast for a few hours during the day and again from midnight, and also played tapes from or linked up with women’s radio stations around the world. As well as defying broadcasting legislation, particularly after 1989, it also gave out information about abortion and interviewed members of Sinn Féin, both of which were also prohibited at the time. Flyers for Radio Pirate Woman said it could be picked up only over a two-mile radius of Galway city centre. Frequencies mentioned over the years were 102 and 106 FM.

Aircheck: Women's Scéal Radio/Radio Pirate Woman (Galway)
Flyer for Radio Pirate Woman, probably 1990 (courtesy Eddie Bohan).

In 2014, Margaretta D’Arcy, then aged 80, served two prison sentences over her opposition to use by the US of Shannon Airport for military purposes. In 2017 she donated her papers and those of her late husband, playwright John Arden to the National University of Ireland, Galway. These included hundreds of cassettes containing recordings of Radio Pirate Woman. The launch was featured on the December 2017 edition of Wireless on Flirt FM which included an extract from D’Arcy’s speech describing the importance of pirate radio to the women’s movement.