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729 - 1026 - 101



There is a considerable history to ABC, and Andy Ellis begins the story right at the start.

The increasing desire for consumer choice in all areas, including broadcasting, the weakness of the Wireless Telegraphy act, (Dating back to the formation of the state, and with a maximum £40 fine for unlicensed broadcasting) and the growing availability of cheap, but reasonable quality studio and transmitting technology, meant that by the late 1970's, one could effectively start a radio station, with no fear of action by the authorities.

By 1981, most towns had at least one station, with Dublin having several, including the 'superpirates' Sunshine and Nova.

While doing a stint in the summer of 1981 on the Voice of Peace radio station (Anchored off the coast of Tel Aviv, Israel), myself (AKA Andy Ellis), Clive Derek, and Grant Ballard, among others onboard, would while away the time planning to start our own radio station when our 6 month contracts were up. With the arrival on board of Kevin Turner, straight from working at Suirside Radio in Waterford, our plans became more focused, with Ireland being the destination.

Most of the air staff left the VOP in late November, after a disagreement with Abe Nathan, and arriving back from Israel, it was time to try and put the dreaming into action. In the event, Grant Ballard decided to pursue a career in Italy, so a colleague Stuart Clarke, from the London area landbased 'Sunday pirate scene' was asked to join us.

The Christmas period was spent by all earning money to buy studio and transmitter parts, and money to sustain the team for the first few weeks. I was the engineer, and so most of my time was spent constructing the AM Transmitter, (which for the technically minded was as follows: 2 x TT21 in the PA, 2 EL34 Mod, with a WODEN UM3 mod transformer 'borrowed' from another pirate colleague, Dave Hunt! Power output was about 150 watts.) FM was, at the time , of secondary commercial importance, so a 40watt Dutch made Transmitter was obtained. We did, however have an Italian made stereo coder kit which was to be completed when on air, due to lack of time. A four dipole FM aerial was also constructed at the engineering shop that I was working at in East Grinstead.

As we were not totally sure of what channel to use, after careful monitoring of the band, a decision was made to get two crystals cut for the lowest frequency clearest channels we could find. (The lower the frequency, the further the signal travels for a given power output). In the end, 729 kHz and 819 kHz were chosen.


We had not made up our minds on where to base ourselves, although we had decided that due to Kevin Turner's knowledge and contacts in the area, somewhere in the South East of Ireland was probably a good idea. Dungarvan, in Co.Waterford looked promising from looking at the map, so we decided to load up my Mk 1 GT Cortina, and Kevin Turner's Morris 1100, and head for there. At this stage Stuart and Clive waited behind in the UK to conserve funds.

We set off for Fishguard in early February, and headed to Dungarvan. We were worried about trying to explain what we were up to to the customs, but in the event, we just got waved through the green channel. We were also a bit concerned about being spotted in Waterford, as the Project was being done in secrecy in case any future rivals tried to stop us getting started. My car was bright red, and even back then, you didn't see many Mk1 Cortinas around. Richard Staines, and Dave Hunt, whom we both knew well, were working for Suirside Radio in Waterford, their Studios being situated with a good view out of the studio of the main road through Waterford.

After spending a few days in Dungarvan, we decided that it wouldn't be suitable, as it was barely big enough to support a station, and it already had a low power FM on which we hadn't heard about. As well as this, finding suitable premises was proving difficult. We drove up the coast road towards Tramore, booking in to a farm guesthouse just outside. We figured that Tramore might be suitable to sustain us in the summer months ahead, and offer the possibility of gaining an audience in Waterford, which was only 6 miles away.

We were having problems getting a somewhere to base ourselves in Tramore, we wasted a week trying to negotiate the renting of part of the disused Rex Cinema. We had the option of using someone's garage if needed, but eventually secured the use of a large caravan, with an adjoining plot of land for an aerial mast, at the top of a hill just outside of the town.(Practically ideal!)


Clive and Stuart were summoned by phone (by no means straight forward in those days: no direct dialling, an operator had to be used for calls to the UK, and you often had to wait in line for one), and arrived a couple of days later. Meanwhile, the studio was fitted out in the caravan, (an old kitchen table was bought in Charlie's furniture store in Waterford (Another risky trip!) Again, for the technically minded, the studio consisted of two Garrard SP25 turntables, a Tandy Mixer, 2 Philips N2214 portable cassette players, and a £10 Sony Microphone! Audio processing was provided by a defunct Stereo cassette deck, which had an auto level AGC built in.

At this stage, we had rented an off peak holiday home down near the beach, and time was spent here typing out playlists, writing out ratecards.  Up at the Caravan, the AM transmitter and aerial were being installed. (We announced it on air as AM, as opposed to the then more common "meters medium wave", as we thought it sounded bang up to date)
The transmitter was housed in the toilet cubicle of the caravan (other arrangements being made for oblations), and this fed the aerial via 50-ohm RG8 coax to an Aerial Tuning Unit. The ATU design was obtained from a 1958 edition of the RSGB handbook (The best source still of Valve and AM type engineering info). The ATU and coax was used to keep RF from the studio, and ensure that the start of the aerial wire was truly vertical (The first part of a quarter wave aerial emits the most RF).

The original support structure for the aerial was a Firtree, about 30 feet in height, and another tree in an adjoining field of similar height. Originally, a 'T' aerial was erected, with 3 top wires and a loading coil at the top of the vertical. but the weight of the whole lot caused it to sag, giving about 15 feet of vertical! This was ditched in favour of a single wire inverted 'L' aerial. 729 kHz was selected, and test transmissions started on 1st March 1982. We had a few problems running FM and AM simultaneously, so we concentrated on AM, which at the time, most people listened to.

Once this was on, we did a fair bit of driving around, seeing how well the signal was getting out, it was not bad in Waterford City, (some 6 miles away), but not really strong enough to be commercially viable. (The amount of signal strength needed for Joe Public as opposed to Joe Anorak is quite substantial!) Tests where non-stop music at first, with ID's the following evening. We also discovered, during a distant signal checking drive, that we were about 100 Hz off channel, causing a low-pitched drone on the channel at night. Since decreasing the value of the trimmer capacitor across the oscillator increased the tone, we knew that it was low in value. Checking our 819 crystal out at night confirmed that the maker had cut them wrong! A new 729.1 kHz was quickly ordered, and solved the problem!

At this stage, Richard Staines, and Dave Hunt, who worked for Suirside Radio in Waterford, and who shared a house with Roddy Cleere at that time, still were not aware of our presence, and impending start up. They did, however, hear the music test transmissions, complete with low pitched beat tone interference. While tuning the band and eating supper, as Richard Staines put it "I nearly choked on my pie and peas when I heard the station ID as ABC Radio, from Tramore".

ABC started full programming on 3rd March, reaction locally being very good, we were a bit apprehensive beforehand, but our fears proved groundless. By this stage, funds were down to £20 between us, and obtaining our first paid advert, from Heffernans Fuel Centre, Tramore, set us on the right track again.


Early Programme Schedule
Stuart Clarke
Andy Ellis
Clive Derek
Kevin Turner
"Wiggy" O'Connor
C J O'Keefe
Ellis/Clarke/Derek (Turns)


Good Times, Bad Times: The Summer Of '82

Soon after coming on air, the original quartet of Ellis, Clarke, Turner & Derek, Rented a house nearer the station, in a housing estate called Tramore Heights. There were no wages as such, and we continued to live in a "commune" (man) type arrangement, whereby the revenue from advertising paid the rent, and filled the fridge (and bought a few packs of Camel Filters for me too, without which, transmitter maintenance was totally impossible!) Several packs went into an all night session (with Chris Tyler, who wasn't really anything to do with the station!) to get the FM Stereo Transmitter going on 101 MHz.

Kevin Turner seemed to rapidly go off the project, becoming very pessimistic about surviving past the summer tourist season without a saleable signal in Waterford and beyond. He regularly pronounced every time anything went slightly wrong that "we may as well pack up and get the ferry tickets now." After 3 weeks on air, he did just that. We had all agreed at the beginning, that anyone who wanted out of the venture within the first year forfeited their original investment, so as not to jeopardise the project for those remaining.

A few weeks later, Nigel Roberts, who had involved with Joe Jackson's' stations in Dublin, and most recently stood in as engineer at Sunshine, joined us in Tramore, as did Steve Marshall, who was with Nigel, and a lot of ex-Caroline jocks on the Voice of Peace, during 1980.

Nigel and myself decided that the AM transmitter could be improved with a separate, high powered modulator, so we proceeded to build one, using another pair of TT21 valves, and upping the HT on both it and the PA to about 1200volts. After an all night session installing the new modulator, and after driving around to check it out, we went to bed, pleased with the enhanced performance.
We were woken later that evening, to be told that the Studios were on fire! In fact, they weren't, but the transmitter had self destructed, emitting copious quantities of acrid smoke in the process.

What happened? The Aerial Tuning Unit had burnt out with the increased power put through it, causing the RF PA to go off tune and draw far too much current, the anodes reddened up (Melting the glass envelope!), the excess current also took out the Mod transformer too! The transmitter was totally destroyed, even the Power supply had burnt out. The fuses in the HT line didn't stop the carnage, and just arced over (wrong type?)

Everyone was totally despondent, as it seemed that we were finished. Steve Marshal and Nigel Roberts left later that day, and we all sat around trying to decide what to do. Even though the FM Transmitter was OK, it was only about 40 Watts, and FM wasn't commercially viable on it's own in those days. (Chris Carey even had to put on an AM Transmitter, after Nova started on FM only).
I decided that I would re-examine the wreckage now it had cooled off, and the smoke (but not the smell) had dispersed. The only things that were usable was the actual aluminium chassis, and the output capacitors and Pi-tank coil, the rest was junk. Luckily, I am one of those people who are loath to throw anything away, and had brought over a cardboard box of 'junk' parts. A tiny ex-taxi transmitter mod transformer, some 807's and EL84's were forthcoming from the box, and a pair of 12volt to 350 volt inverters (standard issue at the time to Pirate stations on MW and SW in the UK). By 10 the next morning, a rather tinny, but serviceable 40watt signal was back on 729kHz.

We had to find somewhere else to live, as house rents went through the roof in the tourist season. For a couple of weeks we were homeless, and lived in the Caravan, washing under the cold tap outside, and drying our washing on the FM mast staywires. Stuart Clark would sleep in the Studio, ready for the breakfast show, as there were only two bunks (more like shelves). We eventually got a 2 bedroom flat in the middle of Tramore, over Halligans TV shop.

Although advertising revenue was OK, we knew that afterwards, it would be impossible to survive without a good signal in Waterford City. We decided to get a bigger transmitter, and decided that home-made was not the way to go. We entered negotiations with someone in England to buy an RCA 'ET' (which South Coast in Cork were using), these used a pair of 813 Valves in the PA, and gave a good 250 Watts with loud modulation, but in the end the price asked was too much, we felt.
We were aware through various sources of a place in the USA which sold second hand broadcast transmitters. Besco International, in Dallas, had supplied Radio Caroline, and so we decided to borrow the money for a "real" transmitter. After several phonecalls and Telex messages to Dick Witosky, the boss, we settled on a 1964 Gates BC1G, 1kW Transmitter. Including airfreight, it cost us around $5000.

The lads at Suirside couldn't understand why we did nothing to improve the scratchy 40 watt 729kHz signal, but with the Gates on the way, we were looking forward to surprising both them and WLR (the other Waterford station) with our soon-to-be monster signal!
Finally, in early September, we borrowed a large van from Buywise Carpets (Our landlords). Clive and myself set off to Shannon to collect the Transmitter. We arrived back later that evening, eager to get it on the air. It was the size of a large wardrobe, and was far too big to fit into the Caravan, so it was installed in a backroom of the Carpet Warehouse next to the caravan.

We had planned to put it on 729 kHz, but when we studied the manual, we found that it would only tune up in the range 900kHz to 1300 kHz, without changing all the output capacitors (too expensive). All we had suitable was a crystal for 1008 kHz, which we decided to use. A second wire aerial was strung up from the top of the FM mast (40-foot). Another problem we discovered was due to the technical difference between mains electricity system in the USA, and here. Although the transmitter was rated at 220 volts, in the USA system, this is derived from two 110-volt lines, such that between earth and any one is 110 volts, but between the two lines is 220 volts. (Effectively, earth potential is half way between the two). In Europe, however, Earth is tied to one line, so one is 'live' and one is 'neutral', or at the same potential as earth. What this meant was some parts of the transmitter that needed 110 volts ended up with either zero or 220 volts (The cooling fan, for example nearly went into orbit, it span so fast!) This was resolved with a large yellow 110 volt isolating transformer (like the ones used on building sites for safety reasons). The transmitter had to be extensively rewired, causing much headscratching, poring over large diagrams and vast quantities of Camel Filters to be smoked.
The transmitter had two power settings, low (250 watt), and High (1kW). It worked fine on low power, but would 'trip' off after a minute or so on high power, usually on audio peaks. We eventually came to the conclusion that the big high voltage mercury rectifiers needed replacing, so we had to order them from the UK, which took a couple of months.

Meanwhile, even on 250 watts, the signal in Waterford City was fine, and enabled us to sell ads there. Mike Cottee, a friend of Stuart Clarke's, came over to sell for the station, and things really started to take off from there. The 1008 kHz frequency was hopeless at night, due to a large transmitter in Holland, so a crystal for the nearest quieter frequency, 1026kHz, was ordered. 729 kHz was left on in parallel for about a month.

Once on full power, the signal coverage was quite extensive, and due to the proximity of the transmitter from the coast (a few hundred yards), the signal carried well up and down the coast, being as strong in Dungarvan (25 miles away) as Waterford City (6 miles). There were tales that fishing boats used to take bearings on us to find their way back to nearby Dunmore East.

By the beginning of 1983, we were joined by several new DJ,s, and had moved the living Quarters to a large 5 bedroom house in Tramore. Dave Hunt, Roddy Cleere and Richard Staines all came from Suirside. Dave Windsor from "Radio Mi Amigo" in his garage! John Lewis (Stephen Bishop) from South Coast in Cork, and Robin Ross, who had been on board Radio Caroline's new ship being fitted out in Spain. Even Tony Gareth (Gareth O'Callaghan) from Nova did a couple of shows while on holiday in Tramore.

When the P&T unexpectedly raided Sunshine and Nova in Dublin, there was widespread panic in the radio world, we didn't want to lose the big Gates transmitter. Without it, even for a few weeks, we would have gone bankrupt. We dismantled enough of it so that it couldn't possibly be proved to be a radio transmitter, and hid the parts in various locations. The standby transmitter was put on air, upgraded from it's previous 40 watts with a couple more 807's, a rewound mains transformer as a mod transformer, and an H&H 100watt guitar amp driving it. The result was a bit scratchy, but loud, and was used until we decided that the authorities weren't going to raid anyone else.

Several of the Jocks went to Caroline when it came back on from the Ross Revenge, and Johnny Lewis left for Laser. It's home, the MV Communicator, had been moored in nearby New Ross for some of it's fitting out, although the local press were told it was an oil exploration vessel.

Rob Scott (Alan West) and his girlfriend Carrie both did a stint on ABC, while he was here, an impromptu shortwave broadcast from the production studio in the house, with Robbo doing a spoof of his famous Radio Northsea firebombing closedown over "Man of Action" (RNI's theme),".. due to an outbreak of Stuart Clarke's socks being thrown into the studio..."

By mid 1984, it was becoming increasingly clear that the station would have to move out of the Caravan, as it was not big enough for the station's continued expansion. Almost all revenue by now came from Waterford City or Dublin Advertising agencies, so it made sense to move the studios into the City. The top 3 floors of a 4 storey building in the Centre of Waterford became ABC's new home. The 1Kw Gates AM transmitter was to be left in Tramore, with the FM, which was becoming increasingly important, to be broadcast from a 30 foot mast on top of the new premises at 4, Arundel Square.

South Coast Radio, the Cork 10kw 'Superpirate' had recently closed. We bought a few items from them, the fabulous Technics SP10 Turntables, being the star items (These were the ones that you could cue to within an inch of the start of a record, with no fear of "wowing" the start. Later, these very turntables ended up in Wexford's legal SouthEast Radio).
We seriously considered buying the RCA 10kW AM transmitter, but decided that the extra £450 a week in electricity bills would not be justified in the larger coverage area. Relay transmitters in nearby towns would be more cost effective. All but the most modern AM transmitters use about 2.5 times their output power in electricity. It was said that the extra running and maintenance costs of the 10kW RCA was a factor in the demise of South Coast.

The station closed at 7pm on the day of the big move, and all hands went to loading the record library and studio equipment into cars and vans, and transporting it to the new studios. Most of the wiring and studio furniture was new, so it was just dropped into place. We were still rigging the FM aerials, which had been taken down in Tramore, and re-erected on the roof of the new studios at about 2 AM. Half way through this operation, we had to convince some members of the Garda Siochana that we were not involved in some bizzare robbery down through the rooftops!

1985 - Waterford City

By the end of 1984, the station was established in our new home at 4, Arundel Square. The 3 floors we occupied allowed us to have a separate sales office/reception area, a production studio, main studio, and separate record library, and on the top floor, the engineering workshop and a newsroom. It was certainly an increase in space over the old caravan!

The old communal living arrangements, however, fragmented. With much more available choice the staff shared various houses and flats, not always with other radio staff. Coinciding with the move, staff members were now paid proper wages, around £80 a week for full timers. I shared a flat for a few months with Tony Murrel and James Day, up until July 13th of that year (Live Aid day), when I got married to Joyce. I had been going out with her since the days of the small flat in Queen Street, Tramore, back in the summer of 1982.

As previously described, the 1026kHz AM transmitter remained in Tramore, the 101 MHz FM, at the studio providing the feed to it, as well as serving the City. FM Power was about 80 Watts, when in Tramore, derived from an Italian made Exciter (PLL and synthesised, for those who understand such terms - basically it means that it wont drift, and frequency is programmed by switches!).A broadband transistor amplifier brought power to 15 Watts, and a home-made 80-watt valve (QQVO6-40A) Amplifier boosted this to the final 80 Watts.

The valve Amplifier had been constructed during an overnight session back in 1982, with myself, Chris Tyler, and Mike Adams (the local Pye/Philips mobile radio engineer). Although it worked well enough, construction was a bit rough and ready, with little screening, and a distinct possibility of touching live parts by accidents (A horrible smell once turned out to be a fried mouse which had crawled in, presumably to get some warmth - It certainly got that alright!)

It was thought that this wasn't really suitable to operate from the centre of town, and didn't really suit the new professional image, so it was decided to rebuild it, this time, in a nice case, layout according to all the best construction principals in the radio textbooks etc. The final result looked fine, lots of meters and knobs, but try as we may, we could get it to work without wiping out all the TV's in the area! (The old version had worked fine, despite breaking every rule about screening and decoupling etc).

In the end, we had to run at 15 Watts, with two 3 element beams aimed at Tramore (giving a gain of around 9 dB or 8 times 15 w = 120 Watts).

The Station Expands

FM was gaining popularity, by this stage, and quality became more of an issue. We were one of the first stations to use CD's on air, getting one early in 1985. Dire Straits, I remember, was one of the few CD's one could get at the time.

An 80 Watt FM transmitter was ordered from Italy, and, rather than boost the power in town, we felt that more benefit could be had from siting the transmitter on higher ground.

Mike Adams had lived for a while in South Africa, and said he had met a guy from there who now lived on Tory Hill, about 5 miles north of Waterford. His house was sited about 600 feet up, with a clear view to the South and West, the North was obscured by the summit of the Mountain (actually about 50 feet short of the official 1000 feet 'mountain' definition), and a slight rise of about 30 feet to the east.

Negotiations to build a 40 foot mast and a small shed for the transmitter were completed, and work commenced. When the mast was nearly finished, the guy had a change of heart, saying he was worried about insurance. What would happen if someone climbed the mast and fell, and put in a claim against him. We tried to placate him but it was no good, the mast had to come down again.

We decided to temporarily site the new transmitter back in Tramore, one the AM mast, The frequency chosen being 103.2. Coverage wasn't bad, it reached quite a long way, but signal strengths were low. It did, however, enable us to put on further relays: 5 watts on 88.4 in Dungarvan town centre, and 101.1 in New Ross (15 watts)

Eventually, late in 1985, an new site on Tory Hill was found, and a 110 foot mast was erected, with 4 dipoles on it, ultra low loss 'heliax' coax cable, and a 150 Watt transmitter, giving an estimated erp (effective radiated power) of about 1200 watts. This, as expected, gave a solid FM signal across our AM service area.

During 1986, the station went from strength to strength, the increased coverage area helping advertising revenue, and enabled us to improve the broadcast equipment. 2 new Philips CD players, an 80 Watt transmitter for the Waterford 101 MHz service, and a 300 Watt one for Tory Hill were purchased, amongst other things.

The news service was improved, full time staff being employed, instead of the method previously used of the DJ recording RTE, and scribbling it down! (Now they TYPED it out, used Teletext, and phoned various press offices for stories).

The heavy winds of that year felled the 110 foot Tory hill mast, and we were forced to use what was left (about 15 feet) and a beam aerial for a few weeks, until it could be rebuilt. Engineering tests using the Kahn-Hazeltine AM stereo system were also carried out that year.

We had always tried our best to have first class audio quality, we envied Radio Nova and Sunshine in Dublin, for their Orban Optimods, but at about £5,000 apiece, there was no way we could afford them. Many schemes were dreamt up by myself and Dave Hunt to try and obtain even one. We got copies of the operating manuals, and built our own simplified version for the AM, using three compressors and the equalisation section copied from the circuit diagrams, the result was very impressive, adding nice bass and a crisp top end. We operated our AM transmitter to the full 12 kHz audio limit, as opposed to the normal 5 kHz allowed to legal stations in Europe (one of the benefits of being a 'Pirate station').

We began to import more of the Italian transmitters for other stations around the country, and early in 1987, we got a big order for about 6 transmitters for KTOK in Donegal, as well as the contract to engineer the station. Russ Padmore, who had been at ABC the previous year originally came from Derry, and was setting up a station there.

The total Bill came to several thousand pounds, and we had heard that Q102 in Dublin had a second hand FM Optimod, originally from Radio Nova, which had since closed, for sale. Myself and Dave Hunt calculated that the profits from all the work would just about come to the asking price, so we decided to buy it!

Clive Derek, who was my partner in ABC, although appreciating the quality benefits of an Optimod, nevertheless had always felt that the cost/benefit ratio wasn't really justified, so decided the best plan was to just prove it otherwise to him!

After a visit to Donegal to plan some details, I collected £;2000 in cash from the station bosses as part payment on the technical equipment. At the time, I was driving an old Ford escort estate, and just outside Donegal town, I was pulled over by the local Gardai (Police). I was wondering what they might make of an envelope stuffed full of banknotes. My question was soon answered for me, when they started searching the car. Apparently, the post office that, coincidentally, was postmarked on the envelope had been robbed recently, and I was hauled off to the station for further investigation. Although not under arrest, I was 'helping with inquiries!' After about an hour of questions, and checks back down to Waterford to verify who I was, they became much friendlier, and insisted on several cups of tea to make up for my inconvenience. My plan had been to drive straight to Q102 in Dublin, buy the Optimod, and return to Waterford with it. Unfortunately, the copious amounts of tea drank meant stopping every 20 minutes or so for a leak, meaning that all the slow moving cars and trucks I had worked hard to overtake tootled past while I was stopped, the net effect was I arrived in Dublin too late. I had to make another trip a few days later, arriving back in Waterford with the cherished Optimod later that night, and immediately set about installing it.

The next morning, Clive came up to the engineering workshop to ask what had been done to the FM quality, as it sounded lovely. I indicated to the rack behind him, and he said, "where the hell did you get that!" or words to that effect. He readily admitted that it benefited the station greatly, noticing that more shops seemed to be playing ABC, and favourable comments on our 'professional' sound. It certainly made the other, unprocessed stations in town sound mediocre in comparison! A few months later, our main competitor, WLR, bought one themselves, so we had to fight back by getting the add on 6 band chassis, the XT2, and an AM model to replace our homemade one.


Our landlord at 4 Arundel square told us that we would have to move premises by the end of 1986, as he said that he wanted to sell the building and retire. Tenancy laws mean that if an occupier is there more than 2 years, a landlord can't ask them to move out. We had a few months notice, however, so we set about finding somewhere to go.

We found a suitable premises almost directly behind our building, which fronted to the main shopping street in the City, and had loads of space. We agreed a price, signed contracts, and started to move all the non-essential items over, and build studio partitions.

About 7 pm after spending the day lugging the contents of the engineering workshop (Books, test equipment, spare parts etc) into the new building, I went home, intending to meet an electrician who was to certify the electrical wiring, necessary before connection to the ESB supply.

I arrived back down town, to find the Main road blocked with fire engines, and to my horror, saw that our soon -to -be new premises were well and truly ablaze! A gas main in the basement had sprung a leak, and caught alight, somehow, sending a roaring flame straight up the wooden stairwell. I immediately thought of all my books and tools being incinerated, but all I could do is watch from the Production studio window in the old premises.

The building, which had recently been renovated, was unusable, but, surprisingly, after cooling off for a few days, ladders were used to investigate and most of the engineering stuff was found to be smoke damaged, a bit scorched, but salvageable. Our Landlord let us stay on a bit longer, while we found suitable alternative premises.

Egans, a large pub, popular with young people, had several unused rooms in two floors, they were in the process of building a nightclub at the back of the building, and felt that it would be mutually beneficial if we were to move in there. Consequently, we got a very good deal on the rooms, and we set about modifying them to our needs.

The top floor had been unoccupied since the late fifties, an old calendar on the wall for 1957, the crumbling 'wattle and daub' type ceiling plastering, and the large amounts of dead birds in the loft (which Dave Hunt was volunteered to remove) testified to this.

When we were finished, though, we had a very professional looking set up, fully sound-proofed, three studios, one main on-air, one production, which could be switched on air if need be, and one small news voice booth, as well as an office for news gathering.

By this stage, Dave Hunt was a full time news man, and member of the NUJ, the station was fully VAT registered, paid taxes, and even started to pay royalties to the Performing Rights associations.( The inference was that future licences may depend on payments of these sorts). Our 'Pirate' status was slowly becoming just a technicality, and although there were rumours that the government were going to finally act to close us all down, we had been hearing similar tales ever since we started. Late in 1987, the government published its draft legislation, and it became increasingly clear that they meant business.

ABC continued to prosper, and we embarked upon further expansion. An AM transmitter was put on air just outside Wexford town, about 100watts on 1116 (I think!), as well as 300 watts on 99 MHz FM in Ferns, near Enniscorthy, and a low power (30 watt ) in Wexford town centre.

Roy Master, and his Foundation of Human Understanding (an American Quasi-religious/Lifestyle talk show, which ran on Radio Caroline during the late 1970's) had been aired on ABC for a few weeks in 1983 on ABC, and had built up a small following in the area. The group had decided to bring Roy over for a seminar in a local Hotel, and approached us to see if we would be interested in airing his programmes again. An agreement was struck to have him do the show live for the week that he was over here, and subsequently we would broadcast his show on the 1026 kHz AM transmitter, and continue with normal programming on FM.

The show went out at 6pm, and required us to configure the Transmitter feeds and studios to split away after the news, and rejoin after the 7pm bulletin. For this, the production studio, used to play out the Roy Masters tapes, would have a duplicate of the newsroom feed on one of its mixer channels, and a push button, which would disconnect the AM Studio-Transmitter Link from the main studio feed, connecting it to the output of the production studio. In this way, totally seamless splits and rejoining could be accomplished, which we thought was extremely trendy!


For the first time, the station looked like actually making a profit, instead of just breaking even, but we began to realise that the new broadcasting laws looked like they would soon become a reality.

The law promised draconian penalties for anyone having anything to do with illegal broadcasting after midnight on December 31st, 1988, as well as precluding the possibility of any licences. The new plan was to allocate just one licence for each county, with a few exceptions, Dublin was to have two, Cork was to have one for the City, and one for the West, one for the North and East. Tipperary town was to have an experimental 'community station, and some of the smaller counties, like Louth and Meath would share a station.

Locally, there were three serious groups who were to apply. Ourselves, allied with some local businessmen, the local paper "the Munster express", and WLR. All set about planning their applications, and drumming up local support.

Meanwhile, we decided that, rather than continue on to the last possible minute, we would close at 3pm, on December 29th. The reason for this is that we felt that the listening audience would be much greater at that time and give greater impact on a weekday, rather than New years eve. (In fact, there was some controversy over whether December 31st was acceptable anyway, the legislation actually stated that it would come into effect on 31st December).

In the days leading up to the closedown, a special promo was run on the hour, and on the final day, special programmes, featuring as many of the voices, past and present, as possible were heard. The final hour featured a short montage/documentary of ABC's history. Just before 3pm, I made the closedown speech, and the last sound to be heard was our top of the hour 'time pips' jingle (with added poignant reverb). Everybody then went downstairs to Egans Pub, and sat around in a state of melancholy shock. The next day was spent touring the area, switching off and taking away the many transmitters which had been in use.

All who had contributed to ABC's success while on air had a lot to be proud of. The station was widely held to be a professional operation, from day one a music format and on-air policy had been applied, we had achieved a least two of our early ambitions: to have paid adverts from Coca Cola, and own an Optimod!


The following is a list, as far as I can recall, of all the jocks that worked on ABC, the list is not in any particular order. It does not include 'guest' presenters.
Stuart Clarke
Dave Hunt
Benny Adcroft
Dixie Lee
Clive Derek
Roddy Cleere
Mike Gates
Russ Padmore
Andy Ellis
Dave Windsor
Tony Murrel
James Day
Kevin Turner
Alan Richards
Robin Ross
Bill Everatt
'Wiggy O'Connor
Johnny Moss
John Savage
Kerry Gray
Steve Marshall
Jo Stevens
Conor Halpin
Colm Dunphy
Bernie Cahill
Rob Scott
Neil Butler
Neil Mcleod
CJ O'Keefe
Paul Dower
Steven Dee
Kevin McCarthy
Nigel Roberts
Billy Power
Jimmy Ryan
Pat Cowman
Richard Staines
Paul Scanlon
Andy McCluskey
Nigel Harris
Timmy Ryan
Daragh Corchoran 
Ray Sarsfield

Apologies if anyone has been left out, if you know of any omissions, or indeed corrections to the above history, please feel free to email me at ndls@bigfoot.com


ABC didn't succeed in its quest for a license that went to WLR. We were told, unofficially, that the standards of application in our area were of above average. If we had applied in certain other, nearby areas, we would have almost certainly succeeded. Ah, well.

Many of the staff went on to jobs both here and abroad, for instance, Tony Murrel went first to Radio Luxembourg, then on to South Africa, where he became a household name on both radio and TV. Many of the ex ABC staff can still be found at Wexford's South East Radio. ABC Power 104, City is a descendant of the original station, and is still on air today. There is talk of a second wave of specialist licences, and it is possible that some members of the original station, and the present one, may be involved in an application for one of them. Lets hope that this time around, there will be success.

Last updated December 12, 1997