IRELAND - 1981 TOUR
|Irish Era - Offshore - Landbased - Official Stations - Downloads - Press - Other|
OUR FIRST TOUR OF THE IRISH PIRATES - 1981
to all listeners and Dxers, past and present,
with an appetite for Irish pirate radio
PART 2 - AROUND THE COUNTRY
PART 1 - THE DUBLIN AREA
|A Little History and Background||A little history and background|
|Early Days||Early days|
|Boyneside Radio||Boyneside home page - 1981 images|
|Community Radio Drogheda||CRD home page|
|KELO Swords, Co Dublin||KELO home page / images|
|Southside Radio Dunlaoire||SSR home page - 1981 images|
|Sonic Independent Radio||Sonic home page / images|
|Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB)||BLB home page - 1981 images|
|Sunshine Radio||Sunshine home page - 1981 images|
|ARD||ARD home page - 1981 images|
|Diamond Radio||Diamond Radio home page / images|
|Radio City Dublin||Radio City home page / images|
|Dublin Community Radio||DCR home page / images|
|Radio Dublin||Radio Dublin home page - 1981 images|
|Double R Radio||Double R Radio home page / images|
|Treble TR Radio||TTTR home page|
|Radio Nova||Nova Home Page - Nova 1981 images|
|Radio Leinster||Radio Leinster home page / images|
This story should really be published as a book, and sold at a profit by the author. However, in current radio circles, the interest in Irish pirate radio seems all but dead. Only a few of us seem to remember the real Irish era with excitement and even romance. Gone is the mystique of discovering new operations appearing on the AM band (and a few other embarassing frequencies!!!). Gone are the night time signals, which under the right conditions used to reach into far flung places such as Scandinavia, and even Newfoundland. What percentage of the people interested in Irish pirate radio actually bought the book by Peter Mulryan "Radio Radio?" I would suspect hardly even 50%. It is for this reason that the three of us who are still interested enough in radio to compile articles such as the following, wish everything to be available free of charge, world wide, for all to read and enjoy.
Some DX clubs on the web sadly insist on passwords to keep their "secret DX tips" for their members only. This is hardly fair in a supposed non-profit making hobby. For this, and the forthcoming articles, there will be no passwords, encryption, or any other electronic means which would make these pages difficult to access. These pages are designed to document history, with lots more accompanying photos than could ever be published in an average sized book. The site is not designed to see how many meaningless flashing lights and other graphics we can squeeze into one page.
A LITTLE HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
This is the story of a whole adventure in radio history. It is written from a personal point of view, and to quote an old well-worn statement;
"If four men were on the same ship at sea reporting the same events, the end result would be four completely contrasting stories."
Thus, this is the view of myself, a Scottish DXer, ie one who enjoys listening to long distance reception of someone else's local station, and a keen listener to the Irish pirates for many many years. For this reason I make continuous reference to stations that have had reception reported from outside their target areas in Ireland.
I find it really odd that when browsing through the World Wide Web, a country like Ireland with so much radio history is so poorly represented. There are a few sites by people like Dusty Rhodes, who have presented a brief history of Irish radio. Yet despite the same gentleman's humble beginnings on pirates such as Sunshine, he by passes the best era in radio as though it were only a few months. It saddens me that not one out of all the broadcasters who passed through Irish pirate radio,have decided to write their own memoirs. Many of them went on to become very well known and respected in their own right. It is knocking on for 8 years since the closure of Anoraks UK, one of the leading news gathering organisations for Irish pirate radio there ever was. I first met the founders of AUK just after my first tour around the Irish pirates in 1981. Although the data is well documented in the old weekly reports, there is virtually nowhere else to my knowledge where the information can be obtained as a matter of public record.
This text is a description of events some 16 years or so ago. It is 9 years since the pirates of the time all closed down. Everyone seems to view this site as a trip down memory lane, especially those who actually worked on the stations. All we are seeking is to document broadcasting history of the past 2 decades, before the memories are sadly lost in the mists of time. We have even surprised ourselves by the detail and little stories we have collated, after putting our heads together over a few pints.
The real Irish era has long gone. At the end of 1988 Ireland lost one of the best broadcasting systems in Europe. Radio had found it's own market, and flourished around the major population centres. It was enough to make most modern Europeans envious of the choice available. Even the then Irish Premier, Charles Haughey was in on the act. In "Radio Radio" by Peter Mulryan, Charles was pictured by the Q102 eye in the sky helicopter. This was piloted by none other than his son Ciaran!!
In Dublin there was music for every taste. TTTR Radio kept country music alive, KLAS was very "easy listening", Heartbeat had their love songs, Sunshine 101, Q102 and Energy 103 all played fast moving "Hot Hits", whilst Capitol/ Nitesky had an "AOR" format. There were all the inbetweenies too, including Radio Galaxy, with old timer Tony Boylan playing old 78's every Sunday. This gentleman who had been operating for years, was said to have in his possession some original discs of 'Lord Haw Haw' from wartime in the 40s. He also presented "the 78 show" on ARD on a Sunday at one stage. Dubliners were also treated to enlightenment from the hymns of the Irish Christian Broadcasting Service. Curiously enough ICBS was operated by husband and wife team, Gary St John and DJ Karen. They were better known in the short-wave community as Skull and Bones Radio System. I first heard SBRS in 1978, when the two were unmarried. They made a brief return to the air in 1986 or so, before becoming a SW relay on 6318 for Radio Stella and WLR etc, until the end of 1988. The Irish people had a choice in radio listening, which in the UK was sadly only a dream. It must also be emphasised that despite all the past troubles and strong opinions of the Irish people concerning the 6 counties of Northern Ireland, there have never been any long term political pirates, unlike other major European cities such as Paris and Milano.
extremist minister aptly named Ray Burke, decided enough was enough,
and introduced a draconian piece of legislation designed to close them
all down. He was I suppose "only doing his job". (I wonder how many
times they used that phrase at the Nuremberg trials?) This individual
decided that everyone must now listen to government broadcasts from
RTE, and that there was no need for a choice in radio listening. In
his wisdom, the stations were not even replaced by any legal operations.
By doing so, Burke was not only responsible for the station closures,
but he seemed happy to add to the already soaring dole queues, and apparently
had government backing to do so! This was fine for the wealthy politicians,
who had large salaries, pension funds, and all the perks of the job.
The people in the radio industry were merely trying to earn a living,
but were being forced out on the street almost, by a regime which seemed
hell bent on destroying the future of so many talented broadcasters.
This was fine for the afore mentioned Charles Haughey, who could not
remember whether someone had given him a million pounds or not, after
a corruption scandal which came to light in 1997. Anyone who can not
even remember if he was given a million quid, surely was not qualified
to decide the outcome of his country's broadcasters.
The stations were led to believe that if they closed down like good boys, they would be "considered" for a licence. In reality few actually achieved their goal, and most were never heard of again. The date was set for the closures, Dec 31st 1988. This date had some significance. It was the end of Dublin's millennium year celebrations. The radio stations needed the lucrative Christmas advertising market. To close down on December 31st meant they would have had little impact on the listeners, who would be tied up in New Year celebrations. Even closing, like most of them did, on 30th December, little impact was made. It seemed everyone had accepted the government decision sitting down, and were content to be put out of work. The reality was only to come to light when the festivities were over, and the working week began, with nothing on the airwaves to listen to. Radio Dublin (1188 and 6910 as well as FM) and Radio Star Country in Co Monaghan (at the time on 891) were the only two stations who fought on, and are still on the air to this day. Radio North (Carndonagh, Co Donegal) closed for a few days, before returning under the 'disguise' of Northside Radio. This time we could hear the station well in Scotland, as previous to the bill, there had been an unnecessary transmitter on 846 from Sunshine in Dublin. WABC (Greencastle) closed for a few weeks longer before returning. As it stands however, there are again many stations dotted around the country, some originals, but mostly new operations. Transmitter powers have been gradually increased again since 1988. Ironically, now in 1997, Radio Star Country, a comparative latecomer to the airwaves, has been broadcasting longer than Sunshine Radio formerly from Portmarnock.
With all this history down the tube so to speak, it may be time to write my personal memoirs of the many Irish tours and trips and even some of my many memories associated with DXing Ireland. My articles therefore, have a heavy slant towards DXing perhaps more than programme listening, although of course the latter also played a major role. This became more so in later years as the transmitters became more powerful, and listening was possible on a good car radio at certain times of the day or night, especially in the cases of Radio Nova and Sunshine.
the following paragraphs I attempt to piece together the story in full
of my first visit to Ireland, some 16 years on. This has not been the
easiest thing in the world to achieve, as often material will be lost
forever in the foggy mists of time. However with the aid of tape recordings,
some of the magazine reports written at the time, and talks with those
concerned, then there may be a worthwhile tale to tell. The research
has meant digging up some really dusty old files, notes, and old logbooks,
diaries etc, some of which are in various states of repair. Sometimes
this research has brought more questions than answers, but after some
coughing and sneezing caused by the dust on the files, some long forgotten
stories have been unearthed and the old memory banks triggered.
My first ever knowledge of the "pirates" was on a dark night as a little boy of about 9 or 10. I had a cousin staying, and he knew I used to listen to Radio Luxembourg and BBC Radio 1, and was crazy about "The Osmonds". Luckily on the latter two counts, my tastes have changed somewhat.
"Did you never hear any of the pirate stations ", he asked.
The thought scared me a little, as I answered in the negative, and tucked my head under the covers. He went on to tell me about Radio Northsea, which his brother listened to at their home in Glasgow. For some reason this always stuck in the back of my mind.
One night, probably in the first half of 1973, I was under the bed covers with my little tranny, not too loud incase my mother would hear I wasn't asleep, listening to Radio Luxembourg. I don't remember why, but I was fiddling around with the very small radio, probably because of a fade, and heard a male announcer saying "here on Radio North Sea". This shook me. The signal was not great, but listenable, and I stayed tuned for a little while, before falling asleep. The station, surprise surprise was not there in the morning when I tried to tune in. It was not until some months later I rediscovered RNI, and listened on an almost nightly basis. For some reason at this time, I liked the jingles. I always dreamed of owning a tape recorder, and recording a tape with only jingles. At Christmas 1973, I was given my first cassette machine, and began taping both songs from Radio 1, and the jingles from Radio 1 as well as RNI, and the likes. I still have these tapes, recorded some 24 odd years ago now, on that machine. In fact I still have the old tape machine, although it is broken now.
One Friday night the signal of RNI was awful on 1367kHz, 220m. I had to give up listening to Mike Ross with the chart show on the old radio gram I had by this stage, and began to tune the SW band, to see what might interest me. I began at the "49m end", where to my surprise I found a station playing english pop music. I was stunned to discover that this was RNI also on SW!! I know they used to announce it, but I could not have understood 6205kHz as a young boy. I progressed from there really, listening to the offshore stations.
I often wonder what would have happened if I had tuned to RNI on SW, which I did at least one Sunday, when I heard AJ Beirens doing the "AJ on Sunday" show. Had I knocked the tuner off, maybe I would have heard World Music Radio, another station which gave early influence to many radio people. I never though, and lost touch of things between 1974-77, only hearing Caroline a few times during those years. It was in 1977 that I began DXing. I also found Caroline on 962kHz, and became addicted to their amazing hypnotic format of album rock. I was often not by my radios on a Saturday night in 1977/ 78, and spent the time at my grandmother's farm. I always remember using the small domestic portable radio to tune into whatever, after I was in bed, up the "guid stair". I would not have dared sleep up the "Back Stair" because as kids were told all sorts of stories about the things that used to live up there!!! This tranny was one my grandfather, who had by this time passed away, bought to listen to the polis' on VHF. They foolishly used to use frequencies around 101 in the broadcast band!! The two stations I used to listen to however were Radio Sweden's extended Saturday shows, and Radio Caroline from the Mi-Amigo, which used to be my absolute favourite then. This was a time of discovery and intrigue I fear I could never possibly repeat.
I heard my first Irish pirate on SW rather than MW, in January 1978, when Mull of Kintyre by Wings topped the pop charts. "Radio Valleri International" at that time used the well-known address of 134 Eastworth Road, Chertsey, Surrey, KT16 8DT, England. I thought of course, I had heard a station from Surrey, called Radio Vellemy International, on their regular 6202kHz frequency!! Little did I realise then, that some 24 years later I would personally be responsible for the return for a one off broadcast of the said station, from a wood in Scotland!! Radio Valleri incidentally, received good coverage in the 1978 World Radio TV Handbook. I later began to hear stations like Westside Radio on SW, as well as MW stations such as Radio Carousel, (which incidentally I first thought was Radio Countdown!) Capitol Radio (This Dublin station for some reason spelt Capital with an 'o'), Big D, Radio Dublin, etc.
I made contact with long time friend "Ian" in October 1978, after hearing his name on the radio so many times. It was in fact George Wood from Radio Sweden who wrote me a brief note along with the Sweden Calling DXers bulletin that they used to send out back then.
"Can't give you Dxers address, but Ian lives in town X", it read.
This was only 30 miles or so from me. I was an inexperienced (in more ways than one!!) young 15-year-old, and still learning the ropes (although I never knew this at the time). Ian was a couple of years older, and to me seemed to "know everything about radio". We ended up calling each other week in week out about what was on the SW that day, and MW the night before on the old 227m Dutch band. This was the area of the spectrum between about 1290 and 1350kHz, where the European powerhouse stations all signed off for the night, one by one, leaving the area clear. Every Friday and Saturday night, from around 2300, Dutch pirates took to the air.
Ian could also hear the Irish stations I had been receiving. In earlyish 1979 he suggested I try for a station I had never heard called ARD, Alternative Radio Dublin, operating on 257m.
"They are running a few hundred watts now, and the signal is really strong", I was told.
I could not even receive ARD, with my then modest long wire aerials, yet Ian was only listening on a Grundig Concert Boy 1100 domestic portable radio. At the time I could not believe he did not use external antennas, and in fact never did until well into the latter part of the 80s!!! (I built him a MW loop aerial once, made of big ugly pieces of wood, which his mother would not let in the house. Mind you, it had an uncanny resemblance to old railway sleepers!! The same loop was a source of amusement in 1983 in Ireland when Mike James and myself eventually reached Tramore.)
It was not until years later that I learned why the Irish stations were so much stronger at Ian's, even on a car radio. I remember listening to Radio Dublin 253/ 1188 in Town X, yet there was no sign of the station on the same car radio at my own location, some 25 or 30 miles closer to Ireland!! Soil conductivity I was told was the influencing factor.
I had no real idea why I could not receive ARD 257, which was apparently so strong. On 257m I could only hear Radio Tees from Stockton. My old Philips radiogram, which although had served well, could not separate the frequency between 1152 ILR Glasgow, and 1170 ILR Stockton. Indeed my SW receiver, then a Codar CR70A MKII was unable to receive anything between Radio One, then on 1089, and Radio Clyde on 1152!! (This was just after the major WARC frequency adjustments of November 1978 obviously.) It was not until the summer of 1979 when I bought a Grundig Satellit 3400, I was able to understand the meaning of receiver selectivity. I soon heard, and luckily recorded ARD from their 258.3m wavelength, 1161kHz. Radio Orwell, Tees, etc on 1170, were actually on 256.4m!! It was ironic that the Grundig turned out to be little more than a glorified portable, rather than a serious Dxers receiver, despite the shocking price. For FM however I have never matched it, for both selectivity and sensitivity. Irish MW stations were fast becoming as much part of my life as the radio ships off the Essex and Dutch coasts had been since 1973. In 1979 of course there were 3 offshore stations in European waters, Caroline, Delmare and Mi Amigo, although by 20th March 1980 there were none!.
Ian and I finally met in June 1979, thanks to a chance advert in a free radio publication from Mike James, who was looking for other Scottish contacts. Ian turned out to be a tall, longhaired 17 year old, who was running Radio Mercury on SW at the time, in conjunction with some others in SE England. I was a slim, shorthaired youngster, (looks have reversed just slightly!!) and keen to become involved in the pirate scene. The three of us went on to start Weekend Music Radio, which is another essay in itself.
By 1981 I felt I had known Ian for a long time, even though it was a mere 2 and a bit years!! He was ambitious as a DJ, and life in general, a confidence I sadly lacked somewhat as a cautious young lad. I saw employment in broadcasting far out of my reach at that time, and even an average job seemed to be way above me. (Unfortunately I still find this so to this day come to think of it). Ian is one of the few people who takes pleasure in calling me "wee man", standing a few inches taller than my 6-foot stature. (I hope that's the reason anyway!!) In retaliation, I call him Big Ian! This is normal in my part of Scotland. Very original nicknames are made up, such as Big Ian, Wee Willy, Fat Bob, etc.
Ian explains how he caught the radio bug, as a young lad.
"During 1972, I started to become interested in music, and as a young schoolboy, it was more economic to listen to radio than buy records. I remember in December that year, my uncle who lived in London paid us a visit, and we happened to be watching the evening news bulletin. On this, there was a story about a mutiny aboard Radio Caroline.
"God", my uncle said, "I thought they stopped broadcasting years ago, or changed their name to Radio Northsea!"
For some reason this stuck in my mind, and a few weeks later whilst tuning from 208, down to 247 (The old Radio Luxembourg channel towards the old BBC Radio 1 channel) one morning before going to school, I heard the song "Jean Genie" by David Bowie, which happened to be one of my favourite songs at the time. It wasn't Radio 1 as I thought, but a voice announced that it was Radio Caroline on 259, and that he was handing over to the Dutch service, but English programmes would be back at 5pm. Needless to say when I tuned in later all I heard was noise.
Around this time I often bought "Record Mirror" which sometimes carried news about Offshore radio. I remember one copy which said that Radio Caroline was currently off the air, but indeed Radio Nordsee International could be heard on 220 metres. After a few nights I eventually received RNI which played "Judge Dread" records, often skipped over during the BBC chart show. Next I heard Radio Veronica broadcasting in Dutch on 538 metres,but not before thinking that Larry Gogan was a Veronica dj. Yes, it was RTE I first heard up this end of the band! My interest continued and in September 1973 I was given a Grundig Yacht Boy short wave portable, which brought in those pirates on the 49 metre band. Apart from RNI who used 6209 khz, early stations I remember are Radio City, Radio Venus North, Tower Radio (operated by Peter Quinn of Radio Caroline fame) and a certain Radio Valleri broadcasting from Dublin on 6317 khz. One thing that sticks in my mind is that when Valleri were closing for the day they used to say "We are standing by now for Radio Empathy". I never quite got the relevance of this until years later when I discovered that Radio Empathy was a Dublin medium wave pirate who co operated with Valleri. My Free Radio involvement became quite intense during the ensuing years, but always keeping an eye on developments in Ireland. By Christmas 1977 I knew something special was happening, Eamon Cooke took the initiative and the rest were getting ready to follow, including myself which is another story soon to be told!".........
We had heard of Simon Parry from "Free Radio Waves" magazine, and Mike Cottee from "The Free Broadcast Movement", two prominent free radio figures from the SE England visiting so many of the Irish pirates in 1981. Even before this in 1980, Mike James sneaked off to push Marc Bolland of Southside Radio's mini around Dublin, and visit a few stations on the way.
Over the course of the 1979-1981 period, stations were popping up all over the country. So when Ian suggested touring the Irish pirates, I could not have said no. On an average day here in Scotland by that time there must have been a dozen or more stations audible on the old medium wave AM band. I could hear stations from Dublin such as Big D Radio, KELO, Radio Leinster, Sunshine Radio, and of course Radio Dublin. Country stations were also heard such as WKRC Newbridge, Co Kildare, Radio North West in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, Boyneside Radio and Radio Carousel, the two arch rivals in the North East of Eire, and countless more. It was difficult to take in the fact that the island only 100 miles or so SW of my own location, which I could see on a clear day from a local high spot, had semi legal radio, and was so many years ahead of the UK, broadcasting wise.
Plans were beginning to take shape. A friend from Leicester was keen to take part in any holiday. Ian, Mike and myself had met Simon in August 1980, on the infamous "Manor Park" ship, a failed offshore project in Sunderland harbour, and immediately hit off a long-standing friendship. Simon had been a long term Leicester pirate during the old MW days of amongst others Delta Radio, and Radio Gloria (Also listed in the WRTH 1978). We enjoyed his stories of never having been caught because he could run faster than the rest of the team, which included Leon Mitchell, another old friend. Incidentally Mitchell was completely in the dark at the time, of the Manor Park project. Both he and Simon were involved in the proposed English service of Radio Delmare in 1979. Simon shared stories of his times aboard the "Martina", otherwise known as the Aegir 2, when all they had to eat was rice, peanut butter and 7-up. He was an rf engineer, yet was not allowed to go near the transmitter, which was not tuned properly. Once while sitting on the toilet, the door fell off, while a fishing boat sailed past, leaving the poor fellow sitting there looking out at cheering fishermen!! One day when the tender arrived in a rough sea, he grabbed someone, who slipped over the side, as the two ships crashed together in the swell. He thought he was going to be left with a pair of hands, but amazingly there was a massive dent in the side of the ship, enough for the guy to be quite unharmed!! Simon had to slip into the shadows when he came ashore for the final time, as the police and other officials were waiting.
Simon, when at home in Leicester would sit on the frequency of an Irish pirate all day just to hear an id, so to say he was keen on the Irish scene was an understatement. As well as MW, he was also a keen SW Dxer. During discussions about SW pirates, Ian discovered that the KOL Europe he had heard some years before on SW, had actually been operated by the said Leon, and was not German, as announced!! Simon went on to become an editor of the Unofficial Radio pages, in the Danish SW Clubs International, taking over from Dr John Campbell. This lasted only a short time mainly because of his studies. The last time anyone of us saw him was in 1985 at the Caroline Movement convention in London.
The only problem now was that none of us could drive. Ian and I both knew Gary Hogg, who was also a keen listener and Dxer of the Irish pirates. I rang him about the planned tour, which seemed to really interest him. Hogg was happy to take his car. Ian, Simon, Gary, and myself arranged a meeting in Scotland during the first weekend in August to discuss a mid-August 1981 holiday.
Gary arrived at my place on the Saturday lunchtime. He hailed from Leeds, and struck me as an easy going Yorkshireman who liked a pint. He was a good few inches shorter than Ian and myself, with long hair, and a car full of tapes and radios. He had been a keen radio listener for many years, and like many of us, became interested through listening to the offshore stations at a very young age. Gary himself takes up the story..
"We emigrated to Canada in April 1968. Before this I had not taken much notice of the radio, and only remember 'Children's Choice' on the then new Radio 1, although I can't ever remember any station ID's. We had reel to reel at that time with a built in radio, and I used to spend a lot of time fiddling with that, so perhaps this was the start of my tape mania!!
As a 9 year old, I disliked Canada, probably because we went to Montreal where there were not many people of English origin, and I found it difficult to make friends with anyone. We only stayed there 3 months, and by the summer of 1968 were living in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, where my dad had finally found some work. We started living in some apartments next to a cinema and opposite a shopping centre. A guy who lived one floor down was an electronic whizz and one day popped upstairs with a radio he had made on a bit of wood out of a few parts. We used the metal window frames as an aerial and managed to pick up the two local AM stations WCAP on 980kHz and WLLH on 1400kHz I think. One or two of the bigger Boston stations were audible in between, weakly, and at night I managed to get WLS from Chicago. I think this was the start of my DXing hobby. We had an old Ultra transistor radio from the mid 1950's, in pink and white, which the same guy got going for us, as they didn't sell PP1 batteries in North America. I used this until the batteries failed, and then don't remember what happened to it after that. Shame its gone as the sound was superb. I bought a little transistor radio during that summer, and remember lying in the back of the car one night travelling back to the Canadian border through Vermont, noting all the station ID's on a bit of paper - my first real log .
Anyway over the next couple of years we moved a couple of times, still in Chelmsford, and I went through several radios, eventually migrating to a 3 band portable with shortwave!. In the summer of '69 I erected a couple of huge bamboo poles in the garden, and with a piece of wire began my shortwave listening hobby. During 1970 I used to come home from school and listen to WROR FM, which was the FM service of WRKO (680) in Boston. This MW stn is still heard regularly in Europe, mainly in the winter months. WROR was actually the first station I ever wrote to. I also remember listening to WABC from New York during December 1970 when they were playing the TOP 100 of the year. We returned from the US in January 1971. I had been given a multi band portable for Christmas, and was eager to try it out in the UK. The AM and FM bands were full when I left Chelmsford on the Friday. We arrived back in Leeds on Saturday morning 20th January 1971, and I eagerly removed my pride and joy from the suitcase. I switched it on, and my first reaction was that it had been damaged during the trip as both the AM and FM bands were virtually empty. It slowly began to dawn that there was nothing wrong, and that radio in the UK was virtually non-existent. To a 12 year old boy who was used to flicking from station to station for the best music, this was a severe disappointment. Because of this, I don't remember listening much for a while. Then my dad came back from a trip to Bridlington on the East Coast, and told me he had been listening to a test transmission from a station called Radio Northsea International. I tried it, and sure enough there it was, weak during the day, but not too bad at night. That was the start of my pirate listening days. Once the shortwave service started, it became easier to hear, and then one Sunday I just happened to tune to one side of the SW service and heard music. I listened for a while, and this station identified as World Music Radio. During late 1971 and early 1972, I began to listen to Radio Sweden Calling DX-ers who reported 'hobby pirates' from time to time. I took an interest in these and managed to hear a few on my limited receiver, and things mushroomed from there."
Gary's log book was impressive, though not quite so as his massive tape collection, including much of the mid and late 70s off air SW recordings. He also had some early Irish material, which was of obvious interest. Gary was the only person I had heard of who had been fined for aiding and abetting a broadcast while he was in Devon, miles from the transmission site. Michael J of Radio Solent City (South)was busted in the summer of 1979, at his home in Co Durham, and the GPO found a letter with a taped show from Gary. This cost him £60!! You can read the full story of the raid and courtcase by clicking above.
As ever we had a few drinks in the pub, and a good old yarn. When we returned home, Simon sat in the studio chair, listening to Sonic Independent Radio, and pissing around on the CB. Ian and I reckoned we could freak him by throwing a stone at the studio. After a few beers, the stone was actually more like a brick. This not only surprised poor old Simon, but buried him in my cassettes, which were stacked against the wall at the time!!
On Sunday August 1st, a broadcast on SW with a home made generator was planned, but technical problems as usual prevented any signals being heard. An amazing joint programme was pre-recorded, but remained unaired. There were about 8 of us in the woods that day including Barry Stevens of EMR. Barry was selling me my first transmitter, the former EMR 50W input tx. This blew during trials of the generator. Gary also had a loan of a small 20 watt transmitter, ex Radio Solent City (North East), which also failed to work!
That Sunday afternoon was spent going over maps, station lists, and having a semi serious discussion about the up and coming trip. Gary at least had some sort of idea what would have been the most suitable way to tackle the whole country in one short week. The departure date planned was late August 12th, from Liverpool to Dublin.
At this time stations logged included the very strong 2nd harmonic of Southside Radio from the Hotel Victor in Dunlaoire, on 1998kHz. The second harmonic was stronger than the fundamental, in both England and Scotland. The old dusty log book confirms reception of this problem, on Monday 10th August 1981, more on this later. Radio City from Dublin also had a strong harmonic on the same date, on 2327kHz.
The time had come. Ian and myself set off by bus, to meet the lads at Piccadilly in Manchester. We spotted Simon in a kind of a tunnel thing, almost as soon as we reached the Piccadilly area, but Gary was nowhere to be seen. The three of us took a seat in a Greek restaurant for a bite to eat. The owner began to babble in broken English to me about the girls in front, who were from Hamilton in Scotland. Unfortunately there was no time for normal things like chasing women, with such a tight schedule. As we sat tucking into our lunch, Gary took us by surprise by walking past the window, which was quite amazing in an area the size of Piccadilly!! I think there may have been some incompetence in organising a meeting place, although things worked out fine. The pioneering trip had begun.
It may have been courtesy to call or write to at least some of the known stations before hand, but we never did. Only the odd station we had rang or written to anyway knew of our trip. No one was sure exactly which stations were on air where, what frequency etc. Good lists were difficult to come by. In those days the latest list of the FRC Ireland (Free Radio Campaign) was only in metres. Few seemed to have the basic understanding of frequencies at that time, and even in later years. Anoraks Ireland had a list dated Feb 20th 1982, which included BIG D 273 on 1099kHz, other times listed as 1098, where they never were. However if one works out the real frequency for 273m, you come close to 1099. Maybe the operator of that organisation thought he had worked out the real frequency, but unfortunately failed. Our own monitoring produced a much more detailed frequency listing, in kHz, not metres, which meant nothing. I too of course could have had much more detailed lists had I the receivers, antennas and most importantly the knowledge I have now, especially the art of greyline enhancement (Dxing especially in the mornings, where it is neither dark nor light). This is a subject in itself, but radio signals are enhanced/ disturbed on MW and even on SW, sometimes quite dramatically around the hour or so between day and night. I cringe when I think of the rarities I could have added to my log by rising a few hours early of a morning!
At Liverpool harbour, while waiting to board the ship, some time was spent listening to the Irish pirates. Sonic Independent Radio was powerful on the dockside, on 1314kHz. A curious Liverpool pirate calling itself Station X was heard on 1107kHz. This turned out to be tests for J-1000, which became a well known Merseyside pirate of the day. DJs included Robin Blinde, or Robin Ross as he became known, the man who was to have the first words from the Ross Revenge during the tests in 1983, prior to Radio Caroline relaunching. The interesting thing about this station was the frequency used. We could hear some splatter from Radio 1 on 1089. BBC Radio 1, was then on AM only using what is now the Talk Radio UK transmitters on 1089 and 1053. A few short weeks after J1000, the BBC decided to stick a relay on 1107, for Radio 1!!
When the first trip in 1981 came about, the so-called music station of the BBC, Radio 1, was still only on AM. They had Radio 4 on FM, which was speech based!! I guess they reckoned there was no market for music radio on FM, and listening today, I personally believe they still think the same. The ILR stations were more of a joke, and still are, all sounding the same, with no formats. Certainly in the eyes of young pirate radio enthusiasts. In Eire, RTE closed for the night, with ex pirate and Virgin DJ Dave Fanning at 10 to 2. (This was quite an odd time to close, neither 02 nor 01.30!) The major Irish pirates were now beginning to run 24 hours a day.
Gary had organised a loan of a small PYE mono cassette machine for me, as at the time my only decent recording equipment stretched to 1 main 240V tape deck. It was too much to trundle on the bus as well as the big Grundig Satellit 3400 radio. Some time was spent setting the tape machine up to record on the road. It was rather heavy on the batteries, but did the job. Because my receiver was inside the car, reception any great distance from the transmitter was impaired. Gary had his old Grundig cassette machine fitted up in conjunction with the car radio, which gave him many more miles of recording. He also had his JVC stereo radio cassette, nowadays called a ghetto-blaster, to record from FM stations, especially if they were in stereo.
hanging around the ferry terminal, an old drunk guy began to tell me
how I looked Irish, perhaps because of my Celtic appearance, at least
I think that was what he was blabbering on about. Before boarding Gary
proceeded to spill a cup of coffee on his trousers. We eventually made
it onto the ship for the long 10 hour sail, Wednesday night through
to Thursday morning, 12th / 13th August 1981. Simon and Gary were pumping
the travel sickness tablets, and looking for a place to lie down for
the night. We all had a Sleeping bag to rough it, no first class accommodation
for us. It was decided to sit up on deck, to see the ship off, as darkness
fell. The huge funnel on the ferry was billowing out thick, black smoke,
and the smell was overwhelming. A little boy was having his trousers
taken down by his mother just along from Ian and myself, and our immediate
thoughts were that we had discovered the obvious source!! Sometime later
when it became too cold and smelly outside despite the boy's trousers
being pulled back up, we returned below deck to find a nice floor for
the night. The lads soon nodded off to sleep, but I had made the unfortunate
choice of sleeping by a doorway I assumed was not being used. I couldn't
have been more wrong. I was harassed by sailors trampling over me all
night, running in and out the door!! At some odd time in the night,
Ian and myself ventured to the canteen, for chips and the like, whilst
the lads snored on, nursing their dodgy stomachs!!
Thursday 13th August1981 - MORNING
The feeling of magic in the air was incredible as I saw the beautiful sight of Dublin on the horizon, at about half five in the morning. I think I had expected to go out on deck and see the horizon dotted with tall transmitting towers. I also had a strange mental picture of the city. I imagined Dubliners all walking around the streets with their radios tuned to ARD, City, Southside, Sunshine etc. In reality neither came to being. Dublin was like any other major cosmopolitan city. They had the hustle and bustle, the cars, buses, and exhaust fumes. Everyone walked past you in the street, minding their own affairs, and oblivious to their surroundings, and for that matter, to the 20 odd pirates audible around the town. The only towers visible were for RTE and commercial use. As we were about to discover, many stations really did operate on the traditional shoestring, with only wire antennas and home made transmitters, held together with chewing gum and bits of string. This was my first holiday with the recently acquired Grundig Satellit 3400, which has now given years of good service. I had it with me up on deck tuning the FM band, when the song "Walk Right Now" by The Jacksons was heard.
"There's Nova", said Ian and I in unison, simply because Gerard Roe had sent over a tape of Nova from FM with that song on it. The audio was lovely and bright, and sure enough there was a station ID soon after. It was a tape of these early Nova tests that Radio Paradise played during part of their short lived test transmissions from off the Dutch Coast in 1981 from the radioship, Magda Maria.
After coming off the ship, the first thing you notice even to this day, are the massive antenna arrays on the Dublin rooftops. There are all sorts, from band 1 and band 3 VHF antennas, to UHF monsters pointing in all directions, some to the UK for HTV and BBC, some pointing to the North for Ulster TV, and BBC from Northern Ireland. Some houses obviously have both. The farther West you go, the aerial masts often become towers, for domestic TV reception!
On the way through Dublin, at 0755 according to the log, Ian spotted the Crofton Airport Hotel, where ARD, originally known as Alternative Radio Dublin, broadcast. I grabbed the camera and took a photo on the way through. Ian checked the Satellit 3400.
"Look at ARD", he said excitedly tuning the fm band from end to end, "It's fucking everywhere".
To be fair to ARD, the radio did have a tendency to overload easily on strong local signals, and later at the guesthouse in Dunlaoire, there was no sign of any problems.
As we headed towards Drogheda, we began to think of the problems in the North at The Maze Prison, where some IRA hungerstrikers were undergoing a protest over prison conditions. This led to the eventual deaths of some 10 prisoners, the best known being Bobby Sands. Whilst new to Ireland, the thought of two Englishmen, especially in certain areas, did not sound like a very good idea. After this first visit, this nervousness totally vanished, and rightly so. However initially we thought it a better idea if we kept our distance from the border, missing out on famous stations like Telstar Radio and Radio Carousel in Dundalk etc. Ironically Ian was to go on to work at Carousel, including their Monaghan outlet, with of course no hint of any problems.
Before leaving the UK there was no longer any sign of Boyneside Radio on the MW, only the powerful voice of Community Radio Drogheda, on 1305. As reported in the Danish SW Clubs International magazine, 6.525 was also being heard in the UK. A strong carrier on 1323kHz had also been observed in both England and Scotland, of suspected Irish origin, and we had just discovered the source. The carrier was very strong around the Drogheda area.
The first call therefore, was to investigate the obvious name changes that we had been hearing. Just outside Drogheda, at a garage, a Boyneside Jingle was heard on a freq of 98.1, which surprised us. Later the well-known link freq of 99.2 was also noted. Since the address of the station was known, we asked directions to 14 Mill Lane, which turned out to be off Trinity Street, a sort of main road through the town. While walking on Trinity Street, we noticed there were black flags up on the lamp posts, in sympathy for Bobby Sands and the others who had died in the Maze. This was a little concerning, being from foreign parts. We then experienced our first freaky situation. There seemed to be a strong army presence on Trinity Street. As it turned out, at the time this was a regular procedure when moving money from a bank!!
There were no problems, and the station was soon found at the postal address in Mill Lane. A sign above the door made no secret of the whereabouts of "BOYNESIDE RADIO 225" Simon, the most politely spoken of us rattled the door. A young woman showed us into the studio where a gentleman called Eric Vaughan was in the middle of his morning programme. Eric it seemed had to talk after every record, as one of the turntables was down. Someone had been sent up the street to buy a new needle!! Shoestring pirates??!!!! The audio from the station seemed to boom out around the room from the station monitor, although it was not quite loud enough to cause any hint of feedback, which I recall impressed me. Boyneside had a spacious studio, and there were a few mics around the place, to interview any guests. Eric promptly interviewed us all live. Gary had a tape running in the car, which was the usual practise, just in case we did happen to be mentioned on air.
Eric told us that while the owners were on holiday, and they still were, there had been a split in the station. Heddy Eddie, Richard Kenny, Gavin Duffy and Dermot Finglas and others had gone off to start Community Radio Drogheda. Dermot was on breakfast that day, and heard from around 0815/0930, with all sorts of wrong announcements such as "Local Radio Drogheda" ".. On the Boyneside chart" "..on 225 and 102 FM" etc. The FM did not come on till later in the afternoon. The obvious confusion was not just with the listeners, but included DJs. Richard Kenny presented the 0930/1200 show. Richard incidentally, is now a famous RTE television presenter, using the name Richard Crowley. The web site includes a photo of him on CRD. Gavin Duffy now on Radio Ireland, was on 12/2pm, and Eddie from 2/4.30 presumably, followed by Ken Murray. Since Eddie was the engineer, CRD had the high power 1305kHz transmitter. This could be heard well in the UK on the fundamental, as well as the subsequent harmonics. CRD always had a very distinctive sound, with rather tinny audio, lacking in low frequecny response, while at the same time being very loud. The distinctive professional voice of Richard Kenny always sticks out in my memory, heard not only with his own show, but he obviously produced many commercials.
Eric did ask us to hang around for a bit, until he finished his morning programme at 1130. After this he could show us the transmitters. We went over to the Kings Café, which was a well-known haunt of the Boyneside staff. The station blared away on the old radio cassette sitting on the counter. We sat chatting about our first station, before driving the few hundred yards back to the station. There was no point in leaving the radio equipment in the car unattended for any longer than necessary.
When Owen Barry came in to present his show, Eric was free to show us around. I always described Owen as the guy with the trainers on, as though it was a crime for a local radio DJ to wear such footwear. Owen later became a close friend of Ian's, and accepted the invitation to become best man at his 1988 wedding. Eric showed us into the old Donaghys Mill, where the MW transmitter was. Medium Wave? We could only hear the FM. And no wonder. Even with careful tape scrutiny of the 1305 CRD tape, left recording off air from the car radio below the Boyneside MW aerial, occasional sideband splatter was only just detectable! The AM rig was surely only radiating a few watts into the aerial on 1314kHz, stuck between two high power Community Radio Drogheda transmissions. With the lack of technical knowledge on the Boyneside half of the split, no one guessed there even was a carrier on 1323, after all there was no music (As one Dutchman once said in 1975 on the Mi Amigo). Into the bargain once we realised there WAS a MW signal, it was found to contain a high percentage of 2628kHz!!! The audio was fed from the 99 FM link, only yards away. The transmitter was not of conventional UK pirate design. Instead of being portable on a chassis, it was sitting on bits of metal, and some of the components just on the floor of an old room in the mill. The transmitter which was built in a hurry, was half a dozen television line output valves, PL509s, and a very long coil, avo meter stuck in for a current meter, and no mains plug. The wires were wedged in the holes with bits of wood!!! There were no tuning capacitors as such, just the glass plate type capacitors, all home made by a well known young engineer from Dublin, called Peter Gibney. He was the chap behind amongst others Radio Caroline Dublin. This was the first of many transmitters of this construction we saw not only during this trip, but in years to come. A real treat.
Simon was the farthest advanced with transmitters at that time, and was shocked and stunned. Eric did comment that the MW was not very good!! Because of his inexperience with transmitters, he was offering cash to anyone who could improve the situation. Simon sent Eric looking for a "capacitator" as he called it, to replace the glass plates. Nothing was found except an old thing from the back of an old valve radio, which was too low rated for RF. Mind you the amount of RF the thing produced, it probably would have worked.
After he learned about the carrier, Eric and his mate Tony, an older gentleman, who worked for the station owner, took the four of us for what seemed like miles in and out of country roads. Gary followed in his identical car, which was quite a coincidence!! We were shown the FM 98.1 site, which reached as far as Dublin, some 30 miles or so farther South. This was situated high on a hill at Eobon MaDonnel's house, North of Drogheda, on the Dundalk road. Eric told us of plans to install a MW rig there in the near future. In later years when the Dublin pirate scene was chaotic, and Boyneside had a Dublin relay, the 98.1 was too weak, and susceptible to jamming, and hi jacking, so a UHF link was actually used to feed the Dublin relay.
Deep into the little twisted country lanes around Drogheda, Eric eventually found a long wire of Heddy Eddies, running across the road. Eric seemed to be in search of the mystery carrier on 1323, but unfortunately (or whatever the case may be, as it was not our battle), the signal was definitely not coming from the said cable. As time was ticking on, we began to head back to Drogheda. On the way Eric pulled up rather suddenly, and jumped out the car. Apparently a wasp had crawled up his trouser leg and stung him!! Eric had mentioned they were looking for DJs. They would be able to offer some £60 a week "in the hand". Ian had just finished his apprenticeship as an electrician, and was on the market for a job.
"Send us a tape", suggested Eric.
The result is another story in itself.
Before leaving, Eric asked us to join him in the pub a couple of doors up from the studio, for a pint, and see if Gibney would make an appearance. He was due apparently to do some work on the transmitter. This welcome drink and chat gave us a chance to hear some other stories of the station, which sadly are almost forgotten now. Simon was talking on the phone to Peter Gibney about the transmitter, and things technical, but he said it would be a few hours before he could come to Drogheda, time which we never had to spare unfortunately. An arrangement was made with Simon to buy some spare parts from suppliers in the UK, 813 valves I think. Why they could not send the money themselves I don't know, but despite the valves being sent to Boyneside, poor old Simon was never paid! We left Drogheda around 2.30 for a more Southerly venue.
On the way out of Drogheda, non-stop music was going out on 102FM, not parallel to anything. This was to change very soon after, and what was heard in fact was the initial stages of Community Radio Drogheda on FM. By the time the week was up, CRD was also on 1323 in parallel, thus Boyneside would have been even more squashed, if not entirely inaudible except around the mill. Eric on the other hand made a point of trying to poison us against visiting CRD, who to him were the rivals. To us, they were just another station to notch up, but despite Eric's friendliness towards us, and despite him probably being knowledgeable as to their whereabouts, we were never to be told. They turned out to be above the Parocial Hall, in the town centre, although they moved shortly after to a house on Moneymore, an area of Drogheda.
The visit to Boyneside was the first of many, and the time spent with the various staff members of the station was always far longer than anticipated, happily a habit that was never broken.
On the way South, we must have passed the Rossnaree Hotel just outside Drogheda. I personally do not remember seeing this building, and maybe there was no transmitter here at this stage. The hotel was to become very well known as the main CRD, and later Boyneside Radio site for 1305kHz.
One interesting memory of Boyneside Radio over the years was the RF interference getting into the studio from the Garda radios (Irish Police), often heard in Scotland.
Farther down the road was Swords, a town of a fair size, at least to a country chap like myself. The station K.E.L.O was located at North Street, Swords, the old Irish mailing address. It was found to be a building within a sort of a yard, and looked a little rough from the outside. A tall single pole mast stood in the yard, with a wire antenna running up the tall structure, and down to another smaller mast. The station was operating on a frequency of 1233kHz at the time, and was the strongest of the home-brew type stations, ie the ones who did not have huge financial backing required to buy a commercial transmitter from abroad.
We were eventually invited in where there seemed to be quite a number of staff hanging around an untidy downstairs living room type area. Some of the lads were sitting around on an old couch at the foot of the stairs which led to the studio. There were K.E.L.O envelopes lying all over the place. None of us even came home with a sample envelope, demonstrating how quiet and reserved we all were in those days. Had it been nowadays, the car would have been filled up with them.
One guy came rushing in to be greeted with "Did you get any ads?".
Did this mean they were running short of operating money I wonder?
Some years later I learned that Aiden Hughes from the former SW station Capital Radio was probably one of those many people milling around. He never said unfortunately, and we never asked... Sadly Aiden died before I had a chance to meet him face to face, although I spoke to him many times via SW.
The K.E.L.O engineer, none other than Peter Gibney himself showed us around. The studio was upstairs in the attic area, with the large H & H mixer standing up at an angle of about 45 degrees. On air at the time was a chap by the name of Dave Kelly. Simon and Gary had the cameras which they were snapping at the same time, hoping something would turn out, as there was a problem with one of their flashes. My small instamatic-126 could only take outside shots.
Peter showed us out to a small shed with a tin roof around the side where the transmitter was. The singing of the windings of the modulation transformer was quite remarkable, and very loud and clear. You could hear the noise before Peter unlocked the well secured door. This was the highest power set up I had seen to date. The big modulation transformer was sitting on the floor, with wires going to the left to a shelf where the now familiar glass plate type tuning capacitor sat. The 813 transmitting valves were untraditionally upside down, a curious difference. This one was obviously doing the business, as the signal all over Dublin and beyond was really excellent. It was only now that we all began to understand Gibney's transmitter work, and style!!
Peter chatted away about various pirates he had been/ was the engineer for, including Radio Caroline Dublin. This station had been on and off for a few years and we were told it was usually active when he was building a transmitter for someone, to soak test it. I asked him to sign some QSL cards (Proof of reception for radio enthusiasts) for Radio Caroline Dublin including an alleged 15 Watt transmitter on 1530kHz in 1979.
K.E.L.O had started life in the Spring of 81, noted for the first time in very early April here. K.E.L.O was formed following broadcasts from Ashbourne Community Radio, in Co Meath. This was heard in Scotland during the summer of 1980, also on 1233kHz. The 1981 broadcast from this assumed festival week station announce 184m on a tape Gary has from June 14th.
K.E.L.O was operated and partly owned by Davitt Kelly. Davitt had a long history on the Dublin pirate scene, with stations such as Radio Melinda, ARD, Big D etc. Declan Meehan and Mark Storey, later to become programme controller of Virgin Radio, both owe their humble beginnings to the early Dublin pirates, including Radio Melinda. The Dublin courts also know this story!! K.E.L.O had DJs such as John Clarke and Peter Madison pass through their , though Peter used the curious name of Skip Cameron, for no doubt even more curious reasons!
Despite the couple of alsatians roaming around the yard, this was the very shed Captain Cooke of Radio Dublin reported someone has sprayed water into, giving a whole new meaning to the term "soak test". Sabotage at this time in the Dublin area was rife. In fact some of the diseases around at the time included the well known "Antenna Worm", or even worse, the dreaded "Aerial Rot!!"
"The Captains News" on Radio Dublin on Sunday 21st June reported K.E.L.O off the air since Thursday night/ Friday morning, June 18th/19th. The reason given was that apparantley part of their transmitter had been stolen. The station was offering a £200 reward for it's safe return. According to Eamon, the section taken was a piece of aluminium, with 4 valves on it.
"Don't be confused by the valves in your television set or old radios", he went on, "These are like milk bottles".
A member of K.E.L.O had indirectly asked "The Captain" to return the said apparatus. However Cooke said that if he had taken it, he would have taken the lot, floorboards and all. Cooke went on to suggest that it was strange the 2 alsatians guarding the place had taken no notice, and inferred it was an inside job. This story then went into the complaints that had been made to K.E.L.O about it's interference to Radio Dublin Channel 2 signal on 1251kHz, as well as the 1kHz tone caused by WKRC in Newbridge, operating on 1250. This, according to Cooke, was also set up by the same engineer as K.E.L.O, Peter Gibney. Assurances were made that both problems would be cured by changing channel at K.E.L.O, and using an on channel crystal at WKRC.
"However", The Captain said, "After some time, patience gets exhausted. It has done that fairly recently"......
K.E.L.O returned Monday night/ Tuesday morning.
By July, someone had decided 1584 was going to be a better frequency, and on Wednesday July 8th moved to 193m. The frequency was obviously unsuitable, and by Thursday July 16th, they were back on 1233kHz, where they still were when we arrived in Ireland. Radio Dublin Channel 2 had changed from 1251, to 1240, only 7 kHz away. The Radio Dublin boss, "Captain" Eamon Cooke on his Sunday news bulletin on Sunday 5th July still complained of problems from K.E.L.O, although seemed to have moved closer to the source of the problem!!!
Another K.E.L.O came on the air on 1017 at a date unknown some months later, with a much lower signal, and although Aiden Hughs may have been involved, the success of this version of K.E.L.O can be summed up by its limited lifespan, and it certainly failed to make an impact on the scene. It was probably little to do with the original people, and the field strength was certainly nowhere near that of the old K.E.L.O. This station was certainly heard in Blackpool, but never in Scotland.
We left K.E.L.O around 5pm, and headed for the Dublin area, while Peter headed North to Drogheda, to try and sort out something for Boyneside Radio. To be honest, during the whole time of CRD/ Boyneside, CRD always had the powerful transmitters. Boyneside was hardly audible in Scotland, until the two stations reunited, some 8 months later.
Gary drove through Dublin city, and on south to Dunlaoire, although when one is travelling between the two, they are seemingly joined. I have chosen to spell Dunlaoire as I have here. Some spell it Dun Laoghaire. I have always spelt it the way it appears on the Southside Radio promotional material, and rate cards, if only for the reason that it was through SSR I first heard of the town. I can only assume SSR knew what they were talking about, as they were operating from the area. We wanted to visit Southside Radio that night, and the South Dublin stations in the morning, so looking for bed and breakfast in the area seemed a sensible idea.
Opposite the marina, we found a B&B, which was being painted while the owners were on holiday. The guy next door was looking after the place, and assured us we were welcome to use one big room, if two of us didn't mind sharing a bed!! No one really fancied this, and in the end Simon used his sleeping bag on the floor.
"If you pick any women up lads", he said, "Don't make too much noise, there are old ladies next door". The funny thing was none of us saw any old ladies. There was only a rampant dog, which darted around the place jumping on everyone's leg!!
We enjoyed sitting in the room, relaxing, tuning to the stations on MW and FM we knew of, and discovering stations such as Diamond Radio on about 1580, off channel. The main MW stations all flowed into each other, cluttered around the original Radio Dublin 253m wavelength. We heard BigD on 1116, ARD 1134/ 43, Radio City 1161, Radio Dublin 1188, K.E.L.O 1233, and Radio Dublin Ch2 on 1251.
Southside Radio began life in a caravan near to Bray, in Co Wicklow, but had moved into civilisation to the Hotel Victor, Rochestown Ave, in Dunlaoire. SSR was managed by Paul Nicolas, who later became Andy Rue, on Sunshine, and later RTE.
This well known station, used to host the Free Radio Campaign Ireland programme on a Sunday morning, and was often relayed on SW by both Westside Radio on 6280kHz, and Radio Condor International on 11463kHz, or 6243kHz. In March 1980, the station suffered both a lightning strike, which took out some technical equipment, as well as a break in only a short time later. The result of this was a reprieve for the flagging Big D FRC show, which was aired at the same time on a Sunday morning with Bernard Lyons. Radio Condor and Westside Radio reverted back to relaying the Big D.
But the determination of Southside Radio, did not allow the station to go under at that stage. The man behind the FRC show was ex Big D FRC show presenter Mark Bolland, with whom I had regular contact, more so in the 1979/ 80 period. The gentleman I think received a lot of letters addressed to Marc Bolan, the name of the late lead singer with T-Rex. He had presented programmes on SW pirate Radio Mercury, in addition to his regular drive time teatime show on Southside. I remember hearing Mark regularly opening up the station at 10am on a Sunday with the old theme tune Robert Palmer's "Every Kind Of People". Bolland's voice was also heard on a jingle package he produced for Westside Radio, oddly announcing the station as Radio Westside! The jingles were well heard across Europe on SW when Prince Terry used to start his days broadcasting with the whole package, all in a row, complete with Q tones!!
Tony Allen had made SSR a jingle package, based on an ILR package from the UK, which were all very long drawn out and sleepy voice overs. SSR made a brief appearance with their own SW transmitter on August 7th and 8th 1980. I logged non-stop War of the Worlds music on 6250 and 6255. SSR even went to the expense of proper QSL cards, although exactly how many were issued is anybody's guess. Irish pirates were notoriously difficult to QSL properly, and the policies seemed to change from week to week. In late October 1981, SSR changed briefly to 1566, and then back again to 999 after little success. "Radio Radio reports the station closed in 1983, but I visited the station again in late March and early April 1982, when it seemed to be on its last legs. A few weeks after my visit, the station closed. The exact date is unknown, but the following logs were made at the time.
8/5/82 Southside heard on 999.
22/5/82 Community Radio Wexford was noted on 999, so SSR obviously off.
22/5/82 Later that day, on off channel 997, Radio South County was heard. This interesting hobby pirate actually used the transmitter which current DLR had on SW a couple of years ago, more often on 963 though.
Unid date in mid May 82, Ian hears a loop tape with ids as South Dublin Radio on 999, from the Victor. AUK list for 25th May reports South Dublin Radio testing on 999, while South City had appeared on 1314 on test.
22/6/82 South City Radio noted, having moved from 1323, and before that 1314, to the now clear 999.
After something to eat, we though about heading towards the Hotel Victor. At that point the station announced that they were going to be off the air for technical reasons at 8pm, so we thought we better move, and go and investigate anyway. We arrived at the hotel around 8pm or just after, on this fine Summers night. The hotel was one of the bigger variety, but spread out, rather than multi storey, with a large car park in the front. The station was off and on, and there was a lot of activity was going on around the studio. Some antenna maintenance was being done hence the break in transmission.
Inside was, amongst others, Steven Bishop. "Pirates", he said, "Lets go for a pint".
I was in awe about my first meeting with the former Caroline DJ, and ended up having my photograph taken shaking his hand. (I was a young anorak then!) A very attractive friend of his, Penny, was sitting around. She was the girl he kept talking about on the very entertaining Easter Sunday broadcast on Caroline in 1985. This show, presented under the name Johnny Lewis, included Steven becoming very pissed on the air, on the Caroline GBH Bitter (Home brew). He also played some interesting extracts of both the Irish stations, and Radio Caroline from the past.
Other people floating around SSR included Paul Vincent, a name known to many for a few years in Dublin, and ex Caroline engineer James Kaye. A newsreader on SSR at that time, Sybil Fennel, shortly went on to become a leading figure in the Radio Nova team, and eventually married Chris Carey.
Jimmy (James Kaye) was in the middle of hoisting up a new long wire antenna, which looked more like a short wire, between a pair of masts on the roof of the hotel. The one farthest from the transmitter was a small latice tower, with a pole on the top, whilst the mast above the studio area was a tall single pole structure with guy wires all over the hotel roof. Broadcasting was from what could have been described as an old washhouse down under the left hand side of the hotel. We wondered why they were stringing up a new antenna?? Perhaps they assumed they had a fault with the old cable, as the signal was so poor on their 999kHz frequency. Someone mentioned to James Kaye, that they were strong on the shipping band, on 2998kHz all over the UK. (James was an ex Caroline engineer!!!). He did not hang around too long after this, and scurried off to the transmitter to be technical. Their transmitter was the biggest I had seen at this stage, an RCA E.T. The power of these usually would be appox 400Watts, depending what had been done to it. This is somewhat less than the announced 2KW of SSR!! This however had not been on the air, and only the small one had been used, which I suspect caused the harmonic. This E.T was probably the one which eventually found its way to South Coast Radio in Cork, when they were running an announced six hundred watts, in the days before their 10kw transmitter arrived.
The SSR studio was inside a sort of tent thing made with for want of a better description, old hessian sacks. The mixer was another H & H, which although had equalisation on every channel, those controls were cleverly covered with an old plastic record played lid, to stop knob twiddling experts from upsetting things. They had professional ex BBC transcription turntables, the well known Garrard 301s, made by someone who was probably long dead.
We had a good old "anorak" with the lads and Penny in the bar. Some mention was made of the highly publicised new Radio Caroline ship. No real info was gathered from the guys there, despite their obvious contacts, and the fact that Johnny claimed the station would be back in 6 weeks at the latest. Some 2 years later the Ross Revenge finally did sail towards the North Sea, and Radio Caroline recommenced broadcasting.
After a beer or two, it was time to eat, and Johnny (Steven Bishop) pointed us off to Macdonald's, which I had never heard of. He said he might go up with us to Sunshine Radio in the morning. He had a chance of a job at the station, which as it happened, he soon had.
At Macdonald's, Gary parked the car up the side of the shop. We strolled round the corner to MacDonalds, discussing the days events, and pirates in general. Sunshine and the PO Box 539 Blackpool address that Sunshine plugged was mentioned.
"Yea", said Gary in his soft Yorkshire voice, "I'll have t' give old Baz a ring". (He always said t' like t'pub, t'car etc, much to our amusement)
For some reason at the time Ian and myself fell around laughing at this, and the name Baz stuck to Gary for many many years. None of us had met the real Baz, but soon with the chance to earn a few pounds, he was going to become the instigator of one of the most professionally run Free Radio Merchandise outlets there has ever been. That outfit???? Anoraks UK.
In the shop, I had a job being served because of my heavy unrefined Scottish accent. In some circles, it has been suggested I lay it on a little. The other lads were in hysterics in the background at my antics. I had never had a vanilla milk shake of that sort before, and liked it so much, I went back into the shop for another one. I was followed promptly back into the shop, where again to the amusement of Ian and Gary, I caused more problems!!
After returning to the B & B, the four of us discussed the days travelling, and related stories into the wee sma' hours. Some speech was recorded onto the start of a tape with station recordings, relating what had gone on that day. Boyneside Radio from Drogheda was coming into Dublin quite well on 98.1 with Dara Nelson and Owen Barry on the night tape, announcing as Boyneside FM! What wonderful memories.
Friday August 14th 1981
Sonic Independent Radio could be heard in the UK at night. One Dxer at the time had thought he was hearing a station from Belfast, and as it turned out the confusion was over the frequent mention of Shankhill, which was a name common to both Belfast, and the real location in South Dublin. During the meeting in Scotland before hand, when Barry Stevens was with us, I remember sitting listening to 1314kHz. The signal was solid, as NRK signed off at night, something too few stations actually do nowadays. NRK were not using their mega power then, so by day 1314 was a fair channel. I make no comment of how good the night time signals were before NRK signed off though! Sonic were giving out a Dublin phone number, which was called from the local phone box, at some early early hour, but the line was continuously engaged. The station was also supposed to be heard on SW at one stage, although I personally do not remember hearing this one on the listed 11485. Danish SW Clubs reports a listing of subharmonic 5742.5! I wonder which frequency they were trying to use? I also seem to remember CPI, Christian Pioneers International around 6250 with Sonic and other relays.
On the morning of the 14th August, MOA day, the South Dublin stations were targeted. Sonic was relatively easy to find, helped along by the graffiti on the road signs. They all pointed straight to the station. However one difficult sign had Sonic 228, and the arrow pointing in both directions, over which someone had written Super Sick Sonic Radio!! Charming..
After finding the station we managed to rouse a rather sleepy headed Joe Jackson (A former Southside Radio man) from his bed. He sent us round the back of the house, to the little Sonic Hut. In the studio was chap called Bob Nailor, who was a radio ham, and CBer. He was admiring my Satellite 3400, which I had trailed round the back with me, to save leaving it in the car. We were shown into the premises, which housed a cramped studio, of the type perhaps you might associate with a station just a little bit more than a hobby pirate, but not much more. The studio monitor was the famous FRG7 receiver from Yaseu.
The transmitter sat in the little reception area, yet another Peter Gibney job, and was churning away in the background, with seemingly no adverse effects to the neighbourhood, or for that matter even the Sonic studio, only a few feet away. One wonders if anyone ever came into the studio of an evening with one drink too many. What a thought. This was what I called a transmitter. At the time I thought they were all very rough, but on reflection, every AM transmitter was a masterpiece, and completely different from the next one, unlike FM transmitters which were rarely home built, and usually only a small tin box with an on off switch!
"Who's going on the air?", asked Bob.
Ian volunteered, none of the rest of us were really confident enough at that time to sit behind the microphone, even at Sonic, a 7 day a week hobby pirate. He introduced himself as being from Radio Telstar in Edinburgh, which sounded better than a 3 hours a month SW station. I remember being a little touchy about him not using the name of a certain hobby SW station!! He presented an impressive 30m show, which included airing the ads. One of the said commercials was for the Bray Sports Centre, where apparently Sonic T shirts and sweatshirts were sold. Despite the sale price of £2.60 for a T shirt and £4.99 for a sweat shirt, we never made it to the shop.
When Joe was more with himself, he began to tell us some rather interesting stories. One funny story was perhaps true, perhaps rumour. It was said around town that when Sunshine lost their first big mast at the Sands Hotel in 1980, "The Captain" of Radio Dublin was spotted on the beach at Portmarnock with binoculars!!
I asked Joe to sign a QSL card. He was bemused when I asked for one for DCR as well, which on reflection was rather foolish as there was no actual station as such. But then who was the most foolish. They were actually announcing as the combined broadcasts of Sonic and DCR!!!
Joe proudly showed us the antennas, one of which was to house the new project. The main Sonic antenna was a high installation, of the single pole variety, with a long wire strung down to a tree, while a smaller mast held up the 297m antenna!! Instead of announcing as was mentioned earlier, "The combined broadcasts of Sonic Independent Radio and Dunlaoire Community Radio," the stations, if there ever were two separate operations, were to split. DCR was to use the secondary antenna for around 297m, which the jingles announced as being already on air at that time, even though it certainly was not!! Again the exact freq was never given, and considering at that time Double R Radio was on 1035, and Southside Radio a few minutes up the road at the Victor, on 999kHz, where was this 297m to be? 1017?? No one I don't think ever found out, as Sonic themselves sadly went under a couple of months after we left, and were never heard again.
DCR never materialised, and the transmitter eventually became East Coast Radio. This did not last too long, although included many of the former Southside Radio top DJs. Ian remembers hearing the station in their last few weeks, playing around a bit. Nick Richards was using the name Cecil Burke, John Lewis/ Steven Bishop used the name Herman Yates, and someone else the name Freddie Bogthrush!! Apparently the result was hilarious!! Tapes anyone???
Island Radio was born out of East Coast Radio, and although a serious attempt to provide a new service, again with top DJs of the time, failed. Studios were in the Cliff Castle Hotel in Dalkey, as was the 98FM transmitter. The most I ever heard from this station was non stop music one night on 1314, which was only the LP Super Hits, a 1981 Ronco compilation. Island gave up MW maybe in late 81, or early 82, although the station continued on FM for a little while longer. Island was gone from 1314 by 21st January, and Dunlaoire Local Radio was on the channel. There was a story that they had to leave the Cliff Castle Hotel because of planning problems with the mast.
ABC Dunlaoire was an FM station in Dunlaoire, before joining forces and becoming Dunlaoire Community Radio for a week or so on FM as well as 1314 via the Jackson transmitter. There was then a name change to South City Radio, and a frequency change to former Southside frequency of 999, after a very short spell on 1323. The date by the time South City Radio was heard on 999, 22nd June 1982, see logs on separate tables.
Even further down the line Joe Jackson loaned the transmitter to Nova, after the 83 raids, and broadcast on 819ish. Carey soon obtained a 1kW unit, which was used on 828, until the original confiscated gear was returned in October 83. Radio Nova Southside on 684 was fired up and at one stage Jackson was said to have jammed Nova on 819, and the two stations would play cat and mouse, changing from 819 to 828 and back, just like Radio Venceramos!! A date for this from the old dusty log, Tuesday 9th August 1983. It does leave one believing there may have been a slight cash discrepancy somewhere.. LOL Joe was said to have been the manager at Nova Park at one time, according to "Radio Radio", although this fact was disputed by some.
We all would have liked to spend more time with the small but anoraky set up, if time had been available. But, there was a rough schedule to stick to, and we had to say our goodbyes, and head for Bray.
We went down the stairs to the studio, and were surprisingly confronted by a professional looking 250Watt AM transmitter, at the time on 828kHz. This beast was sort of sitting in the middle of the floor. On closer inspection, when someone opened the cabinet door, it turned out to be a home brew rig, although very neatly made, built into a nice cabinet. A blind DJ Joe Bollard, was in the middle of his morning programme, helped by a young lad. Joe's helper fetched the music for him, but the old chap actually ceud up the records himself, putting the stylus under a little strain. It was amazing to watch. Joe was also over looked by a chap with glasses, a podgy chap with a BLB T-shirt, and a nice looking girl. I asked the podgy/ technical fellow if he would sign a QSL card, which he had no problems with. He turned out to be Chris Conway, alias Chris Kennedy, who along with brother Steve, worked on Radio Caroline in the late 80s, and into the 90s.
Incidentally, BLB was the station that obtained the license to broadcast on FM in that area, on 94.9 as Horizon FM. This later changed to East Coast Radio after an amalgamation.
After thanking everyone for their hospitality during our short visit, we left Bray and headed North towards Portmarnock, the home of Sunshine Radio. No-one was really interested in squashing Johnny from Southside into the car with all the equipment, although I was privately devastated in not spending more time with the well heard Caroline DJ, whom I had heard on the radio so many times and admired so much!! Anyhow, he was currently on the lunch time show on Southside, and we had not really the time to mess around too much. It is easy to think back now, and wish we had spent a full 2 weeks or so in the country.
On the way through Dublin, at the corner of Lower Dorset Street the well known furniture store "The Red Corner Shop" appeared in front of us in it's brightly painted colours. Now we knew why it was called the RED corner shop. Tony Allen must have made hundreds of adverts for "The Red Corner Shop" heard on so many of the Dublin pirates. I hung out the car window with my little instamatic camera, taking a photo!! The shop is now a golf shop, although still red!!
Sunshine Radio was the first station of its kind to come out of Ireland, beginning life in September 1980, a few short months before our visit. Robbie Dale, the well-known former Caroline DJ owned the station, although Chris Carey, another renowned pirate from the swashbuckling offshore days had been involved at the start. Carey, after some internal politics, decided to go it alone with Radio Nova.
It was Dale, who along with Johnnie Walker took Radio Caroline into illegality aboard the Mi Amigo on 14th August 1967.
Sunshine Radio put a good signal into Scotland, on their 531kHz frequency, announced as 539m to rhyme with Sunshine. The actual wavelength of 531kHz is 565m! I have heard the old saying about an inch being a lot when you don't have it, but 26 metres was perhaps a little over the top. There were no VHF transmissions at this time, although before too long a 91.6 stereo transmitter came on the air. Originally Dale wanted to use 88FM, so that anyone switching between AM and FM should have been close. Nova however jumped on the frequency first, after Chris Carey left Sunshine and went his own way. It was not until Radio Nova had been on the air and made it big, that FM became popular, and in fact well known to the public that reception was better. Sunshine was at this stage still running from 0300/2100 sign off. This was at least an extension on the initial 1800 sign off when they first made it to the air.
After taking a wrong turn, and ending up at Portmarnock golf club, a Garda directed us towards the Sands Hotel. It was a beautiful building, right on the coast, and probably also very expensive!! I suppose this was my impression of a hotel with a radio station. Like the Hilton perhaps? In reality this was one of the few exceptions. Some of the hotels were more like the local "Black Bull" with a room built on and called a hotel, for licensing purposes. The lattice mast towering high above the Sands was simply amazing for a so called pirate!!! A colourful psychedelic "Tamango" sign hung on the side of the hotel. This was a well-known yuppie disco, advertised regularly on Sunshine and again, very expensive. I was told the next April that entry was about £7 or £8!! This was obviously a place for the better off members of society. On the way into the Sands, Ian spotted an old red wreck of a car in the car park.
"Here", he laughed, "I bet that's Deckie's".
Strangely, by the time we came out of the hotel, the car was away, as was Deckie!!.
Deckie who was on the air at the time, was Declan Meehan, one of Irelands top notch DJs, who Ian had the greatest respect for. He had been involved in pirate radio since Radio Melinda in the mid 70s, joined RTE-2 for a brief period, and moved back to this first of the so called Superpirates. He made his name with Radio Nova when jointly with Bob Galico, he presented one of the best ever breakfast shows, though now maybe sounding somewhat dated. Mind you even Virgin 1215 have a very dated sounding breakfast show, in my opinion, with so much talk. Unfortunately Deckie's talents were completely wasted off the air, by doing production work at Capital Radio in London. More recently however, he has been heard back on the air in Ireland, on East Coast Radio on weekdays, and weekends on FM 104. At the time of writing he has left FM104 and has joined Radio Ireland presenting the 8PM-Midnight slot on Saturday and Sunday nights. He still presents on East Coast Radio during weekdays. I had less interest in Deckie at this stage, simply because I was desperate to see the Caroline guys who were here!!
As we walked into the hotel, Sunshine was playing through the hotel PA, and as it turned out, it was even blaring away in the toilets. We enquired about the station at reception, and Stevie Dunn/ Gordon from Caroline days, came downstairs. He asked a couple of questions, about who we all were, and then said,
"Do you know Deckie?"
"No", was the unfortunate reply, as if we thought that was as far as we went.
"Well you better come up and meet him", said a very friendly Stevie.
This took us by surprise. Stevie was looking very well, despite stories to the contrary, about his car crash some months before. He led us through corridors, rooms, and up to a heavy steel door leading to the studio. This was because of the spate of station hi-jacks which had been going on in the previous months. A group of supporters of the IRA hungerstrikers had taken over at least Radio Dublin, City, and Carousel, as well as Sunshine, and broadcast messages of support. In some cases the engineers managed to turn the audio off on the actual transmitters, even though it sounded ok in the studio.
A bearded Tom Hardy answered the door. The studio almost knocked us over, the first most of us had set eyes on a proper professional broadcast studio. The window looked out onto the back of the hotel, which was a shame really, as the view to the front would have been breath taking. Apparantley the original studio was in a front facing studio. The turntables to us looked so expensive, as in fact did everything else. Someone somewhere had spent some money on the equipment. On the wall, you could read the station rules, sureshots of the week, and the likes.
Deckie who was doing his show at the time, said "Hello to the naughty pirate laddies from England and Scotland." Tom Hardy immediately took the phone off the hook.
"O fuck, Robbie will be on the phone any minute", he moaned with a grin.
We were told the station was running about 950Watts, which certainly carried quite a distance, although we were not allowed to see the transmitter. This was a story we experienced regularly. The original transmitters may have been a pair of Marconi 750 watt units, linked in parallel. They were very wide, and were apparantly housed at the back of the hotel, in an old storeroom.
Despite the stories about Caroline DJs, everyone made us really welcome. The lads were telling us about the ship that had been in Dublin some weeks before, and sailed to the Dutch side of the North Sea. This of course was Radio Paradise. Radio Caroline was also mentioned, and it's impending return.
"What's the rumours just now about the new ship", Stevie asked us.
"Oh Portsmouth, (Or was it Plymouth) has been mentioned."
His face dropped, and we suspected we had struck a chord???
One of us mentioned that there would be trouble finding a clear frequency.
"There are still plenty frequencies", said Stevie quite correctly.
Now in 1997 there may be a greater problem choosing a suitable channel, but back then there WERE many, as Caroline proved when they did return 2 years later.
I think even the so called anti Caroline members of the group were impressed by the welcome from the Sunshine staff, although if Robbie had shown up, perhaps he would not have been so happy to see us, despite his humble beginnings. Ian is fond of relating the story about visiting the station some months later, when Robbie Dale appeared from nowhere and asked them to leave, much to the embarrassment of the DJ concerned, Deckie.
ARD was a station with a lot of history. It was the result of one of the many Radio Dublin splits, and was officially called Alternative Radio Dublin, although the name was referred to as simply ARD. The real ARD as I called them closed in the early hours of New Years day 1980, on their 1161khz frequency. This was from the old Belvedere House, Belvedere Place address.
Radio City had been floating around 1145kHz, off channel, and moved onto 1161, when ARD closed down. A few days later some of the ARD guys started up Radio 257, which ended up at the Crofton Airport Hotel, on the Swords Road. They used 1152, for which I was not too happy, because of ILR Glasgow on the same frequency. However on June 24th 1980, I did log the station when Radio Clyde broke down for about 20m. Shortly after, they moved to 1143, noted here on 20th July 1980. They continued as Radio 257 for some time before reverting back to the name ARD, noted as such on 14th September 1980. They eventually began using a curious system. I have never ever heard of a station changing frequency on MW, yet here was this version of ARD using 1134Khz by night, and 1143 by day. Sometimes they would forget to change frequency, and the 1134 would clash severely with Radio Carousel in Dundalk, also on 1134. Carousel eventually moved to 1125. When ARD changed frequency, they always played a strange little jingle. I always wondered how many AM listeners the station had back then, and how many always kept to ARD when they changed. As mentioned elsewhere, the stations around that part of the band used to run into each other. Big D, ARD, City, Radio Dublin. The FM 99.9 carried on as normal. They also had a Tony Allen jingle for 1143, heard regularly, but none for 1134.
ARD was along a corridor, at the back door to the hotel. The Crofton was a slightly tired looking place, with an enormous single pole type mast out the back, holding up their wire antenna for MW. The AM frequencies were quite good in Scotland, as well as the subsequent second harmonic, sometimes heard at night on 2268.
We were met by David Dennaghy who proudly showed us all around the station, but a year later at Sunshine he was certainly not nearly so enthusiastic. Maybe Robbie frightened him a little?? He showed us into a room, where a number of people were sitting around, such as Eddie West, Mark Jackson, Chris Barry, and others. Eddie was a former Downtown Radio Belfast jock, who I had never heard of at the time, but again Ian knew his history, and recognised him straight away. He later joined Radio Nova and was widely heard on the overnight shows. Chris Barry was the former operator of Capitol Radio on 1331, which first appeared in 1975, and was the first album station in Dublin. This was widely heard in Europe during 1978/9 time when the frequency was clear. He also ended up on Nova in latter days.
The studio was off the first room, in another room to the left, which also housed the transmitter. The studio itself was in a kind of a kiosk, built in behind where the transmitter lay. There was a window, which the DJ could see the transmitter, and anyone coming in the door. A toggle switch in the studio went to the transmitter, to change the frequency for day and night. A wooden fence thing was sort of built, to help keep anyone away from the transmitter which was an "all over the floor" job, with bits of this and bits of that. I suspect there was an old piece of a Heathkit transmitter used for something or other. I could just imagine the bang it could have went off with if the crystal switching had gone wrong some morning. Mark Jackson sent me into studio 2 as he called it, but I ended outside the back door with the rubbish, and the big mast.
There was a conversation going on at one stage with Mark and Chris, about why Nova used French jingles. We really thought nothing of it, other than Carey had hi-jacked the original Italian station's jingles, but the lads at ARD were bemused.
We had heard a special MOA feature on ARD, to commemorate the Marine Offences Act in the UK, on 14th August 1967, as so many pirates do, even to this day. The newspaper where the article originated was still on the mixer when we arrived. The breakfast show DJ, Paul Philips, was a little less interesting. He was all over the vocals, and seemed to like the sound of his own voice. The station was not at its peak at this point.
ARD as we knew it, lasted until the summer of 1982. The studio moved out of the Crofton Airport Hotel in January 1982, to new premises at 5 North Fredrick Street, Dublin 1, but by July was off air. There was a brief reincarnation during August by a former early Dublin pioneer, Dr Don himself. Don had not done too much radio work since his early involvement, except a brief spell on North East Radio in Dundalk, and his short lived Channel D television station. Dates for ARD logs include a relay of Sunshine Radio on August 12th on 1134kHz, followed by full programming by Wed August 18th. The tel number at this time was 747869. The station lasted until at least the September, and we are currently researching for closure dates.
Sadly the Crofton is not even the Crofton any more, but renamed the Regency Airport Hotel. I wonder if anyone other than former ARD staff have fond memories of the days at the Crofton?
Gary wanted to visit Tony Donolon, a friend with whom he was trading tapes. He had been told that the house at 310 Collins Avenue West in Whitehall was about 15m walk from ARD. When we found Tony's house, he wasn't in!! Diamond Radio seemed very strong in the immediate area as well, but after running around a few streets, nothing was found.
Radio City was on 1164, off channel, chugging away, not really doing anything spectacular. City was born out of East Coast Radio and Downtown Radio Dublin from the late 70s. As mentioned earlier, they had sort of pinched the frequency from the former ARD, who eventually came back as ARD. They were on around 1145kHz in 1979 before ARD closed. City was heard well in Scotland until the advent of Radio Tay, and the signals were lost in QRM. Tay was somewhat closer and much higher power. This was the case regularly back then, where the antiquated radio authorities in the UK, allocated MW stations Willie Nilly all over the band. Even in 1997, they still use old-fashioned MW for local stations, where FM should really be used, but that is an argument for another day.
We arrived outside their Capel Street studio, which seemed to be in a more run down area of the city. Gary parked on some waste ground close by, but was still given a parking ticket which was never paid!!
They used a long wire antenna, but it was not all that high. Indeed Capel Street was so narrow, even if you stepped back, the tip of the mast was only just visible. Anyway, as usual Simon spoke for us, this time into the intercom on the front door. Eventually the on air DJ, Ray Nervin asked us to step back from the door, so he could see us out of the window which overlooked the front street. He must have liked what he saw, as he let us in. The station was up a flight of stairs, in a very small studio. After a few minutes, a young groupie type girl seemed to take an instant shine to Simon. He couldn't keep her back from teasing him!! She was taking phone messages and requests, between poking and prodding at poor old Simon. Anyway Ray was taking his job (which probably was voluntary anyway) in his hands, because the sign on the wall said that any visitors found in the station was a dismissable offence. Ray told us the time limit used to be 10 minutes, but now there were strictly NO visitors. Maybe through bad experiences with the H block protesters?? We could hear the noise of a good sounding mod transformer in the next room, through a space at the top of a false wall, but sadly we were not allowed to see the transmitter. It did sound perhaps like a pair of 813s, judging by the singing of the transformer. I had Ray sign a rare City QSL card, although his knowledge of such a card was perhaps poor at best.
The station I don't think in all it's lifetime had stickers, or if they did, they were few and far between, unlike stations such as ABC Waterford, whose promotional material I am still tripping over to this day.
On the way from City, we decided to try the Herbert Street address of Bay City Studios, which it was said, was where Radio Nova came from. The girl there told us nothing, saying only that the station did not come from there. She did invite us in briefly, to a room full of empty boxes and rubbish. Certainly the powerful FM signal, although strong throughout the city, was certainly not from that building.
A visit to Big D proved fruitless, as they were in the process of moving premises. The transmitter was in or beside a cinema, where the mast was. I took a photo of the mast on the roof of the cinema, just as a bus drove past, and must have been too mean to take another one!! Where the studio was at this stage was unknown. They had non stop music going out on air around this time, while presumably moving equipment.
DCR was a small time station, which began life off channel on 968. They were now heard around town and even in Scotland on 963kHz. The frequency of course had delivered hours of listening pleasure to so many people, when Radio Caroline used the channel from the Mi Amigo. It always made me wonder who suggested frequencies to the stations in Eire. Few people had any real idea about the band at that time. I know in latter years, Anoraks UK and associates including ourselves, were asked to suggest good spots on the dial for various stations.
DCR seemed to have splashed out and bought a substantial number of Tony Allen's famous long long type jingles. They announced as "Dublin's first independent local community broadcasting service", whatever that meant. They presumably did not see any of the other hobby pirates in the same light.
We finally found the address, of 20 Lower Grand Canal Street, Dublin 2, by the Canal, strangely enough. It was almost dark, as we knocked on the door. Outside sat a car, with DCR written all over it. No secrets here, of the whereabouts of the station. We were invited into the house, or rather through the house into the back yard, where a small shed sat with a DCR sign-written board beside it. The station was sort of part time, run by students. They were on holiday at that time, hence the regular hours during the Summer. I seem to remember the guy who answered the door had wondered when we would show up, as though this was one of the few people we had been in contact with. He was a young fellow with glasses, whose name escapes me.
Their studio was very much on the small side, taking up half of the small shed. The transmitter itself was also surprisingly small, and sat behind the door, up on a shelf thing. We were allowed to take some photos of the studio, but the transmitter was not to be photographed. Why this was, is anybody's guess. Maybe the Irish pirates all printed far higher power on their advertising rate cards, than their transmitters were remotely capable.
I had actually sent them a reception report, but as was often the case, never received a reply. The young student type chappie told me they had never received my letter from Scotland, but seemed amazed the signal reached that far. Write in again, he suggested, and you will certainly be sent a reply. I don't think I ever did. The transmitter was reported to be about 150 Watts, which would maybe have been lost in the meagre long wire antenna. Like Radio City, nothing sticks in my mind about tall masts to hang their wire antenna.
Ian saw the on air DJ helping out Kevin Lafferty at Southside in a visit some months later.
After the visit to DCR, we all went to MacDonalds for a burger, and then to the boarding house. Perhaps if it was nowadays, we would all have been hanging out for a pint by that time, but not this time. We just relaxed in the boarding house, being careful not to wake the old ladies, and talked of the day's events. There was even some more commentaries done into the little tape recorder.
Saturday 15th August 1981
A LITTLE HISTORY:
It was decided to make an early start, and head for Radio Dublin. at the old site at 58 Inchicore Road. Radio Dublin was run by a determined gentleman named Eamon Cooke, known as "The Captain". Eamon actually inherited the station in the 70s, from Prince Terry/ Mr Ozone and Dr Don. Cooke took the plunge at Christmas 1977 to operate the station on a daily basis. Before that it had been on air at weekends, and even on a Wednesday night!
In April 78, Big D Radio was formed, after a split within Radio Dublin. Following a holiday in Spain, Cooke returned to find the staff had mutinied and sabotaged his equipment, and house. In a sensational 3 hour news bulletin, on April 16th 1978, The Captain was heard to condemn their actions and counteract any allegations against him.
A lot of Dublin radio news could be gathered from "The Captains News", aired every Sunday at 1.30pm, although at this time he was rarely there by 1340. In years to come sometimes the news was after 2pm, but he usually made it.
Over the years Radio Dublin has shown Chris Carey, Robbie Dale, and most of the other Dublin pirates who calls the tunes. They stayed on the air, through thick and thin, raid after raid. The mere sniff of a raid had everyone else closing down all over the place.
The old cottage at Inchicore is now long since gone, the ground sold for development. I wonder if the new occupiers of the area realise what a piece of broadcasting history they are sitting on top of. Indeed the same could be said for the other old locations, for example the residents of Radio Dublin's old Sarsfield Road address, or perhaps the current occupiers of 19 Herbert Street, former home to Radio Nova??
When we arrived outside the premises, again there were no secrets of their location. On a wall outside the Radio Dublin house, a large wooden sign written board was nailed up under the shade of a few trees. (This caused my photo of it to be wasted). The street looked a little run down with boarded up buildings and all. The house itself was no exception and it's character fitted in with the rest of the street. This was, as far as I was concerned, Irelands top radio station, all be it for history's sake, and it was coming from an old cottage, with a hole in the roof. I don't just mean a leak either.
As we sat contemplating going into the station, another British registered car drew up, It was Kevin Turner and Dave Hunt, all the way from Suirside Radio in Waterford. (The two were formerly from Radio Zodiac in England, a SW station of much repute) Like us, they were in the area, and paid the station a visit. We all went in together. After all, the QSL cards said that visitors were welcome. (Radio Dublin was another one of the few stations with proper QSL cards)
There were two stations operating from the old house. The main Radio Dublin, Channel 1 as they called it, was on 1188 AM announced as 253metres, and 6910 SW. This SW had been on 6290, 6220, 6240, 6568, and the old Irish freq of 6317, before moving out of the 48m band altogether.
2 was on 1251, announced as 240metres, with a much weaker signal, and
an FM stereo outlet on 90.9 at the time, but announced as 90.2FM in
stereo. The only thing stereo about the signal was the pilot tone on
the carrier, and apart from this the audio was very pirate like, and
low in volume. The secondary service had started life on 1278 when RTE2
Dublin was on 1251. RTE moved to 1278 in October 1980, so Ch2 moved
to 1251, although they spent some time off channel on 1240, perhaps
because of WKRC? I noted them on 9th July 81 on 1240, but
by 9th August, they were back on 1251, whistling away with
off channel WKRC. Some time later, Channel 2 shifted to 1152, with a
characteristic 3rd harmonic, and no sign of a second. World
Music Radio also had frequent relays sometime later, via both SW and
"Come fucking outside and we'll sort this out", he snarled at the poor newcomer. Were we in the middle of a war zone??
Some of the guys in the living room were throwing burning bits of paper at each other, and set fire to a Radio Dublin banner above the fire place, by the time we'd left. We were probably witnesses to the behaviour of some now well known Irish broadcasters during their early radio careers. Radio Dublin housed the start of so many young talented broadcasters, who all unfortunately moved on, because of pay, to bigger and better things. Radio Dublin was run on enthusiasm, rather than for the rich financial rewards some other stations offered.
We were escorted to the Channel two studio, which was at the front of the house, where DJ John Jensen was on the air. There was some form of sanity in this place, although it was still a tad coarse. I think everyone on the station had high hopes, and a slightly upmarket outlook for Channel 2, despite their much weaker signals around the city. The equipment although newer, could not make up for the weaker signal around town. A rewrite of the old phrase that "no receiver is better than its antenna" to "no studio is better than the transmitter connected to it", had the situation summed up nicely.
The house was a traditional old cottage, with the old 3 foot thick walls, and two bay windows at the front, overlooking the road. Channel 2 had their studio on the right, looking from outside the front of the house. The young guide, who was very anorak friendly, and of obvious broadcast experience, showed us the future channel 1 studio, at the front of the house, in the room to the left as you walk in the front door. It was almost finished.
He also showed us the antennas, and said the station was using the long wire antenna we saw for 1188, but the lattice mast was half finished, which should improve things. All the antennas were sort of crossing, entwining, and how there was so little cross modulation I don't know. In actual fact there often was. Everyone will probably remember the SW on 6317 in the early 80s, when there was sometimes severe cross modulation. Of course, when it came to seeing the transmitters, no one was allowed to go near them except The Captain, who was not around at this stage. It was said he worked during the night at any equipment which needed attention, and slept late into the day. I can certainly understand the transmitters being locked up, out of harms way from some of the characters who drifted in and out the station in a day.
We had an interesting chat with the young lad, relating stories of The Captain being determined to dig a 50 foot hole, to house the station, if things got tough. He told the tale about the Captain having them digging up the road (This reminds me of someone!!) at 3am to lay a telephone cable, because there had been such a long waiting list for phone connections. They had been caught out once, when someone discovered them laying a cable below the railway sleepers!! We were all given Radio Dublin history sheets. Ian fell heir to the only copy of the Radio Dublin single, I like It, which I managed to obtain via Gerard Roe a few weeks later.
It was time to leave, some questions were asked about Double R Radio also in Inchicore, but I suspect the Radio Dublin staff member did not like the idea of us visiting them... As we left the street, a horse ran down Inchicore Road, unattended. I thought this odd for a city, but recently some journalists have reported on SKY NEWS, about the horses kept in garden sheds and garages around parts of Dublin. This seems to be an age-old tradition, as old almost as the city itself.
I had logged Double R Radio here in Scotland in the summer of 81, just weeks before ILR AYR came on air on 1035kHz. They were my first new station after sticking up a 150m long wire..
Despite the advice given at Radio Dublin, we had a look around for the station mailing address, of Railway Road. We never really found out if the official title was Radio Ripple, like they called it at Radio Dublin, Railway Road Radio, which Gerard Roe suggested to be the title, or just simply Double R Radio as they identified on air!.
The station had been on air on Friday night with a test transmission, but was off air on the Saturday when we arrived at the door. They were located in a housing scheme owned by Dublin Corporation. The only visible evidence of any radio station, was the Double R Radio sticker in the corner of the window. The English lads seemed to think it wasn't worth going in, with the worry of H Block views coming to the forefront of their minds, although I personally seem to remember preferring to knock at the door. At that time, there had been talk of the station moving which seemed to be true of so many of them at that time. Had we however listened to the recordings of Doube R Radio testing, which were made while inside DCR on the Friday night, we would have known that the station was already at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Eden Key, Dublin 1. Programmes proper from the hotel were due to begin apparantley on "Monday week", making the date August 24th 1981. I wonder if they actually kept to their plan.....
They ended up changing their name to "Westside Radio". The move however was short lived as there was a fire in the hotel. They then moved to The Brown Derby, James St, before disappearing forever.
Time was marching on, and it was decided to make for the Greenacres Country Club, Woodtown, Rathfarnam, where Treble TR Radio were operating from. This was in the South of Dublin, so a trip across the city was required. We were about to discover the most exciting story of the trip.
Triple TR/ Treble TR, TTTR, the name had a few variations, depending on whom you spoke to. The normal reference was Treble TR, pronounced Treble "T" "R". The name actually stood for 4 areas of the city, Tallagh. Terranure, Tempelogue, and Rathfarnam. TTTR as we will call the station, was a country and Irish folk type music. Some may question this, if in fact the format was all country, or all Irish folk, but to a rocker like myself, it sounded like a country station. In their own circles, they would have had one hell of an audience around the city I should think, because they had an absolute monopoly, right up until the station closure in 1988. I had heard the station on 945kHz back in Scotland some weeks before, and it sounded pretty small fish. So why had we driven up to the country club and found a very professional FM mast with circular polarised antennas, like the BBC would use. Indeed, we had never heard a TTTR FM transmission, and it would have been surprising by the sound of the station, if they would have had the cash for such a mast...
I can't remember if we asked someone, or if we drove to the end of the building and found the station in a small extension around the side of the hotel. It was made of breezeblocks, and looked relatively new, but sort of unfinished. The DJ on air, Mick O'Docherty told us they were moving shortly. One thing I noticed about the station was that they played adverts on a crummy old radio cassette machine.
you been to the big station in the hotel?" he asked.
Here we were at one of Dublin's smallest stations, and being dwarfed by the new powerhouse FM station, Radio Nova.
"They won't answer the door to you", he went on, in his thick Irish accent, "But if you wait till the TTTR station manager comes back in, he'll get you in no worries. Either that you can hang around outside the window, and try and attract their attention!!
Simon had seen a bald headed chappie up at the window, but had failed to attract his attention. We decided to have a pint in the bar, and wait for a little while to see if the manager fellow would return. He never did. Someone had asked the barman if there was any chance of getting up to see the station, only to be told there were absolutely no visitors allowed. As we sat listening to Nova on the hotel PA, WOODSTOCK came on by Mathews Southern Comfort. This song had a meaning to us all, as the theme tune of the well-known Scottish SW pirate, Radio Woodstock. A man came through a door at the back of the lounge, and went up to the bar for drinks. Simon recognised him as the same bald gentleman who was at the upstairs window. He waved him over, and began to grill him.
you Brian McKenzie?" I asked, rather anorakishly.
We later found out that he was a guy called Terry Riley, an American newsreader on Nova. We were eventually allowed to have a look upstairs, after some negotiation, but under no circumstances were any photographs to be taken. The place was a basic empty room, with thick cable running along the uncarpeted wooden floorboards, probably the audio lead to the transmitter, which we never saw. DJ John Clark, who I had heard on the air so many times on ARD, KELO etc, was sitting in the drab surroundings, with the carts playing 3 or 4 in a row. John was about 35, bearded with glasses, and was fast and sharp. The studio consisted of a stack of cartridge machines, with back to back music on them. They were basically still on test at this stage, and we were told to expect something better in 4-6 weeks. There never was any sudden change in gear. These "transitional broadcasts" were simply cranked up gradually. Little did any of us realise then what we were standing in.
The station then went from strength to strength. Not until Nova turned into the giant they became, did FM rule the roost around the city. As Nova owner Chris Carey once said, "No one listens to FM, because there is nothing on FM. If you put something on FM, they'll listen to FM."
(As a footnote to this, in my home area, there is still nothing on FM!!)
The first records of the station are recordings made in Dublin on July 8th 1981, by Gerard Roe, and tests taped in an unidentified date in June taped by Peter Madison.
A VERY BRIEF PIECE OF HISTORY
It was September12th, the day before Ian left to go to work in Eire, that I heard the first transmissions from Radio Nova on 846kHz. They seemed to have fallen heir to some Mighty 8-90 jingles from the states, (as well as their Italian/ French package). Nova was heard on 846 with The Mighty 8-90 jingles, which I suppose was fair enough back then. They briefly tried 891 before moving back to 846. On 18th October 1981, a very strong second harmonic was heard on 1692kHz. Later their MW changed to 819. In 1983 however, after the raid, the top of the hour jingle announced 819, they still played the mighty 8-90 jingles, and were actually on 828!! They went on to become a 50KW giant on 738kHz, and for a couple of years were the biggest Irish station ever. During the Radio Nova lifetime, broadcasts ranged from LW, MW, SW, FM, TV, and even Satellite. There were many jamming attempts by both RTE and rivals.
Radio Nova was perhaps the beginning of the end, or so it was suggested in some circles. The station represented the commercial interests of the owners, and the real so called free radio aspect had gone completely out the window. I believe however this was certainly the way to go, (though at the time I had my doubts) bringing proper professional radio to an audience that had never heard anything like it, and probably since. The station also gave way to "clutter free" radio as they called it, which spread throughout the country. (Stuart Henry in his book "Pirate Radio Then and Now" described it as "Flutter Three"!! I wonder if it was dictated to the printers over the phone?) Gone were the boring, stuttering DJs after every single record, even on many of the country stations. The signal was second only to RTE, and even the FM carried half way across the country. It was because of this professionalism, that the Irish radio scene was permanently upgraded, nearer to broadcast standards.
The full story of Radio Nova is a long one, and must be written by someone more qualified than myself. I can only add items from listening experience, as I was never back in the station.
As we headed from Rathfarnam, still tuned to Radio Nova, more "Fuckin' clappin' songs" from Starsound's "Stars on 45", came on. Gary hated these tracks with a passion, and moaned all the time about this particular piece of music, as well others such as Lobo's Caribbean Disco Show, Back To The 60s, etc. On reflection, they do lack the special feeling that rock bands such as The Eagles, Steely Dan, or Led Zeppelin generate.
The name Radio Leinster originates from the district of Ireland they claimed to cover. There are 4 regions in the whole of Ireland: Leinster, Munster, Connaught, and The North. Radio Leinster, despite their strong signals, had a short life. Their freqency of 738, although excellent by day, suffered severe night time interference, even with their relatively high power of 1 KW. They began broadcasting a few months before our visit, on May 1st 1981. DJs included Ugene Elliot, Danny Hughs, Gordon Sommerville and Steve Gordon, an ILR presenter from Northern England. (Not the Steve from Caroline. The latter luckily called himself Stevie Dunn when he moved to Sunshine). Other DJs to join included former Community Radio Drogheda man, Gavin Duffy. The target audience seemed to be older than most of the other stations around town. In 1983, during the raids of Nova and Sunshine most of the stations countrywide closed down temporary, to protect their equipment. All Dublin stations except ABC 981, and Radio Dublin closed down. Radio Leinster also gave up the fight, and never returned. It would have not been until 1987, that their transmitter returned to the air, as Independent Radio Mayo, on the same frequency, 738. Where the transmitter is now, is anybody's guess. (Or indeed where it lay from 1983 to 1987)
After the excitement of Radio Nova, we tried to head for nearby Radio Leinster in Sandyford. It was said to come from a huge mast on the top of a hill, which we could not seem to come close to finding. While passing through a small settlement with the curious name of STEP-A-SIDE, an H block rally was in progress. This was all we needed, none of us fancied being victims of mass hysteria, because we had a BRIT registered car!!! Gary was trying to find a fast route away from the rally, and took a side road, up a hill. The signal meter of the radio suddenly began to go crazy. We were in the Radio Leinster area all right. A house stood on the top of a hill with a very professional looking lattice tower, something which maybe would have made us think there was a communications tower in front of us. There must have been some money around this station too.
The Grundig Satellit 3400 was ideal to take on holiday to DF stations. It did not have a meter which read full scale at every fart, but rather a difficult to shift meter, whilst maintaining a good reading. As a bonus, the antenna on this receiver can also be switched out when you are even closer to a signal, which is exactly what happened at Radio Leinster. As the meter rose, we were almost in their yard!! I fell heir to another satellit some years later, although it did drop on the floor of a bus in Dublin, after some confusion over seating with a woman passenger. Obviously I was not a happy chappie!!
After going around the hill, and into the drive at the house, everyone walked up to the door. The guys at Radio Dublin had told us of the "big wild Alsatians up at Radio Leinster". Someone knocked the door, and the sound of deep voiced dogs rang through the air.
"Fuck this", I thought, "I'm off".
I ran behind a car, but a dog seemed to be following me, so I took to my heels, still carrying the big Grundig Satellit 3400 radio with me. In the panic I slipped on the red chips, and hit the side of a car with the radio, before trailing it along the ground, almost killing myself. When the lads came to find me, and put me out of my misery, I was faced with nothing more than a couple of friendly Labradors, which would have licked us to death. Another potential nightmare nicely avoided.
After the initial disturbance, there were no problems in going into the station, despite stories to the contrary from other sources. In the station, we met Danny Hughs, who was a DJ from a Dublin night-club called Stardust, which burned down, injuring and killing so many people. We had heard on Captain Cooke's regular news bulletin that Danny Hughs was caught up in the Stardust disaster. I get the feeling the station was actually in Danny's house. He was a nice down to earth type of bloke, and took some interest in my Grundig, as well as my general interest in radio.
When we walked in the house, a beautiful 1KW transmitter was neatly built into the wall, complete with modulation meter down the side, and doors to close it up, if necessary. This was easily the best looking transmitter I had ever seen, bearing in mind, we never saw the one at Sunshine, which I presume was equally as impressive. It would have been the first professional made rig I had seen.
I was amazed at the studio, which was only feet away from the big transmitter, yet there were no RF problems in the audio! There was a DJ on air at the time, as well as their red haired engineer type fellow, and a gorgeous blonde chic floating around. We never found out who she was. The engineer and myself had some fun, when I tried to have him sign a QSL for me. I had a big enough problem asking him to fill it in, never mind trying to explain the significance of a QSL. It was as though he was signing his life away. The gentleman seemed to have no knowledge of QSLs despite a powerful 1kW transmitter running, which no doubt had brought in reception reports from far and wide..
After a short time chatting, it was time to push on, as always. On the way across the yard, Danny shouted us back and gave us some nice Radio Leinster posters, the same design as the stickers on the photo page. We left Leinster, and headed out of the city area, and cross-country.
PART 2 - AROUND THE COUNTRY