IRELAND - 1981 TOUR (PART TWO)
|Irish Era - Offshore - Landbased - Official Stations - Downloads - Press - Other|
|Kildare Community Radio||KCR home page|
|WKRC Newbridge||WKRC home page|
|WABC Ballaghaderreen||WABC home page / images|
|Radio Sligo||Radio Sligo home page / images|
|Radio Northwest Drumshanbo||Radio North West home page|
|Midlands Radio Carol-Ann||Radio Carol Ann Home Page|
|Raidio Luimni||No images so far|
|Big L||BIG L home page|
|Kerry Local Radio||No images so far|
|Cork City Local Radio||CCLR home page|
|Radio City Cork||Radio City Cork home page|
|Radio Caroline Cork||No images so far|
|Capital Radio Cork||Click here for images|
|Tipperary Community Radio||TCR home page|
|Community Radio Youghal||CRY home page|
|Suirside Radio Waterford||Suirside home page|
|Waterford Local Radio||WLR home page|
|Radio Carrick||Radio Carrick home page|
|Wexford County Local Radio||WCLR home page|
|Kilkenny Community Radio||KCR home page|
|Radio Carlow||Radio Carlow home page|
|Big D Radio||BIG D home page - 1981 images|
|SUMMING UP||Summing up|
Something I always notice in Eire is the difference in little every day things, as with any other culture I suppose. As we left the city area and headed west, the first impressions of the country towns, or as a radio friend would say, the market towns is something I can not quite put my finger on. They look Irish. Maybe the reason is their town centres seem to have car parks in the middle of the road, in wide-open squares, and the buildings also have a look, what of I don't quite know. If someone actually told me I could say yes, that's what makes it, but I can not place it at the time of writing, and in fact for the past 17 years it has mystified me. There are the green telephone boxes, petrol pumps on the edge of the road, on the pavement, and the amusing signs on the road which say "slow", and a little farther on "slower". You just know you are in Ireland.
I had been in contact with one Joe Buggy from KCR, after I heard their 1400kHz signal in Scotland. Joe eventually sent a very apologetic letter, saying the delay in replying was that he was ill, and came back and only just found the letter in a 'press' (cupboard). Joe was only too happy to have us come around to the station when we were in the area. He had a curious address of The Harbour, Naas. Kildare is well landlocked!!!
When we arrived in Naas, because I sort of knew him, I was sent to the door. A young looking girl answered, and went to find Joe. She turned out to be Trasa Backen, the owner's daughter. The studio was inside an old house called St Martins, rather a large building, with a tall single pole, well guyed mast in the yard. The building, like so many of the stations, seemed to be dilapidated. We were shown up the stairs to the studio, where there were a few people around. A rather good looking Sue Stewart, was on the air, being watched by Joe, an older gent, and the slightly Irish looking cheeky faced little girl. When I say Irish looking, this is not meant to be derogatory, in fact quite the opposite. If I had said she looked oriental everyone would have understood, but many people, even those who are familiar with many Irish people refuse to credit me with that one. I and a few others however think it may be the kind of gypsy eyes, or maybe something else, it is difficult to put your finger on just what this look is. But I know it when I see it.
Being in the SW hobby as well, the obvious interest in transmitters lead us to the inevitable question, "Can we have a look at the rig". (Short wave terminology for, "May we admire your transmitter for a few moments sir?). Despite my correspondence with Joe, this request was unfortunately denied. Simon had to dash to the toilet, which must have been close to the tx, as he heard the modulation transformer singing. In the case of KCR, I suspect it would be singing in a quiet sort of sense, as the 1400kHz signal was always rather short of peaks (Low audio and flat).
I asked Joe and his cheeky faced friend directions to WKRC, a new operation in nearby Newbridge. The girl was telling me that you went over a certain bridge, turned left, and left again. Joe turned around, and as quick as a flash quipped,
"Sure, if you turn left, and left again, you're into the Liffey". (The Liffey is the river that flows into the sea at Dublin)
After the quick photograph session, and the goodbyes, it was time to push on. Gary was keen to try and reach Ballaghaderreen by nightfall. When we went back downstairs, there were a few people milling around outside. Simon seemed ill at ease, and was seemingly desperate to get away. Unknown to us at the time, he'd spotted a mini coffin in the back of one of the vehicles parked around St Martins House, with the names of the H Block hunger strikers who had died in the Maze prison. Of course now, some 16 or so years on we know there were no real reasons to worry. The people had their beliefs, which had to be respected, and they had the manners not to ram it down our throats. We were guests in their country, and in fact the whole situation was nothing to do with us. The truth was, we really only believed in FREE RADIO!!
After something to eat from a chip shop in Naas, where I made "another meal" of being served, it was time to head off again. As Ian says, I was an arse even back then!
WKRC was a unique station. The initials apparently stood for Wonderful Kildare Radio Club, according to Gerard Roe of Radio Dublin. Although the mailing address was in the town, at 3 Drewsborough Buildings, Newbridge, Co Kildare, the station was a few miles into the country.
As we drove towards Newbridge, the signal was whistling away on the off channel frequency of 1250kHz. On air, DJ Vinnie Keough, played everything from folk music, to Rory Gallagher, while announcing his name and 32161 phone number after almost every record. Even though Ireland is only a few miles from the Scottish coast and is basically an English speaking country, I was always bemused by many of the very Irish names. I assume the Irish people would be equally bemused by Scottish names like Hamish McTavish, or Angus McGillycuddy etc.
The assumed hijacked jingle from the states had frequent airplay, "WKRC, Radio 14!!" Probably the staff knew nothing about the old American AM radio days, of announcing Radio 11, Radio 16 etc, which ironically in the case of Radio 14, meant 1400kHz, the frequency of their rival a few miles up the road!
Pat Martin had taken over at 7pm, and was on air as we drew up to WKRC around 1940, after driving around trying to find the station. It turned out to be situated at the back of a house, close to a T-junction on the road. The first thing to strike you, was the tall single pole mast, which towered high above the house. The antenna wire climbed vertical to the top of the structure, and down to a small pole about 15 feet high on the gate post at the driveway into the house.
As usual Simon, the polite one was sent in to the see the owner. One Robert W Morgan came out. He was a fairly scruffy, cigarette smoking chap, sporting a loosely fitting tracksuit. Robert from his accent was obviously English, and had been operating WKRC on about 1250kHz (off channel) for some weeks, creating a nice heterodyne on the frequency back in Scotland.
The studio was in a caravan in the garden of the good-looking modern bungalow, though the garden was a little unkept, in fact fucking overgrown. We were invited in for a chat. Inside the caravan was a strange scent of perfume, whose source was never found. Pat Martin played the records as we sat having a chat about the station etc. He played us a request just after 8pm.
As we sat in the caravan, I took out my little notebook full of reports, and prepared cards, and asked Robert to sign a QSL. In the end he filled up a WKRC certificate, complete with full data. I was told that when I had heard the station, the antenna had been much lower.
Robert was interested in QSL work for DXers, and even planned to run a programme for DXers on a Saturday night between midnight and 0200, during that summer. This happened a few weeks after, although it was a little rough, and he obviously was not aware of things like SINPO reports. I have a tape of him reading out Allen Dean of Lancashire's report giving the SINPO as 184.108.40.206.3 announcing each as three point four point three etc. The time checks were given in GMT during the DX prog, but unfortunately the likes of "It's 42 minutes part 002400 hours", ie oh oh twenty four hundred!!
The good gentleman, like the best of them, tried to tell us that he was on Caroline in the 60s, but then who had ever heard of Robert W Morgan? Ian remembers being told he was on the tenders with amongs others, Stuart Henry, who was actually on Radio Scotland.
Robert also spoke of an attempt at the world's longest continuous single handed broadcast, which he eventually did. WKRC therefore was unique in being the only Irish pirate to my knowledge making it to the Guinness book of records. The 1983 issue lists the longest continuous broadcast by none other than Robert W Morgan himself, see image gallery.
Outside the caravan, as daylight began to fade on this fine August evening, we could see the aerial feeder disappearing into an old van sitting abandoned, in the long grass, displaying the solitary word "Tools" on the front.
"Can we have a look at the transmitter?" was the obvious question.
"No-one is allowed to see the transmitter," was the by now obvious reply.
This was becoming increasingly annoying to us, after all did we look like undercover Posts and Telegraph officials? Did we sound like a team of spies from another station up the road. I think not. So what was the problem. We probably knew more about transmitters than everyone else at the station, and could not have a look.
"What is the power anyway?"
"Its 10 kW". (Repeat 10 kW)
On reflection, I may say I don't believe him. Who would after all leave a 10KW transmitter in an old van and keep the bonnet up!!!
After this no one could take him as being serious. Judging by the way the signal travelled into the UK at night and even by day, the approximate output may have been around 300 watts, the kind of average home built Irish transmitter of the day. Nowadays I am not so naive as to listen to this kind of rubbish, I would have had to say something. I still know so many people who boast about technical things they know nothing of.
WKRC closed not too long after the record breaking programme in January 82, and were rumoured to have moved to Galway. West Coast Community Radio, which even made it to Scotland on 1125kHz started soon after, initially listed as 240m, although it was never verified if anything was ex WKRC. Maybe they only bought the big 10KW transmitter?
Time was marching on, and as darkness fell, we set off on the long journey to Ballaghaderreen, and hopefully some friendly faces. As everyone checked the bands on the way, there was nothing on in Mullingar, nothing on in Longford, and even by the time we reached Ballaghaderreen, the station was off for the night.
This was basically one of the early so called superpirates. This was a term conjured up by Barrie Johnstone at AUK which meant stations run by people from the UK, as opposed to home grown Irish stations. At one stage I believed it to be because of the transmitter powers used. AUK used to refer to Nova, Sunshine, South Coast etc as such, but when 1kW ABC in Tramore/ Waterford was so christened, I had to think of another reason. Radio Leinster also ran a similar power, but was never referred to as a superpirate!
WABC was owned by local man, Ian Warmsley. The two fellows who ran the station, were friends of ours, at least Graham was. His curious surname Paul, seemed to me to be more like another Christian name. Simon had operated pirates in the Leicester area, with Graham Paul/ Leon Mitchell for many years. He had decided to make the break for Ireland, and try to better himself. His mate, Roger Mathews was a fellow I had heard so often on Radio Caroline, when they used to broadcast from the Mi-Amigo in the 70s. Again I was so keen to meet this "Caroline DJ", who had been rescued from the ship during the near sinking in January 1979. None of us had met Roger at the time, although that was about to change. We referred to the two affectionately as "Graham and Mathews", a phrase conjured up by Chris Cortez in Cambridge, who always assumed someone who went to Ireland to further their radio career, had thrown in the towel as far as flying the free radio flag was concerned. The twosome had been over in the Emerald Island for some time.
It all began at Charleston, Co Mayo, under the name of Northwest Radio, on 1368, and 7350. Like North West Radio, WABC, also broadcast on 7350 SW in parallel. This was easily heard in Scotland, and I used to enjoy hearing the well worn familiar WABC New York jingle package. I still have recordings of this 41m service, carrying commercials which included 2 digit telephone numbers!!! There was even one for a company in French Park, whose commercial included "Call French Park 7", ie a single digit number. Graham told us some years on, that the local phone was a wind up handle to call the operator, to even ring through to Dublin was a nightmare!! Radio Donegal was another station to air 2 digit telephone numbers in the commercials.
The transmitter used for the SW service on 7350 according to Paul, was used in Leicester for WLS, followed by North West Radio, and then WABC. When Graham Paul returned to England, the rig went with him. It was sold on to Radio King, a Leicester pirate who made such a poor job of converting to MW 1305, that the strong harmonic was heard on 6525 in 1982!!
Ian had spoken to Graham a fortnight beforehand about starting work with WABC.
"I may do", he told Graham.
"See you in two weeks", said Graham
Some 10 months later, the two indeed met up!!
It was late by the time we arrived in the Ballaghaderreen area, after the long drive. We had no idea where the station actually was, but knew it was in the country, outside the village. Simon went into a pub, and asked for directions. Again if this had been nowadays, we would all have went into the pub. He came back with the directions, which were accurate, and soon we arrived at the cottage, which was along a narrow lane, with grass growing up the middle. I went to try and raise someone. Some confusion about exactly what happened on our arrival. Gary reckons Roger was out when we arrived. Eventually he showed up, and I approached him, recognising his sturdy structure from photographs of Caroline.
"Roger Mathews I presume?" I said, probably thinking I was being quite witty. Roger looked concerned
"Used to be a long time ago", he eventually said, after looking up and down me for a few seconds. It was only after we mentioned Graham, did he seem to be more relaxed willing to talk to us. In the kitchen, there was a CB, although there was virtually no one around the frequencies.
WABC signed off early in the evenings, so there were no signals audible on the radio. Roger gave us the traditional guided tour. The station was out the back door in an old converted hen hut, at the foot of the well lit little garden, and was actually was quite a nice set up. The window of the studio, looked out into the garden, although in the morning we could see it had a really beautiful outlook over County Roscommon.
"Yes", Roger told us, "The compressor came off the Mi Amigo!!".
It seemed that wherever we went, somebody somewhere had studio gear, DJs or whatever from Caroline. There must have been fuck all left of the Mi Amigo by the time all the stuff was hi jacked off.
Anyway, Roger, or Eamon to give him his Irish title, had to record some adverts. His DJ name on WABC was now Eamon Brooks, although we knew him to also be called Frank. We asked if it was OK to set up a tent in the back garden, which was no problem.
"I'll leave the monitor on outside, and you can listen to me making ads. I'll be out early in the morning to start the station, so you'll hear that too", said big Roger
He seemed to make adverts, and mess around for quite a time, before we fell asleep.
Gary slept in his car, by the radios, while Simon, Ian and myself all huddled up in the tent on this fucking cold Irish night.
Sunday 16th August 1981
In the morning, Simon announced he had lost a contact lens. Some time was spent searching for the lens, but unfortunately it was a lost cause.
"Maybe the dog has run off with it", Mathews suggested, "A few things have been disappearing lately!!"
We never did find the bone shaped contact lens, which is probably in the grass somewhere to this day!
Before he began that days programme at the late hour of 9am, we were treated to a visit up the hill behind the hen hut, to see the almighty mast they had up.
"Graham is away with the keys to the transmitter house/ old lorry container", we were told, which seemed a likely story. Graham was in England, and was held up in Dublin on his way back. We had missed him by about a day. It was not until 1985 that I met Graham at a Caroline Movement convention in London. Ian eventually went on to work with him in 1982 at Ballycotton, and Cork City itself, at Eastside Radio Ireland/ ERI.
Gary has nice memories of looking towards Sligo first thing in the morning, through the ground mist, while WABC began programming for the day.
I was surprised to find the station on the freq of 1368, which had a surprisingly good coverage, although because of powerhouse Manx Radio, I had never heard them in Scotland. Some weeks after returning to Scotland, I logged WABC on 1040, just before ILR Ayr came on, which again is strong all over Central Scotland.
I heard Nova on 88FM way out there in the West, just in the yard on a telescopic aerial. OK the elements were with me, I was using the satellit 3400, and we were high over the county. After Roger's advice, we checked the band for Radio Sligo on 1260, another station we were unaware of.
Radio City/ SCR had been logged in Scotland regularly on 1300kHz during the winter nights of 1979/ 80, but nothing else from Sligo had been heard since. Mike James back in Glasgow had even heard this one, which was amazing!! I remember confusing Mark Bolland at Southside Radio's FRC Ireland show, by asking why Radio City were heard by day on 257m, but at night moved to 230m. Of course I had wrongly assumed it was Radio City Dublin I was hearing on 1300kHz. SCR used the address of an electrical shop in town, called Allen Audio. Ian spotted this shop on the way back to the car, although for some reason no one enquired about the old station. I never really found out what the official station ID was. Sligo City Radio, Sligo Community Radio, or simply Radio City.
We said our goodbyes to big Roger, and headed north briefly, to look for Radio Sligo. WABC was all but gone after about 10 to 15 miles, and was nowhere close to usable in Sligo, despite the jingles. Neither was Sligo's signal usable in the WABC area.
Radio Sligo were found up above a flower shop. The personnel were a little wary of us at first, until they realised we really were only radio enthusiasts.
The guy on the air at the time looked very Mexican (or something). We later discovered the gentleman was of Italian origin, and named Michael Marchini. The studio was in a small custom built kiosk thing, with a nice glass window looking out to the main room where all the T-shirts were lying. The mixer was of the H&H sort, and the management had cleverly covered the equaliser knobs with a board or something, to prevent knob twiddling DJs.
Radio Sligo DJ Paul Martell was planning a marathon radio show between Friday 21st through 23rd August, to raise funds for the local branch of the Irish Wheelchair Association, who planned to build a holiday bungalow for the handicapped. The station was not on the air through the night, so this interested Simon and myself. Simon was particularly excited on this one, because a new ILR station from Leicester was due to sign on any day on the same frequency, and his chances of logging anything after that were described as slim! Power we were told, was around 100 Watts, into a long wire antenna, so there was a chance. Unfortunately by the time we returned to the UK, ILR Leicester was already on the air, on 1260, as the short-lived Centre Radio. Even I heard no sign of Radio Sligo up in Scotland, although the tests from Centre Radio were indeed heard.
Although semi discovered, I personally do not have much memory of Radio Sligo, perhaps because of the short time we were there. There seemed to be piles of station merchandise around the place, including T-shirts, stickers, etc. I am quite sure there was much more, although again in our shy youth, no one asked. We were given a handful of stickers, and Gary, Ian and myself bought a T-shirt each. In fact I was accosted by an older woman from Sligo at college a few weeks later about the shirt. Gary had problems of his own with wasps, who seemed to take a fancy to him, perhaps because of the bright yellow colour!!
Radio Sligo did not last too much longer as far as I am aware, and when they actually left the air is undocumented. We never spent too much time in Sligo, and hurried on to Drumshanbo, and Radio Northwest, which was in Co Leitrim.
Radio North West used to be heard on or around 1615kHz right up at the Luxembourg end of the MW dial. Many radios did not even tune this far up the band, but they seemed happy to use this high frequency. Maybe more likely the transmitter was unable to drift any lower!! I had heard the station regularly in Scotland on various harmonic frequencies, drifting around 6460 area. You could always work out the exact MW frequency that day, by the harmonic, which used to vary wildly!! Obviously, if the fundamental drifted 10kHz, the fourth harmonic would have drifted by 40kHz!! I reckon I had heard them as high as 1622!!
The station was up a country lane by a small village. Even in a place the size of Drumshanbo, the lamp posts were covered in black flags. We walked up a narrow track, to find the studio in an old lorry container, and the transmitter in a small caravan close by. It must have been a beauty, judging by the drifting, but surprise surprise, we weren't allowed to see it. Radio NorthWest had been run by a couple of brothers, Brian and Tony Tighe. Tony had been killed in a tragic accident some time before hand. Apparently while rigging an aerial for the station, a gust of wind had blown both Tony and the mast into a nearby power line. There were photographs up around the studio, which we presumed was Tony, although no one was rude enough to ask. We had a chat with the one guy on air, who seemed slightly bewildered as to why a station should be using that name in Charleston, Co Mayo, so near to Drumshanbo. One or two stations used the name North West Radio in the past. The Drumshanbo version of Radio North West seemed to disappear shortly after out visit, and were never heard of again.
I had received a reply from the station, which included a postcard of Drumshanbo from the air, which reminded me a little of a familiar Scottish village.
We planned to try and reach Limerick for the night, via Galway to see if there were any undiscovered stations there. On the way though, something was coming in on 1125. The signal carried well, which was lucky, because the station was still unidentified. They seemed to ID as Midland Radio, as well as Radio Caroline, which we thought was not very original, and made frequent reference to Athlone. We had just found a station we had never really heard of, yet then signal was carrying over such a long distance.
There were listings in old issues of the FRC Ireland of a station with the name Midland Radio in Athlone, curiously on 265m and owned by Hugh Hardy, the owner of Radio Carousel in Dundalk. The address was simply Athlone Shopping Centre. No one to our knowledge had ever heard them outside the country. One station on 1404 around 1987 also called themselves Midland Radio, although I presume they were unconnected.
After a detour and some detective work, we found the station at a house in a residential area. There was a fairly high mast towering above the roof, with a CB antenna right on the top. The first thing we saw was the station sign, leaning against the wall. It revealed the station name was actually Radio Carol-Ann, and not Caroline, although they played jingles from the previous Midland Radio, for some reason.
The fellow on air was local disco DJ, Mark Anthony, who was one of the largest men I have ever seen. He was a bit of a character, and would have been great company on a Saturday night in a pub. But this was a Sunday, and we had limited time to get right around the country. Mark loved his work, but had difficulty in squeezing into the small studio area. I asked him if he could pose for a photo beside the noticeboard outside.
"Jesus, you'd never see the sign if I stood there", he said.
Mark was also a radio amateur, which gave him qualifications to build and install transmitters. He had his Yaseu transceiver in his fancy sports car, parked outside the station. We were shown a gleaming new transmitter sitting waiting to be brought into service, although I can not really imagine running a few hundred watts from that built up area.
The other DJ who followed Mark at 6pm was also a bit of a joker. He used to call himself Jimmy Dean, the man on the scene, and was a kind of older Teddy Boy type. Like Mark, he gave us a mention on his show.
Despite all my time spent in front of the receivers back home, Radio Carol-Ann was never heard once in Scotland, although a few DXers heard it elsewhere in the UK.
We left Athlone, for Limerick, passing by the well known old time RTE MW site in Athlone. We by passed Galway by about 10 miles, and heard nothing and assumed there was nothing on the air in this well-known west coast city, a place where pirate radio never really flourished.
We arrived fairly late in Limerick, but managed to find a bed and breakfast. Gary did not trust the area, and unscrewed his numberplate, an obvious give away as being a British car. It was nice to be able to relax after a long drive, and have a shower. On the radio were Big L, on 1512, and Raidio Luimni on 1368.
RADIO LUIMINI HOME PAGE
I was surprised to find another station on 1368. There was no wonder I had never heard them, because of the powerful Manx Radio transmissions from the Isle of Mann. I heard the broadcasts some months later, when the MW drifted or shifted to 1393. Raidio Luimni was run by an elderly gentleman, the late John "The Man" Frawley, who had been involved in the early Limerick station, Radio Limerick Weekly Echo, obviously run by the newspaper. This station was raided in 1979 and following their court case, gave an undertaking that they would cease transmissions, which unusually for Irish pirates, they did!! John went on to start his own station Radio Limerick, which announced itself as "Your old fashioned family Catholic radio station". This later evolved into Raidio Luimni. John had a reputation of being a very strong nationalist, which worried us. This was perhaps reflected in the station name, Raidio Luimini, which was Irish for Radio Limerick.
They had refused entry to Simon Parry some months before, so it was generally felt it was not a good idea to annoy them!! I privately would have preferred to have a go at knocking on the door, just to try them out. No one else seemed willing at the time, although I suspect John The Man would have been OK, so long as he took us at face value. After all, he did carry commercials, which had been produced by an Englishman.
In later years, they used to be heard on 1125, but had a strong second harmonic on 2250. This was sometimes heard right up until sign off, when they closed with the old folk song "Limerick Your My Lady."
Relaxation, and lack of sleep in the old cold tent at WABC, had left everyone tired. I fell asleep with the radio on. The next thing I remember was Ian who I was sharing a room with, shouting me in the middle of the night to turn the fucking radio down, as the station had by now signed off for the evening, and all he woke up to was hisssss.....
In the morning, everyone looked forward to the start of a new day, refreshed from the nights sleep, and morning shower. The boarding house was comfortable for the £5.50, or £6.00. As we were pulling ourselves together, the radio was alive with the amazing John the Man breakfast show, on Raidio Luimni. He droned on, and on, and on even more. Everyone in Limerick must have woken up to severe depression, as he spoke of all the deaths of the day, and spent some time on a youngster who had sadly drowned, as well as singing along to some of the old tracks he played! Truly amazing radio!!
17th August 1981
We knew beforehand that the good gentleman was not from around those parts, and in fact came from England. He had received a lot of reception reports, but with all the time spent running the station and discos often found it difficult to reply quickly. We were actually given some nicely printed station headed notepaper. BIG L QSL cards were given to Ian and I from AUK sometime later. These portrayed BIG L as the last remaining link with the original Radio London from the 60s. The only true connection was that Mike was an ardent fan of the original 'BIG L' from the 1960's, and wanted to keep the name alive. Although the QSLs were really not proper QSLs, (like those of the BBC World Service without reception information etc.), it was nice to have some memorabilia, which was lacking from many stations back then.
After buying a few more cassettes, films, and posting some postcards, it was time to head to Cork, via Tralee and Killarney, to check out the bands, and even take a break from radio, to take in the beautiful Irish Scenery.
One thing we quickly found out was the amazing quiet daytime AM band in the SW. Even RTE on 567/ 612 was poor. We did listen to Larry Gogan on RTE 2 for a while until even that faded out, playing his same old name jingle after every few records. This was what we were up against!!
We carried on to Tralee, where there was another H block march in progress. Around the town, there were posters splattered around for forthcoming H block rallies, which surprised us a little, so far Southwest.
There had in the past been AM stations in the Tralee area. In late 1979, Radio Tralee Community was reported on 1566, as well as 4698. This was also reported as 4707 in other publications, making the fundamental 1569! Kerry Community Radio also from Tralee was reported on 1600kHz also in late 79. There was no sign of either by this stage however.
In the Tralee area, there was a station on 99.9, called Kerry Local Radio. Even detective work, (asking people in the street!!) produced nothing, and in fact no-one had even heard of KLR. I bought a few cheap Scotch C120 tapes in a local chemists. Even in the shop, no one had any knowledge of the station. We tried like blazes to DF this mystery, but it had us beaten. The signal seemed to carry well and was consistently quite strong over a long distance, never really becoming particularly strong or weak.
The on air DJ Mike Donovan (long before "V" was ever thought of), seemed to be having a good time, giving away his two fresh cream cakes as a quiz prize. Local artists Kelly Smith and Dave Harper also treated him to live music in the studio. He announced a sad reflection of the times, even for the remote SW. A child's bike had been stolen, and KLR were appealing for help. All the time this went on, the station became no stronger. In the end we gave up. Richard Staines had more luck in finding the station and informs me of the following....
"I found it in the back of a burger shop about the same time as you. The studio consisted of three turntables (I was very impressed, but only one record!!) The most amazing thing I think I ever witnessed in radio took place in this room. The FM Rig was a semi pro job with a small VU type dev. meter on the front. This was behind the DJ at shoulder height about six feet behind. As the Tandy type mixer had no VU's the jock had to do his programme staring into a mirror looking at the tiny mod meter move behind his shoulder!!!!!!!!!! Of course with no compression at all the voice would boom out of the radio whilst the record could hardly be heard..as I witnessed further up the town.I will never forget this incident ...ever!!!!! "
Incidentally Mike Donovan revived KLR in 1990, but suffered a raid at the hands of the DOC (Department of Communications). He then planned to run as a cable station but it is uncertain if this ever got off the ground.
As time was ticking on, we decided to head for Cork. We first passed through Killarney, but found nothing audible that resembled a station, although there had been some pirate activity in the past. On the way to the Cork City, no AM stations had been heard, and it seemed as though nothing was on! A mere four miles or so from the city, all three stations began to fade in, and suddenly after driving round a bend, they were all strong! It seemed all the Cork stations were indeed local.
By the time we reached the city, everyone was starving. I seem to remember not being able to find a chip shop, and going to a kind of a delicatessen type place close by the river, in a sort of old-fashioned cobbled square type place. I wonder if I could find the place again? I fed my face with some sweet corn, one of my favourite dishes. There were a few stations to try and find in this fine afternoon.
This station, which had been heard in Scotland only a few times, on the off channel frequency of 1119, or thereabouts, and was located at 2A French Church Street, in Cork. CCLR was one of the early pirates of Cork, and continued well after the emergence of the high power stations South Coast and ERI.
CCLR was monitored outside Cork at about 1540, on 1143ish, with a deejay called John Harris. The station was having problems, as they appeared to be only running on one record deck. This could have explained some of the over modulation on approximately every other record, as these were possibly coming from a tape machine. The microphone level was fine all the time. The deejay at 1600, Dave Gilmour, was also heard to mention about an intrusion, which was presumably when we arrived at his door!!
As it turned out 2A French Church Street was in a kind of side street, and the station door was at the top of an outside staircase up the front of the building. A long wire antenna could be seen stretching the short distance across the narrow street where we were walking! Just outside the door at the top of the staircase, Simon had to speak into an intercom, and was told to return at half past 5, when the station manager would be around. This we did, and a ginger haired character came to the door, poked his head around, and said we still were not allowed in, as the station manager wasn't there. We were a little disappointed, but as he was presumably on his own, it was understandable.
Radio City was the outcome of some of the forward thinking pirates of Cork, and were producing some really professional sounding programmes, compared to the other stations around. The area was untapped by the so-called Superpirates at the time. This was soon to change, with the appearance of South Coast Radio, which itself was a derivative of Radio City. Ian and I had both heard City in Scotland during the winter months on 1512kHz 199m, although the frequency was now 1242, parallel to 95.6FM. The address of 27 Parnell Place, Cork, again makes me think it was close to the river. I suppose in a relatively small City, with the river as the centre, everywhere is close to the water.
As often was the case, someone had to ask directions. A fellow, who we accosted in the street, seemed a little confused to begin with.
"A you mean da pirate stations", he said in his strong Cork accent.
We thought the whole concept of the stations being pirates had died, and they were now local stations. Anyway, the station was found quite quickly.
We were made welcome, and shown upstairs to the studio. A glass panel separated the studio itself from the main room. The old 199 jingles were still sitting around, although I believe they had stopped playing them. The DJ on air at the time was a local radio DJ called Alan Reid. Alan is better known as Henry Owens of Atlantic 252! Unfortunately my recording of the day, came out very poor, because of the cheap and nasty Scotch C120 used. Our host showed us upstairs to the MW transmitter which was said to be 200Watts, although it was only an old converted ham transmitter, probably scraping to put out about 100watts on AM! At least there were no 10kw claims here!! The transmitter was not fan cooled, and sat up on its edge. We were told it apparently worked better up like this! The FM was the usual little tin box type thing.
During the chat we were told about Radio Midleton, probably meaning one we had heard of called Midleton Community Radio. Unfortunately it certainly wasn't on when we passed through.
The gentleman who had shown us around, although a kind host, remains nameless due to incompetence. We thanked him for the tour of the station, and headed off.
Radio Caroline Cork which at the time was on approx 98.5FM only, and had such awful audio, and real bad distortion, to the degree that you had a fighting chance only of being able to recognise the music playing, never mind enjoy the programme. It put one in mind of a typical Dutch pirate on MW or SW. No one seemed to know where they came from, and no one in the street had ever heard of them, with such a bad signal, so this one was given a wide berth. In years to come, they did have a MW transmitter on around 1560, which was heard in Scotland, with good audio quality I hasten to add. It was a pity they had transmitter problems just at the time when we were in town.
There was one other station in Cork. Capital Radio which was said to be "Up on Military Hill" near the prison, was never found, despite directions from so many helpful people. In the end we gave up on this one, which was on 1305kHz at the time.
Like Radio City, they were heard in Scotland during the previous winter. I did hear them some time later on 6525 SW, which is the 5th Harmonic! They used to drift around 1305/1330 area. In Cork at least the station was spelt Capital, as you would, not like the Dublin station, which called itself Capitol for some reason. In 1979 there were stories, which were taken serious by some, that Capital Radio was at an advanced stage of fitting out a ship, for use when the broadcasting bill came into force. I guess the so called ship became rusted up, as it never materialised. At the same time Prince Terry at Westside Radio on 6280, had a final hour, only to return the following week. The bill was strongly rumoured to be enforced as of 18th October 1979.
station produced a Christmas magazine in 1980 which included the following
Capital Radio Cork, The Story So Far
It was a black winter's day back in February 1979 when the first rumblings of Capital Radio could be heard on the airwaves of Cork. Capital Radio was formed because Peter James, Dave Steward, Con McFarland and Pat Anderson decided there was a real need for a friendly local Radio Station in Cork. Capital Radio was not going to be a far-fetched commercial radio station but a natural local station, which would inform the Cork People as to what was happening in the city. To this day Capital Radio kept to its aims by helping out the people in every way possible, whether it be by finding lost strays for their owners, re-uniting broken-up couples or by giving air-space to local charities. Admittedly it has been a long haul all the way, but with persistence, team-work and patience on the part of all the lads, the station has never looked back since that bleak winters day in February.
I write now even bigger things are planned for, the station in 1981.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has helped
the station since its early days, and also to wish all Capital Radio
listeners, friends and sponsors alike a very happy Christmas.
After our visit to Irelands number two city, with only some success, we headed off around 1845, or at least that's when the tape of Capital Radio stops. The final destination for the day was Youghal Co Cork. In the winter of 1980/ 81 Community Radio Youghal had been heard in the UK and Europe, on 1512 late at night with a chap with a curious voice and accent, whose name was Barty Murphy. We had heard that the station broadcast from an old barn, where I used to picture the chief farmer sitting in his Wellingtons (Gumboots), doing the programme. Ian recalls hearing a letter read out on air from a dxer in Sevenoaks, where Barty said ".....Simon had sent an irc", pronounced as it reads, as opposed to the I-R-C letters! They had an old announcement, obviously on a tape. (Aired on 1512kHz mind you!)
"You are listening to Community Radio Youghal broadcasting to you on 202m and 1485kHz. We are broadcasting to Youghal town and the surrounding rural district. And for our overseas listeners, Community Radio Youghal is an independent broadcasting station", he used to croak.
I wonder if the gentleman is still involved with the legal CRY..??? It has been reported on January 20th 1997, that the same gentleman is still at the station, now on low power 105.1.
I never really was sure if they shifted to 1512 for the "overseas listeners" at night, and used 1485 by day. Anyone ???
The operator of the Cork Radio web site provides the following reply
"CRY had used 1485kHz(202m). However the state broadcaster RTE also used 1485kHz for its own experimental mobile community radio unit which visited towns (usually for a one week period at a time) across Ireland. This unit existed from the late 1970's to mid '80s. In 1981 this RTE mobile station certainly did visit a nearby town, obviously CRY had to move frequency to avoid interference. Due to someone's incompetence the presenters continued to announce 202m/1485kHz after the move.
CRY certainly did move back to 1485kHz. However in 1985 when the RTE mobile unit visited the nearby town of Midleton for a one week period CRY decided to move to 1503kHz and there it stayed until 31/12/1988 despite WKLR in Bandon(West Cork) also using 1503kHz. Incredibly DJs on CRY were heard to announce 202m/1485kHz until the stations closure at the end of 1988. "
(We had all forgotton about this mobile unit!!)
We arrived in Youghal in time to find a nice guesthouse owned by a charming old lady. After checking in and setting up the radios, Gary discovered a station identifying as TCR on 1327, which was assumed must have been Tipperary, or Thurles, and required some investigation. It turned out to be Tipperary, so it was decided to head there first thing in the morning.
We went down into the village for a pint and another feed of chips etc. In a quiet little pub, we were told there was a Community Radio Youghal night out, in another pub in town. I remember seeing a CRY poster on the pub wall, which none of us even asked for. We drank the welcome beer, and decided to try and find the CRY guys. Because the pub was so busy, we never managed to find anyone from the station, and took refuge again in our quieter pub close by. When we went back in, someone immediately handed Gary £1, which he seemingly had dropped earlier!! The locals had a tape playing in the bar which I had heard some years before, called the Worst Job, with Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore as Derek and Clive!! I enjoyed the atmosphere, and had a few pints with Ian and Gary. Simon either did not feel like drinking, or was short of cash or something. Anyway, the thing was, I was drunk with a couple of pints in those days, and was doing more than my fair share of talking!! After closing time, the locals wished us good night. We wandered back to the guesthouse, and up the narrow winding stairs to our room. The other lads had a bed, but I volunteered for the floor by the window. Ian woke in the middle of the night after hearing someone being sick out the window. He assumed it was me, and returned to the land of strange creatures and distorted reality (A drunken sleep). In fact I had slept through it all, dreaming sweet dreams of how I had fallen heir to a Community Radio Youghal sunstrip. (There were still a few stations with sun strips for car windscreens at that time. Youghal certainly had sun visors, as did Big L, Boyneside, Nova, Sunshine, and more. This sadly is a dying trend, and even the "Wullie and Bessie" type have all but gone.)
In the morning the truth was out there. I knew nothing of the incident, but poor old Gary it seemed had felt rather poorly!! He had tried to get down to the toilet, but was obviously not going to get there in time. He rushed back, crawling over the top of me, only just making it, and began to shout on the world famous raaalf!! After breakfast, Gary went to the toilet, and discovered there had been a porch below the bedroom window, which by now had some of the daylight blocked off!! We hastily paid the old woman and left!!
As was decided we headed for Tipperary first of all, giving CRY a chance to open up broadcasting for the day. At this stage, CRY used to close for lunch, siesta, or whatever for a few hours in the afternoon, so the timing would have to be suitable.
The long way to Tipperary from Youghal took us over the Knockmealdown Mountains, which was a beautiful drive. Once over the top of the mountains, and round a hairpin bend on the road, we suddenly had an amazing view looking right across the county.
Like Youghal, Tipperary Community Radio seemed to have limited hours of broadcasting at this time, and when we arrived in the morning, there was no sign of the station. After someone at a garage gave him directions, Simon went in search of station staff, but he discovered inside the council type building, that the door to TCR was locked. He reappeared a little time later, with a TCR sticker in his inside pocket, ripped from that same locked door!! I now wish I had had the neck to steal the one from the front door!! The station was not due to start until at least an hour or so from that time, which would have meant losing out on CRY as they closed up in the afternoon! So we had driven the long winding road, and taken up most of the morning, for Simon's sticker, and a photo of a green door!
A few weeks after we returned, I heard the station with ads for Tipperary one night on off channel 1309, and failed to tape it because there was no ID. I thought I would hear an ID the next night but of course I never heard TCR again. This was a lesson I quickly learned about keeping recordings of stations, even if they failed to id. There were reports of the 3rd harmonic being heard on 3927 in Devon, although I never logged this myself unfortunately. They later used 999kHz, which was a difficult channel in the UK.
On the road, Ian saw a sign for Clonmel, which rang a bell with an old station, although nothing was heard only a few miles from the town. Neither was anything heard from Thurles, which had been said at one time to have a station.
Community Radio Youghal turned out to be a beautiful spot, on a high cliff top farm, overlooking the sea. The wife of the house sent us round the back of the farm to an old barn. This was presumably the same farmer's wife who read the daily recipe! We wandered up the old wooden steps and into the studio. The transmitter sat just in the door, on the left, in a kind of wooden fenced off area. This was the first time I had seen any station use a fluorescent tube near the rig, which flashed in and out with the modulation level. The studio itself was one of the oldest looking we had seen, with a pair of really ancient turntables. It was perhaps the first time we had seen real old time radio. The commercials were being read out live from a script, when the second presenter was spinning the records and working the switches, as they had no mixer as such!! This really had to be witnessed to be believed. Listening on air, the station sounded as good as any of the country stations we had heard.
I asked if someone could sign my QSL card, but no one would take the plunge and sign without the station owner being there. I don't think they really knew what I meant by the term QSL card. It was only when we were walking back down the rough farm track towards the car, a "wee guy" came tearing down the track after me, realising what I was after. He asked me to write a letter to the station owner who wasn't around, and I would get my QSL card. Sadly, I never ever did write back to CRY.
On the way out of town, we could not help but notice a strange one way system in Youghal. One drove down the right lane, and up the left lane of this little short dual carriageway. It seemed like continental Europe, where they drive "on the wrong side of the road".
As time stood still for no man, we left the little seaside town, and headed for The Crystal City.. Waterford.
The first stop was at 7 The Mall, the Waterford home of Suirside Radio. Suirside was owned by a chap called Mick Daley. The station had been heard on SW across Europe, as well as locally on MW and FM. The MW it was said could be heard in Devon and Cornwall, but the frequency of 1332 was never heard in Scotland, at least not by myself. It was not until the station was almost closing that I heard the 2nd harmonic quite well on 2664! By this time, the station staff were all of Irish origin. I have a dubious log of early Suirside, on 1165, but as yet unverified.
The lads had reincarnated ABC Radio International, which had been operated by Richard Staines when he lived in the UK, and was part of the 6235 network at one time. The address used was their house at 7 Lombard Street, Waterford. Ian still has the QSL with the comment "See you in August" scribbled at the bottom. This SW transmitter was later used to relay Suirside Radio on 6235 or 6230 SW. It was good to be able to hear the likes of Dave Hunt, Kevin Turner, and Richard Staines on SW again. Because of their SW backgrounds Suirside was a QSLer, and had proper cards at one time. I always liked to hear local MW or FM stations, being relayed on 48m.
At the station when we arrived were Kevin Turner, and Dave Hunt. Richard Staines was on holiday, we were told. Whether he was still in Waterford is unknown, although Ian believes it was Richard we saw with a Suirside T-shirt walking down the street. It was a great shame we never met up with him on that trip, although in years to come, both Ian and I enjoyed a few beers too many with him, on numerous occasions.
Kevin was glad to see us again, and showed us upstairs to the studio, which was on the first floor. It was a spacious room, with the studio in a sort of a bar type construction in one corner. There was a mass of tapes hanging on the wall on nails, with the jingles and adverts. These were recorded only onto cassettes, although the sound was quite good. A compressor kept the audio signal smoother than many stations, which helped compensate for level discrepancies on the tapes. We met JJ, the guy with the unique voice, who always seemed to be on the air when we listened to SW. JJ was an older gent, with glasses and a possible wig. He spoke with a strong local accent, and was often heard with the community news. His full name was JJ Prendegast.
Unlike many pirates, the transmitters were within the building. The FM transmitter was upstairs again, on the second floor. It was said to be about 40 watts, and covered the city and local area quite nicely in mono. The thing sat on the floor, with a fan for cooling, and car battery to run the oscillator because of humm. The output stage was powered from a mains supply. The production studio, which was obviously used for making adverts, was across the room from the FM rig. There were booklets about the station lying around, although none of us were bold enough at the time to enquire as to their future!
The SW transmitter sat through in a back room. This was the little rig which had been used for ABC International in both England, as well as the Irish version. Upstairs again was the MW transmitter, in an untidy but warm room. The place we were told, had to be kept at as near constant temperature as possible, because of the VFO used!!! A fan blew constantly into the oscillator stage. The old transmitter was of amateur origin, and running I suppose about 100Watts, if that.
Part of the sched seemed to be something like..
4-6 Dave Hunt 6-8 Mike Kenny, JJ 8-10, Paul Power 10-12
We asked Kevin about WLR, so he told us a bit about the station. He asked us to follow him in his old car, which had seen some years of service. We were treated to a visit to WLR's old AM site, which we had heard on the radio, and to the new site, which was not yet on air. We were taken to the WLR studio, although Kev left before we went in, as he would not have been welcome there. He also told us Rick was "funny sometimes" and might not let us in, but to be honest he couldn't have been nicer, on this visit, and the two others I had to the station. No doubt WLR may have been "funny" sometimes with their competition, as one would probably expect.
Rick Whelan, the co-owner was running around with wellingtons on, and told us just to go in. The studio was up a stairway, and along a sort of corridor to a kind of reception area with a bar like bench along it. We were shown into a spacious room, where you could see through the glass into the studio. On the air at the time was a guy called John Fletcher, a local schoolteacher, who seemed to have a genuine interest in our hobby. A receptionist was taking telephone calls. Rick was obviously a busy man with the moving of the AM etc, but took some time to tell us a little about the station, and gave us some history booklets, which were marked 15p! As often happened, they had only one sticker, which Gary kept a hold of.
They were actually planning to move MW sites that night. The station left the air on 1197, 252m at 7pm, and had not returned by the time we left Waterford. They continued on FM only, with programming including long winded interviews with nobody in particular, and the tape I have of the evening show has no ids, but only the "that was" and "this is" type presenter!
I have fond memories of sitting in front of my receivers back in Scotland listening to the odd distant Irish station, on a strange new frequency. Often they would not even id once an hour!! How some of the locals knew what they were listening to, is anybody's guess. After all, advertisers had to be found to keep the station afloat, but if they did not ID, how could they know where to advertise on??
WLR had an excellent sign off id, which they used to play every night at 0130 sign off, and was heard many times back in Scotland. This was an announcement by Rick, including a full ID, and some text taken from the popular song, Child Of The Universe. This was Desidarata, the ancient mystic writing and a terrible hit for American TV star, Les Crane, often heard on Radio Northsea! So many stations played that particular tune at sign off time, during those few short years when stations did close up shop for the night. Even by the mid 80's, most stations carried some kind of overnight shows, either live, or on tape with an auto reverse deck, which were more common, and no doubt less expensive in later years.
Today, WLR still broadcast from Georges Court in Waterford, having been the ones who gained the Licence.
Kevin had told us about Radio Carrick, in Carrick-Upon-Suir. This was another station no one had heard of, although they did have a limited daytime sched, of 8am/6pm! Power was obviously low, as the signal in Waterford was poor. Their frequency of 1512kHz was never to my knowledge, heard outside the country. In 1982, a station in nearby Clonmell, took over the Radio Carrick transmitter. That station was CBC, which was heard on 1512, in Scotland.
In the late afternoon, we made our way to this small but exciting discovery. Time was quite limited, if we wanted to find the station before they closed at 6pm.
The studio turned out to be in a garage, by a house. A young DJ, with glasses invited us in. The transmitter was in a cupboard around the back, in a kind of wash house place behind the neat little studio. At about 5 minutes to closing time, Pat O'Reagan as he was called, interviewed Simon, who sounded very professional and full of confidence in front of the microphone. At that time I was much less so. Before closing the station for the night, the full closedown announcement by presumably the station manager or owner, Gerry Gannon was aired, including full ids. Radio Carrick was very professional for such a small set up, and certainly shamed many a larger operation. Unfortunately the station was gone the next time I was in Eire, and had become part of a larger operation, CBC in Clonmel, where Gerry became managing director. I met Pat again at CBC in 1982. He eventually joined ERI.
Soon it was time to return to Waterford to the B& B round the corner from Suirside, called the ?? View or something. Simon, Ian and I had a few pints in the Reginald, a few doors from Suirside, although the place seemed a little posh for us. Gary was tired of driving, and ill from the grub he ate in Youghal, and went to bed early. Before bedtime I recorded a nice sign off from Telstar Radio from Black Rock Co Louth on 1197, a frequency normally impossible in Waterford, because of WLR.
Wednesday 19th August 1981
After a refreshing night in the B&B, we began another days drive, as usual continuously monitoring the bands. The lads at Surside Radio had told us there definitely was a station in Wexford. As we neared the town, WCLR was heard on 99.3, which stood for Wexford County Local Radio. Nothing was heard on AM, although a suspicious looking antenna was spotted on the road into town.
As we knew nothing of the station, the studio location was also unknown, but a small record shop was found. I nipped in for some C120s, and more batteries! Ian noticed the 12" version of Stars on 45, vol 2. This was the one with the Abba music, and of course the clapping! To Gary's disgust, I decided to buy one as well, which I was rumoured to have played to death on SW!
"All that bluudy clappin", he used to moan, in his quiet Yorkshire tongue.
"Do you know where the local radio station is", someone asked the shopkeeper.
He just pointed to another customer. A big hairy bearded chap turned around and began to talk with us. His name was Frank Sennit, who worked for the station. WCLR was upstairs from a hairdresser's at 82 South Main Street. They had a MW transmitter it seemed, but it was out of order. The mast we had seen on the way into town was indeed theirs! This was someone else who was after some technical assistance, but we were not really in a position to help. The frequency was 300m, 999kHz, which I managed to hear some months later.
I blew my nose, and Big Frank nearly hit the roof, "For fooks sake what was that", he shouted.
Frank began his programme by interviewing us live on air. Someone mentioned Radio Caroline, to which he said "I suppose we should have all bowed down when we mentioned Radio Caroline". This brought some chortles from background.
Frank was a really decent guy, and a real character. It was a shame we had so little time to spare.
A split in WCLR in 1982, reported in DSWCI 6/82, reports Community Radio Wexford formed on 999, as well as FM, from the WCLR address, while the other half formed East Coast Radio, Rosslaire hrd on 1507. The former was heard once in Scotland on 999 before South City Radio from Dublin came on, though I suspect it was a regular in Devon and Cornwall.
Whenever Kilkenny was mentioned, Ian, Gary and myself always referred to Kilkenny collectively with Carlow and vice versa. This was in the same way we lumped Wicklow and Arklow together. All these stations were out of the way, unless you were heading for them. If that were the case, you would not visit one without the other etc. At this time however it was uncertain if there was anything on in Carlow.
KCR had been logged in Scotland and England in early 1980, and even back then, surprisingly had proper QSL cards. At the time there were stories of another KCR on the same channel, maybe from Killarney, but no one really knew for sure. The station remained consistent right up until the end, and in fact now has a license. They operated on 1386 throughout, until 1987, when an Irish built transmitter was purchased, improving the signal from the old rig. This changed frequency from the clutter of 1386, to 1395. In 1986/7 on 1386kHz at one point, we could hear Kandy Radio from Ballinasloe, Co Galway, Radio Carousel Navan, North Cork Community Radio Mallow, KCR. WBEN in Cork also used the freq briefly in 1986!! It was a DXers channel OK.
The KCR studios and transmitters were co sited, another rarity, on the Ballycallan Road. As we walked up to the steel door, we could see the mast towering above the building. The outside broadcast lorry was parked in the yard, impressively displaying the station name and emblem all over the place.
We went upstairs to the nerve centre of KCR. They had a guest DJ on air, Roddy Cleere from Suirside in Waterford, complete with a "257" jingle, which he had to apologise for. (257m was a former Suirside channel, before the move to 227m) At sometime after 12, a priest came on with a long-winded boring talk, which I presume had about 3 listeners. I think we were all a bit tired from the travelling, as although it was a nice set up, none of us really recall too much about Kilkenny. The MW transmitter was up the loft at this stage, and rather difficult to access. It was enough to take some sort of photographs though. The 99.9 FM transmitter was sitting in another room. It consisted of a low power transmitter, and a linear amplifier, the first time I knew a linear was good for FM. I did know for AM, the modulator in any home made transmitter I had seen, modulated the output stage. We were given some stickers and station booklets before heading northwards. We planned to see if we could find Big D, before catching the ferry that night. On the way towards Dublin, a station was beginning to fade in on 1413kHz. This turned out to be Radio Carlow.
This station was heard on the radio, but the signal was rather difficult to trace. The address was given as Radio Carlow, Ballahyde, Co Carlow. When we reached the vicinity, Simon reckoned it was nearby a wood, where the signal was really strong. The location turned out to be in a house nearby. We were allowed to have a look at the station. The transmitter was beside the studio, built into a kind of wooden frame thing. I personally do not remember too much of Radio Carlow, but there was a painted logo on the mailbox, the only one I have ever seen! I heard this station on 1413 one morning in late 1981 back in Scotland, although it was a standard "that was" and "this is" programme with one id in about an hour!
One well known former presenter on stations such as Q102, Mike Hogan, originated from the Carlow area, although I am unsure if he was ever on any of the local pirates in that area.
I used to correspond with a gentleman called John Dowling from Borris Co Carlow. Although he was very thorough with his listings, his rate of reply became poor in later years.
On the way home, we again passed through Naas. I will always remember the Naas road, which is a good road of motorway standard. You could always hear the Dublin stations fade in as you drove towards the Capital.
Big D 273 was formed after a mutiny in Radio Dublin in 1978. They had recently moved studio again, this time to the basement of Hairlines, a hairdresser's shop in Richmond Street. They had certainly moved around a bit, from 11 Chapel Lane, Dublin 1, 117 St Stevens Green West, Dublin 1, and 85 Lower Campden Street, Dublin 2. Big D made claims of a huge audience in their ad rate cards, which was scoffed by Mark at Southside Radio. Their jingles were whipped from US station WDEE The Big D!
While driving along we heard Tony Allen on Big D 273, and to be honest the lads were a bit dubious of him.
"I'm not going in there if its just him", was someone's remark.
I was an avid Caroline fan, and almost worshipped the station, and Tony was one of the best DJs I had ever heard. The anti Caroline stance perhaps originated from Chris Cortez in Cambridge, whose feelings were well known and had rubbed off somewhat. No one had ever met him, which was unfair. When we eventually went into the station, he was a gentleman, although as Ian later discovered, with a few drinks in him, Tony became a different fellow.
The studio was a little untidy, because of the recent move, but adequate. There was only an FM link in the studio, as the MW transmitter on 1116 was still above a snooker hall close by. As mentioned earlier, we had seen the aerial during our first time in Dublin, some days earlier.
After almost every link, Tony quoted the phrase, "Just you, me and 273", till he eventually realised and said "I'm gonna have to stop saying this". They were doing a sort of a power play called "Rudys Raver", which for that week was Freddie White's Tenderness on the block. This was an album track taken from "Do You Do", which I bought on my next trip to Ireland, after hearing it on the Irish pirates. That track never received any airplay in the UK.
"So you've been down to Chronic then", Tony sneeringly asked, perhaps talking down his nose at Sonic Independent Radio. He chatted away to us about this and that. Someone asked about the weather for the ferry home. He advised the lads to eat a piece of dry bread to help stop their seasickness.
We left Big D and headed towards the ferry. At the terminal the English lads looked at the faces of the sailors, and saw concern about the weather. There were no problems however... Darkness was beginning to fall as we boarded the ship, and lost the signal from Big D. Even the powerful Radio Nova signals were lost inside the ferry's superstructure. The trip had come to an end.
In the morning, after the drive to Manchester we split up, and headed our separate ways. Ian and I had to go to a different station from Simon, to catch our train home to Scotland. By 4pm I was sitting in my studio/ shack checking for signals on MW from Ireland and thinking of my most amazing week..
We certainly timed the visit well, just in time to see the last of the home brew learning period. After the appearance of Radio Nova, everything changed dramatically. Stations lost their personality, although in reality, they had woken up to professionalism. As stated at the beginning, the stations had found the market place, and fallen into their own categories. This was a fragile system, and took only a little careless government action to change the face of Irish broadcasting forever. Sadly by the following July, four of Dublin's forerunners in commercial radio, Big D, City, Southside and ARD had all closed for good. Southside vanished in the May, ARD and City during July, and Big D somewhere in between. Competition from the new generation of professional broadcasters had superseded the old technology, and broadcasting abilities. Radio Dublin was the only station from the original bouquet of early pirates to carry on the fight...... no matter what.
Stations discovered during the trip were Diamond Radio, Radio Sligo, Radio Carol-Ann, KLR, Radio Caroline Cork, Tipperary Community Radio, Radio Carrick, WCLR and Radio Carlow. I must say I was a romantic for MW simply because I was able to hear the stations, and always valued promotional material more for stations I had actually heard in Scotland.
Without any undue disrespect, in 1987 some anoraks came across a station called Legan Local Radio, which was FM only, and had no chance of making it to Scotland. I therefore could not become fired up the same as I could have had it been an AM station.
I still have some fond memories of my first trip to Eire, not least certain pieces of music which just bring it all back as though only yesterday. I am listening to my tape of Radio Northwest as I type this section, and some of those tunes are playing. The Wolftones..The Streets Of New York. Starsound.Stars on 45, Happy Birthday..Stevie Wonder, Lobo.Caribbean Disco Show. Davey Arthur and the Fureys..When You Were Sweet 16.
Even in 1997, the WRTH, the radio listeners bible does not for some reason see fit to recognise Irish 24-hour stations. I have on the other hand some reason to include a list of stations heard here in Scotland in during March/ May 1997. At the time of writing, late May 97, GNR 954 is now off air because of official action, although the station has reverted back to the old name of Sunshine Radio.
549 United Christian Broadcasters
846 Radio North, Carndonnagh Co Donegal
954 Great North Radio, Co Louth (very low audio)
981 Radio Star Country, Co Monaghan
1637 UCB 3rd harmonic (weak)
1692 Radio North 2nd harmonic (weak)
1908 Great North Radio 2nd harmonic
1962 Radio Star Country 2nd harmonic (weak)
2862 Great North Radio 3rd harmonic (!!!)
3910 Reflections Europe Sundays 1500/2200
6200 UCB //549
6210 Laser Hot Hits Relay
6219 Laser Hot Hits Relay
6237.6 Jolly Roger Radio and relays
6250 Freedom FM Dublin // fm 105.7
6255 Ozone Radio Dublin, ex Westside freq varies wildly from week to week.
6295 Laser Hot Hits
6295 Reflections Europe // 3910 (poss // 12255)
6939 ABC Dublin usually poor audio
FM stations are often heard during a lift, across a wide area of the UK. The following have been heard in Scotland during 1997 just prior to publication.
87.9 Unid dance music, poss Energy Dublin
103.1 Pulse FM Dublin
105.3 Spectrum FM
105.7 Freedom FM Dublin
106.0 Kiss FM Dundalk
106.0 Hits 106 Dublin or Dunlaoire ex DLR?
106.0 Energy 106 Belfast (later 106.6)
106.4 Club FM Dublin's dance mix
106.8 Klass FM
106.9 Hits 106 // 106
(WRITTEN ORIGINALLY IN 1996 / 1997)