The week before last we had former RTÉ 2fm DJ and now Emirates commercial airline pilot, Barry Lang, in on the Marty Morrissey Show on RTÉ Radio 1 which I’m producing on for the month of January. Barry spent two years on the old illegal Radio Dublin prior to going legit in 1980 with 2fm.
Last week Steve Conway’s updated book, Shiprocked – Life on the Waves with Radio Caroline, arrived on my desk.
I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but I’m assured by one person who was there at the time that it’s a damn good pirate radio read.
To complete the pirate rule of three, I first caught the broadcasting bug in 1980 on the long forgotten – probably for the best – illegal WKRC, (a meaningless US-styled moniker adopted merely to differentiate itself from the nearby, longer established, Naas-based pirate KCR – Kildare Community Radio) transmitting on a crap medium wave signal from a caravan in a field outside Newbridge in Co Kildare.
And who introduced me to the guys running the station as he already had his own slot with them? Yup, RTÉ Radio 1’s newly returned prodigal son, fellow Kildare Town native, Ray D’Arcy.
Back in the day when the singular Radio Eireann (as it was known then pre-Radio 2, as it was originally called) had a monopoly on the Irish airwaves pirate radio was the only realistic outlet for the majority of folk with any broadcasting ambitions.
Illegal these mostly amateur, often shambolic, occasionally slick operations may have been but for the most part the law turned a blind eye – and maybe a deaf ear – to them.
Which, for many of us wireless wannabees, was no bad no bad thing. The likes of Dave Fanning, Colm Hayes, John Clarke, Gareth O’Callaghan, Tom Hardy, Phil Cawley, Tony Fenton, Bryan Dobson, Anne Cassin, Brian Jennings, Mike Maloney, Aidan Cooney, Marty Whelan, Teena Gates, Gerry Ryan, Ian Dempsey, Stuart Clark, Roddie Cleere, Sybil Fennell, Simon Maher and Robbie Irwin, a largely boys-own club who all cut their teeth on various pirate stations, would almost certainly agree.
That summer of 1980 I gladly hitched the five miles from Kildare across the Curragh to Newbridge five days a week for a few heady months, getting a lift from there the mile or so out of town to the basic mobile home which was the source of the county’s rebellious transmissions by the local electrical shop owner whose ticket to global media domination WKRC undoubtedly was.
The innocence of it all.