The 80′s


On Air at WABC (Ireland)

On Air at WABC (Ireland)

After Radio Caroline and involvement in one or two abortive projects my good friend Paul Graham suggested going to Ireland where there was a lot happening. So we loaded up what equipment and records we could muster and headed for the Emerald Isle to make radio. Now I am no stranger to Ireland in fact most of my family still live over there which was one of the reasons we headed for the west side of the country. We made contact with a local businessman Ian Walmsley who had an electrical business and set up on his land three quarters of the way up the side of a hill.

Originally we operated from a spare room in the house but eventually converted a shed into the studio and ran a long feed up to the transmitters which were on the top of the hill. The view from the studio window was absolutely fantastic looking across from our elevated position towards the Sligo Mountains. At one stage in its life the station broadcast from over a bar in Charlestown.

WABC Transmitter Room

WABC ‘Rural’ Transmitter Room

They were fun times, but not without their trials and tribulations like the mast collapsing during a storm and being whisked off by the Irish Special Branch for interrogation, fortunately we did not get locked up and in the end had a very good relationship with the authorities. It has to be said that the one issue that probably led to the demise of the station was losing the tall mast.

ARW (Alternative Radio West)

After the demise of WABC I was still living in the area and I picked up some engineering work at a station in Balina, a town further to the west. This station had been set up by a group of local businessmen with a lot of good intentions and not too much imagination. This lasted until the project finally ran out of steam and the presenters involved, myself included went off and set up in business together.

Castle Radio

Castle Radio 1982

Castle Radio 1982

We broadcast from the Beleek Castle Hotel just outside Balina using one of the old ARW transmitters. It was fun but not very lucrative and we all knew the Irish pirate era was coming to an end. Around the time the authorities started raiding stations out east we decided to pull the plug. Several of the presenters moved on to the community and regional stations that were formed shortly after. I on the other hand decided to see what was going down back in the UK.

Sunshine Radio

It was one of those great coincidences that Paul graham, who I had not seen for a year or so returned to England at the same time as me and we made contact again. He mentioned that a land based pirate station was setting up in Shropshire with the intention of broadcasting 7 days a week, something that had not been done before. Always one for an adventure I got in touch with Graham Symonds the main man at the station which would be called Sunshine Radio. I kicked off the 7 day service by presenting the breakfast program Monday to Friday, it was good to be back on the air!

Sunshine On Air

‘On Air’ from the ‘Shed’ at Sunshine

The downside was that the conditions were very basic, we operated out of a barn on a farm in Shropshire. Now those of you with an agricultural background will know barns have a tendency to be cold and draughty. This barn was no exception. It was a while before we moved to more comfortable accommodation in a converted garden shed in Ludlow.

The conditions aside, the station proved hugely popular and many listeners were unaware of its legal status (or lack of it). Of course there were the usual rounds of dodging the authorities when they came visiting, we were fortunate that we had a well informed contact and I always managed to remain one step ahead. As with all good things it had to come to an end and the pressure from the authorities was getting intense. My life at that time was also taking a change in direction with an impending marriage. It was time to live a sensible life for a while.