Cavan pirate Breffni Radio was on air from 1984 up until the enforced closure of the nation’s pirates in December 1988
Station histories and images are by very kind courtesy of Seán Brady.
For convenience sake the two interspersed station histories are contained on both station pages.
Breffni Radio broadcast from an old cottage which was located at Drumloman, Kilnaleck, which had been converted into a radio station. The building consisted of one main on-air studio, an extensive record library and a production studio. The technical gear was basic, but it served its purpose extremely well.
Gerry O’Reilly looked after the technical side of Breffni Radio and was the guy who initially set up the station.
I joined the station in September 1985 and initially hosted programmes. But from June of the following year, I hosted less programmes and concentrated on running the advertising department. I voiced most of the commercials and made sure that each commercial went to air when it was supposed to. Advertisers could select which time-slots their respective commercials were to be broadcast in and I made sure that this happened.
I must say that I enjoyed the time that Breffni Radio was on the air. I must admit that its programme policy of country music 24 hours a day isn’t up everyone’s street, but the station did prove that a market was there for that type of service, and for that reason alone, Breffni is to be applauded. I feel that there is a healthy marketplace for a quality radio station broadcasting continuous American Country Music in stereo on the FM dial and I personally look forward to the day when this hopefully happens.
Breffni Radio were based in Cavan and commenced broadcasting in December 1984. Breffni (which is the old Irish/Gaelic word for Cavan) broadcast from a converted cottage at Drumloman near Kilnaleck in County Cavan.
They broadcast a mix of Irish and American country music, from 7am to 1am. The music policy was strictly adhered to because it was felt at the time that RTÉ did not devote sufficient airtime to this type of music.
Breffni Radio broadcast with one Kilowatt of transmitter output power on 1170kHz.
In April 1985, Breffni Radio carried some engineering tests on FM. One particular test took place on 98.7MHz on Thursday 18th April, when the signal was reported as quite good. At this time the station also had plans to expand operations into the Midlands with the opening of a service in Longford. Broadcasts continued on FM only.
BREFFNI CENTRAL RADIO
Breffni Central Radio took to the air on Monday 10th June 1985 from 27 Ballymahon Street in Longford on 1035kHz. This new service was intended for reception in counties Longford, Roscommon, Galway and Mayo.
The 1035kHz signal was, in fact, heard over a very wide area, extending from Galway to Cavan. Breffni Central Radio, like its sister station in Kilnaleck, broadcast a mix of Irish and American country music from 7am to 1am.
It was at this time that Breffni Radio in Kilnaleck abandoned transmissions on FM. These tests would recommence, however, at a later date. The station also had plans to change frequency, from 1170kHz to 927kHz.
In August 1985, Breffni Radio attempted to operate separate programmes on AM and FM. A test broadcast was heard on 95.2MHz on Saturday 31st August.
Meanwhile, Breffni Central Radio on 1035kHz was off the air for several days in early September due to a burned out transformer. When repairs were carried out, the station returned to the air on Wednesday 18th September.
Breffni Radio held its first ‘Country Music Awards Show’ in the Kilmore Hotel in Cavan on Tuesday 15th October. The night was a resounding success with twelve hundred people attending the event.
It was also at this time that Breffni Central Radio in Longford were experiencing problems with their aerial mast being vandalised. It was reported in early November that the transmitter and aerial mast were going to be moved to a safer location. The transmitting mast was re-erected in mid-November. Breffni Central Radio were back on the air on 1035kHz by the end of November, but the signal was reported as not being as strong as previously.
In early December, Breffni Central Radio moved frequency slightly from 1035kHz to 1044kHz. However, reception was affected by the close proximity of BBC Radio 1 on the nearby channel of 1053kHz, so the station moved back to 1035kHz.
In mid-December, it was reported that the Breffni Radio transmitter on 1170kHz was running at one Kilowatt. Despite this output power, the station was experiencing reception difficulties because of Radio Sweden on the nearby frequency of 1179 kHz and the poor reception conditions generally on the medium wave band.
Breffni Radio moved frequency from 1170kHz to 1161kHz on Thursday 19th December. As a result, reception of the station locally and further afield was reported as being greatly improved. However, they moved back to 1170kHz on the evening of Thursday 6th February. It appeared that the second harmonic on 2322kHz was causing interference to French shipping frequencies.
It was at this time, in February, that plans were well advanced for a service on FM. On Thursday 13th February, a link transmitter was put on the air on 104.2MHz. A main transmitter was then installed on Arkill Mountain, which was about four to five miles from the studios. Shortly after 6pm on the evening of Monday 17th February, the main transmitter sprang into life on 96.4MHz with an output power of one hundred Watts.
Due to the good height, the signal was expected to cover an area of at least sixty miles. The FM frequency was later changed slightly from 96.4MHz to 96.6MHz.
On Monday 10th March, Breffni Radio introduced split programming. 1170kHz carried the usual Irish and American country music fare, whilst 96.6MHz carried the pop music programming of ‘Channel 2‘.
The FM frequency was changed on Friday 14th March, from 96.6MHz to 95.6MHz. This move in frequency was as a result of a request from RTÉ, who stated that they needed to use 96.6MHz for FM link purposes.
This move in frequency did not affect reception of Breffni Radio at all. The station was reported as being received as far away as Kildare. It was around this time that work was progressing on adding a further thirty feet to the Breffni Central Radio transmitting mast in order to get the station back on the air on 1035kHz.
On Monday 24th March, Breffni Radio was off the air on 1170 kHz, from 4.15pm until 8.45pm, so that essential maintenance on the transmitter and mast could be undertaken. Following this extensive work, reception was noticeably improved over a wide area. A reception report was indeed received from Ballinasloe in County Galway.
On Saturday 12th April, the Breffni Central Radio transmitter was noted on the air on 1035kHz. Breffni Central wasn’t on the air itself; the 1035 kHz frequency was heard relaying either Breffni Radio or Channel 2. Breffni Central Radio would return to the air as soon as another twenty-foot section was added to their transmitting mast.
CHANNEL 2 CLOSED
The pop music service of Channel 2 on 95.6 MHz closed on Friday 18th April due to a lack of response from listeners. The Channel 2 studio was then used to feed the Breffni Central Radio transmitter in Longford on 1035kHz. Breffni Radio was then effectively broadcasting on 1170kHz, 95.6MHz and 1035 kHz in Longford.
In July 1986, electric storms played havoc with the transmitters and put both of them off the air. 1170kHz returned after the storms, but the FM transmitter on 95.6MHz did not. The FM transmitter was, at this time, feeding the 1035kHz transmitter, which was now carrying dead air.
Breffni Radio held its first outside broadcast from the Oldcastle Agricultural Show in County Meath on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st August. These broadcasts proved to be extremely successful, with listeners able to come face to face with the ‘voices behind the microphone’. Listeners were able to read their own dedications during the broadcasts, which took place on both days between 1pm and 6pm.
STRONG FM SIGNAL
The FM signal from Arkill Mountain on 95.6MHz was back on the air in mid-September. The signal was extremely strong with reports being received from as far away as Dundalk in County Louth.
However, the FM signal went off the air on 95.6MHz in early October. The 1170 kHz service continued as usual. The 95.6 MHz signal did return to the air in late October.
COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS GALA
Breffni Radio held its second Annual Gala Country Music Awards Show in October. However, unlike 1985, there were two shows in 1986. The first was held on Tuesday 14th October in the Hotel Kilmore in Cavan, and the second was held in the Park House Hotel in Edgeworthstown in County Longford on Bank Holiday Monday 27th October. Twenty Irish country music artists appeared – ten at each venue.
OFF THE AIR
On Sunday 14th December, Breffni Radio on 1170kHz was off the air between 12.12am until 1.00pm, due to transmitter failure. When the station returned, the signal on 1170kHz was better than ever. It was also at this time that a second studio was put into operation at the station.
5KW MW TRANSMITTER
It was in early 1987 that Breffni Radio purchased a five-Kilowatt medium wave transmitter from the United States of America, with the intention of using it on 666kHz. However, these plans were abandoned and the transmitter was sold to someone who was about to start transmissions in the border area of County Monaghan. As far as the author is aware, this ‘someone’ turned out to be Kiss FM.
Breffni Radio had a strong FM signal on 95.6MHz on Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st March 1987, but the transmitter was noted off the air after this. The FM transmitter output power was in the region of two hundred and fifty Watts. It was in December that it was reported that the Breffni Radio FM signal on 95.6MHz was being received in parts of County Galway.
Breffni Radio was off the air on 1170kHz from 9pm on Tuesday 15th until the early afternoon of Thursday 17th December. This was due to problems with the transmitting cable on the medium wave mast. At this time, the FM signal on 95.6MHz was running at just over one Kilowatt and the signal was covering a very wide area. The FM signal on 95.6 MHz was particularly helpful at night, as reception of 1170 kHz was often impossible, even locally.
Due to severe storms that swept across Ireland in early February, Breffni Radio on 1170kHz was off the air on Tuesday 9th February. The medium wave mast had completely collapsed. Normal programming did continue, however, on the FM outlet of 95.6MHz.
On Sunday 6th March, it was noted that test tones were being heard on 657kHz and that it may be Breffni Radio testing a transmitter.
Breffni Radio on their new channel of 657kHz were reported as being stronger in many areas than when they were on 1170kHz. BLB Community Radio in Bray, County Wicklow were not very pleased at the fact that Breffni Radio were now using 657kHz as they too were on the channel.
In April, it was reported that the Breffni Radio FM signal on 95.6MHz was being received in Ennis in County Clare.
In May, Breffni Radio received an official complaint from BLB Community Radio in Bray, stating that the powerful signal emanating from Kilnaleck was causing severe interference to the BLB signal in Dublin. The co-channel interference was apparently worse in the south city area; at least in this area, listeners could tune into the BLB FM signal on 97.8MHz.
It was also in June that sister station, Galtee Radio, took to the air in Limerick with test transmissions on 792kHz and 96.5MHz from studios situated at 45 Thomas Street in the city. The music policy of Galtee Radio was the same as that of Breffni Radio, Irish and American country music.
As a result of new broadcasting legislation in Ireland, Breffni Radio on 657kHz and 95.6MHz went off the air at 12 midnight on Friday 30th December 1988.
Breffni Radio was unsuccessful in gaining a licence to broadcast in the franchise area of Cavan and Monaghan. The successful applicant was Northern Sound, which took to the air with test transmissions from studios in Cavan in May 1990.
Breffni Radio made a reappearance on 657kHz in November 1989 and was on the air for about three weeks before being raided.
It never returned to the air.