CLAREMORRIS COMMUNITY RADIO
The Station that listens to you
Claremorris Community Radio is a community radio station in Mayo. It was founded in March 2004.
It originally operated on a series of temporary licences, but now have a full-time licence.
It was born out of a series of meetings in Claremorris in 2002 after the BCI invited applications for community stations around the country.
It first appeared, under the Chairmanship of Roderick Maguire, on July 27th 2004 on 104.6MHz FM, for just one week to coincide with the Homecoming Festival. The station had only been informed they had received the licence six weeks in advance which meant that their first week of broadcast was a little disorganised.
It returned later that year in October. At that stage it broadcast on 104.6MHz FM but for their 2005 broadcasts they were on 94.6MHz FM.
Claremorris Community Radio commenced broadcasting on a full-time licence in 2006.
It operates from the Snooker Club at the Town Hall in Claremorris.
It is a volunteer-led, not-for-profit radio station broadcasting a mix of community news, music, talk shows, Irish-language programmes, and a range of other programmes of regional and local interest. The station aims to reflect the diversity of cultures and abilities within our catchment area. We promote community development and offer training in radio and media. All CCR radio show presenters are volunteer members of the station. In addition to producing and presenting a regular radio show, members also support the station by participating in fund-raising events and outside broadcasts, contributing a small annual membership fee, mentoring new volunteer members and other supportive actions.
If running pirate radio stations, using false names and ‘acquiring’ cables to broadcast from shady dwellings sounds to you like the basis of some high-crime Hollywood film, you’re sorely mistaken. Acts such as these, which are now considered illegal by the Gardaí, were quite common in Claremorris in the 1970s and ’80s.
They weren’t carried out by villains and the DJs didn’t live up to the typical Hollywood bad-boy image – they were ordinary people, with ordinary lives, just trying to bring life to the souls of the people within their community.
Johnny Kirrane and Eamon Kelly were two such ‘pirates’. However, they have departed company with their wild side and have decided to try their hands at broadcasting, the legal way! Both gentleman are now involved in Claremorris Community Radio, Johnny on the editorial committee and Eamon on the technical committee.
Johnny first tried his hand at radio in 1977, when RTÉ came to Claremorris to assist with broadcasting during the Ham Fair. He decided to get involved with some of the productions at the time and found that he really enjoyed it.
A short time later Joe Delaney started broadcasting out at home. Johnny went out and talked to him and decided that he would get involved. Between them they decided to set up a pirate station. And so the original Atlantic Radio was born.
“We bought a caravan and put it in Navin’s Quarry, up at the highest point, and began broadcasting. We had lots of different programmes but we couldn’t use our real names of course. I was ‘Big John’,” explained Johnny.
Atlantic Radio ran for a good few weeks and was really becoming established in the surrounding area, but unfortunately it wasn’t long before they met with a spot of bother. “We had somehow ‘acquired’ a lead from an office nearby and we were operating through that, everything was going great until the boss at the other company found out,” he laughed.
“Well I needn’t tell you, he went mad! He cut the power as soon as he heard and that was the end of that. It really was such a shame because so many people were listening to it. They had a real appetite for radio and I thought that we would eventually go for a licence for a station in the town,” stated Johnny.
After his experience with Atlantic Radio, Johnny decided to put his ‘radio career’ on hold for a while and it was only when news of Claremorris Community Radio emerged, that he decided to get involved once more.
Eamon on the other hand has quite a substantial history with pirate stations, living life on the edge that little bit more! “I was always interested in radio and communication, even when I was going to school back in the ’70s; always searching through the radio and the Medium Wave band,” he said.
Eamon worked for a pirate station in Castlebar in the ’70s, before getting the idea to set up his own station. He first heard Gerry Delaney on the radio in the 1981 and decided to go out to see him. Following that meeting, he decided to get involved and began working for ‘Jumping Gerry’. Eamon then got to know PJ Barrett who had a transmitter belonging to Martin Murphy at the time. For the 1985 festival, they set up a radio station in what was then the Imperial Hotel (now the Local bar). The radio station was run very successfully for two weeks. “It couldn’t have happened at a better time because it was a really rough two weeks with the weather and the festival programme kept changing as a result. We used the radio extensively to broadcast these changes to the people,” he said.
The station was again up and running that Christmas, becoming ‘Claremorris Radio’. At the start of 1986, they made the move towards a full-time station, calling it ‘Happy Radio’. Unfortunately, Eamon was in a serious accident after that and ‘Happy Radio’ was put on hold.
When he was back to himself again, he re-started a station, which became known as ‘Radio Mayo’. By then, they were boldly operating from a shop unit in Claremorris (where Richard Finn’s office is now situated). “We were very brazen, we even put up signs over the door and painted them red and green. We even had a phone line, I remember the number because it was very snappy – 71156,” he recalled.
To this day, Eamon still feels very strongly about pirate stations and is adamant that a lot of the pirate radio stations are much better than the licensed stations. “The pirate stations are afraid to do something wrong so they’re so careful as a result,” he opined.
Neither Johnny nor Eamon are fully convinced that an array of community stations is the way forward. Eamon believes that the county would be better served with an actual Regional Community Station for Mayo, rather then a series of small community stations. He feels that it should be the same size and have the same capability as the local commercial radio station, MWR.
“It is my belief that regionally it was all done hay-wire. RTÉ should be involved solidly in radio. I remember RTÉ travelling around to towns running community radio stations in the past. They were outside broadcasts for RTÉ. I think if there was just one community station in the county and each town could feed into it, it would be a better set up,” he opined.
Johnny Kirrane is in full agreement. Eamon has also talked to Séan Egan, of Knock Radio, and he assured the Western People that Séan is of the same opinion.
According to the three men, they have more than one reason for suggesting that one radio community station should serve the entire county. Firstly, they are worried that the communities may not have the capability to run a full-time station by themselves, especially since the majority of the workers would be volunteers.
In addition, Eamon voiced his concern over an abundance of stations taking to the air in Ireland. “With all these community radio stations coming on line, they’re using up too much of the FM band, which at the end of the day is only from 88 to 108.”
The men see many difficulties with Community Radio at present and believe that the music guidelines are far too restrictive. “The distinct advantage that commercial radio has over you is that people love to listen to music, they’ve been doing that since they were banging on logs with sticks a million years ago, they love rhythm. The overall criteria set down for community radio is too restrictive,” voiced Eamon.
However, although they do see problems emerging with community radio across the board, they continue to be very committed to the cause and will be striving to make the week-long radio schedule packed with fun and exciting programmes. “I think the main problem is the restrictions on music programmes and if we can’t have as much music as we want, the other programmes have to be really, really good in order to get people interested. Who knows what the future holds? For now, we just have to keep the listeners entertained,” concluded Eamon.