Independent Radio Galway was a pirate station which first broadcast on April 15th 1978 on 199m. At launch the station was usually on air between 10am and noon, later extending to 11pm.
Station manager was Eamonn Geary and technical director was Tom O’Connor.
The station was first located in an attic in a courtyard on William Street. The station outgrew this space necessitating a move to a larger room over Garavans. The 199 metre aerial ran from the top of Glynns to the top of Gleesons. The studio furniture consisted of two tables, some chairs, the home-made transmitter, two turntables, and a few minor pieces of equipment.
There was some paid staff but most of the presenters were students and/or volunteers.
Their first experience of a raid was in June 1978 when their transmitter was taken, along with some equipment. However, they were back on air very quickly as they had a spare transmitter on standby.
The station ran a diet of music, chat shows and sport. Gerry Mulholland wrote the jingles for “Independent Radio Galway 199” and they were sung by the UCG choir.
The station eventually closed at 8pm on July 28, 1979 with the launch of RTÉ Radio 2 blamed for a huge reduction in advertising revenue.
During the closedown party on 199m, presenter Billy McCoy interrupted Brendan Shine’s ‘Do You Want Your Old Lobby Washed Down’, removed it from the turntable and smashed it over his knee. He informed the station’s listeners that he’d wanted to do that for a long time!
Tom Kenny In 1978, RTE was on strike for some time which meant the repair shop in O’Connor TV had nothing to do, so John O’Sullivan and friends built a 30-watt transmitter and this prompted Tom O’Connor, John O’Sullivan, and Eamonn Geary to get together and set up a pirate radio station called Independent Radio Galway. Their studio was in an attic in the courtyard behind Cahill’s shop in William Street, and when this space became too small, they moved to a larger room over Garavans, where Johnny Waldron’s Joke Shop is today. The 199 metre aerial ran from the top of Glynns to the top of Gleesons. Their furniture consisted of two tables, a few chairs, the home-made transmitter, two turntables, and a few minor pieces of equipment.
The station started broadcasting on April 15, 1978. In those early days, they were on air from 10am to 12 noon. Most of the staff were students, many of them volunteers but some were paid, and even though they were illegal, they paid their PAYE which Revenue accepted. Eamonn Geary was the station manager and John O’Sullivan the technical director. Most of the DJs had nicknames, Joe O’Reilly had a breakfast show; Tom Prendergast was known as ‘The Duke’; Caoimhín Mac Aodha was in charge of music and Marion Farrell had a magazine show; Mike Mulkerrins was known as “Paul Jones”, Liam Stenson was ‘Billy McCoy’; Áine Hensey read the news and did Irish language programmes; Mary Hyland was another newsreader; Kieran Muldoon covered sport; Brendan Dowling and ‘Tiny’ Walsh covered soccer; Tom Gilmore did country music and Chris Williams was also a DJ; Mrs Deirdre Manifold had a religious programme and she was allowed talk about religion but not about contraception, which was a hot topic at the time. One day, she started on religion but switched to contraception. The DJ simply switched her off and played music while she kept talking to no one except herself. The same tactic was used on Fr Robert E Lee when he talked too much.
Gerry Mulholland wrote the jingle “Independent Radio Galway 199” and the UCG choir sang it. It would be fun to hear a recording of that today. The broadcast hours quickly extended and went from 8am to 11pm. The content was mostly music, but there were a lot of discussions and debates, guest speakers, interviews, etc. People used the station as a messaging service. They were raided once by P&T staff and the gardaí, but they had a spare transmitter and were back on air within an hour. They had an inkling beforehand the raid would happen so two of the students set up a small table outside Matt O’Flaherty’s shop to collect signatures to “Save our Station”. A lady from Mervue was told that all their equipment would be taken during the raid and she said, “That’s terrible, you should call the gardaí.”
Another time, the transmitter was in an attic over Powells. The man in charge heard a warning bell and, thinking there was a raid, he opened a skylight, climbed out with the transmitter which was hot, slid down the roof on to a flat section, jumped a gap on to Taaffe’s roof and found a window there which he opened and went in. When the boys went looking for him, they found him drinking tea with Una Taaffe.
If a programme finished and the next presenter had not arrived, whoever was in the office had to take over the microphone. The news and current affairs team had occasional scoops and were taken seriously by the public. There was always great craic in the office.
When RTE 2 came on air, the advertising for Independent Radio dried up overnight and so, sadly, that station closed down on Saturday, July 28, 1979.
Our thanks to Liam Stenson for today’s photograph which shows Fionnuala Concannon, Liam Stenson, Mary Hyland, and Mike Mulkerrins in the studio.
Tap to enlarge
IRG was really the very first radio station in Galway to garner any attention in the late ’70s. Eamonn Geary, John O’Sullivan and Liam Stenson gave Galway City something new and exciting. It lasted a little over a year but had a lasting effect for the stations to come. Mike Mulkerrins (aka Paul Jones) was subsequently heard on WCCR a couple of years later.
The following recollections are courtesy of ‘Gruhn’:
It was the late seventies. I was 11-13 y/o. We used to joke that the I in IRG stood for “Illegal”.
Every now and then, the music would just stop. The station had been raided again. But the Guards must have liked the station. Seems they never took the transmitter. Only a couple of turntables. And who was the biggest sponsor of the station? The local electronics shop. They’d be back on the air in half an hour or so!
They didn’t hide the office. Encouraged people to come on down. Say hi.
They did a quiz show. Once a day? I think it was if you answer ten questions correctly inside a minute you win the prize. If you didn’t know a question you could pass and they’d ask another. They had more than ten questions. One day the questioning went in the following manner: “A low gap between two mountain peaks” “Pass” “To kick the ball to another player” “Pass” “Do well on exams” “Pass” “Try to get a date with a girl” “Pass” “Overtake in a car” “Pass” … I do believe the contestant won.
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