2RN, Ireland’s first official broadcaster, was the forerunner of what we now know as RTÉ Radio 1. After a few weeks on test, the station began broadcasting on January 1st 1926 on 390metres MW from a studio and office at 36 Little Denmark Street (now the site of the ILAC Centre) in Dublin.
The first test broadcast took place on November 14th 1925 at 6.45pm when Séamus Clandillon, the 2RN Director of Broadcasting, announced: “Seo Raidió 2RN, Baile Átha Cliath ag tástáil”. (“This is Radio 2RN, Dublin testing”.) The test broadcast lasted three hours.
Continuous tests commenced on December 12th. These were a relay of London-based 2LO.
The station call-sign was originated by the British Post Office and the name 2RN was thought to be inspired by the last three syllables of the song title “Come Back To Erin”.
The station was officially opened at 7.45pm with a broadcast in Irish by Douglas Hyde, founder of the Gaelic League and later first President of the Irish Free State. Séamus Hughes was 2RN’s first announcer. The first Director of Broadcasting was Seamus Clandillon.
Dáil Éireann decreed by the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926, that broadcasting should be a state service, organised by the Postal Ministry and financed by licence fees, advertising and import duties on wireless sets and components.
Programming began at 7.30pm each evening when 2RN broadcast a “tuning note”, a tone to enable listeners to properly tune in their receiver. The station was on air for just three hours in those early days.
The early focus of 2RN was on music programmes, which were broadcast live. At the start there were no news bulletins or weather forecasts due to a lack of agreement with news agencies. Unlike Radio 1 today there were few speech programmes in the early years of 2RN. The first sponsored programme, featuring Euthymol toothpaste, was broadcast on December 31st 1927.
Just a few weeks after they commenced broadcasting the frequency had changed to 398m and by the end of the year they were forced to change again to 319m.
2RN left Little Denmark Street in 1928 and moved into its new headquarters in the GPO on O’Connell St. This meant that the station now had three studios.
Early reception of 2RN was difficult, especially if you lived more than twenty miles away from Dublin. Rather than increase power it was instead decided to operate a number of low-powered stations from different areas. The first of these, 6CK, opened in Cork on April 26th 1927. It turned out to be the only one.
2RN and 6CK became Radio Athlone in 1933.