THE RADIO 4U STORY
Radio 4U was a Donegal-based pirate radio station with an intended service area of Derry city which launched in June 1987. We are indebted to station owner Patrik Garten for the following autobiographical account…
When I lived in Germany everybody called me crazy. Now people only say: “Don’t worry, he’s from Germany”.
For me, radio started some time in 1971 when I was seven. After I got my first transistor radio, life was no longer the same; and that very receiver was never switched off for the next 20 years.
I was eight when I gained my first experience with electric gear, setting up my massive electric model railway, until then my dad’s privilege.
It seemed there was only one goal for me: getting into radio. Soon I started my first attempts at creating my own radio plays, took tape recorders out on the streets to interview people (“do you believe in God?”) and tried to impress granny with my (butch) DJ voice.
This is where my friend Wilfried Fritz (Willy) comes in. We are both the same age, but, already as a child, Willy was an electronic genius. Soon we attempted to use the sparking nature of car ignition coils for radio transmissions; an attempt bound to fail.
Nevertheless, the first working LW transmitter left Willy`s production line in 1975, and only two months later we were proud eleven year olds, stocked up with self-built FM transmitters.
Now, Germany is a country where you can get your hoover closed down for illegal broadcasting if it causes interference with your neighbour’s television. Obviously, facing heavy fines, our parents were not too pleased about our excursions into radioland. Of course, this was not reason enough for us to stop, but certainly we were not in the best position to gain their support in this respect.
The next years were mostly spent with propping up the otherwise boring, and, at the time, government-controlled radio waves … always one foot in prison but, fortunately, never caught.
Those adventures could fill a whole book in their own right, stories about how to broadcast without a mixer and still get a great output; or our first 48 hours non-stop broadcasts; or how we pretended to have interviews, live via satellite from Bombay, which were in fact coming from the living room via the in-house telephone!
Without going too far from the main aim – to write about Radio 4U – I would still like to take the opportunity to describe my most favourite mishap which ever happened to me while on the air.
We were about 13 when Willy and I had a fairly regular programme called ‘The Ghost Hour’, which went on the air between midnight and 1am, usually from under a blanket.
The purpose of this semi-comedy was to inform listeners of the whereabouts of Count Dracula and his friends, sometimes using outside broadcasts. (Willy reported live from the other end of the room via CB radio pretending to be in the local grave yard.)
Now, Germany is a country where you can get your hoover closed down for illegal broadcasting if it causes interference with your neighbour’s television.
One night, however, with the programme in its final quarter, we told our audience that there was a vicious ghost in the studio and that we had to hide in the wardrobe in fear for our lives, verifying this by talking into an empty drinking glass!
At that moment the door opened and my father shouted: “That’s it! I’ll put a stop to this!,” meaning of course that we should switch off and go to sleep. But those ghostly words went on the air…..
Willy faded the next song in. We were told off and were ordered to pull the plug. So Willy hit a couple of switches:
“Is it off now?”
“Good, now go to sleep.”
Once he was gone I asked Willy to switch it back on.
“It’s okay,” he replied, “we are still on the air. I only hit some useless buttons.”
That kind of thing went on for several years and Radio Habi was always present, at church and community festivals, school trips etc.