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Today we live in a multi-media world. Somebody could have a thought, commit it online, and within seconds that thought could have spread across the world and within minutes. if that thought was worthy enough, a fair proportion of the planet’s population will have been exposed to it, whether on a mobile phone, a work PC, a laptop, IPad or…well, you get the idea.
The start of the decade we find ourselves reimagining is one where even landline housephones were yet to be a feature in every household. VHS recorders were still the preserve of the middle to upper classes, colour televisions were still a luxury, and the legislators believed that the radio listening audience should be satisfied with RTÉ’s Radio 1. RTÉ Radio 2 was still a baby, having arrived in a blaze of publicity in May 1979 as a direct result of a new breed of pirates broadcasting full-time, as opposed to the hobbyist, irregular broadcasters that were indicative of the radio scene up to the mid- to late-’70s.
In today’s world, news of a station having the impact that Radio Nova did would take minutes to spread across Dubin. In 1981 it took just a little bit longer – but not much.
The reason? Any, or all, of:- crystal clear FM output; a sound quality honed and finely-tuned by the meticulous perfectionist that Cary was; professional slick sounding radio previously unheard on these shores; professional presentation; and clutter-free programming where the DJs spoke only when required and a station that played the songs that Dubliners (and beyond) wanted to hear. Other stations in Ireland had had some of these qualities but none had possessed them all.
Almost overnight (and take it from somebody who was there) Radio Nova was blasting out of every shop doorway; factory floors were rocking to the new sound, and home listeners were seeking advice on how to retune to FM to get the full benefit of the listening experience. It was an incredible phenomenon that is really hard to imagine in this day and age. In today’s parlance, the new station went viral.
So, tasked as we are with telling the story of Radio Nova, where do we begin? [At the beginning? Ed]
Here’s a thought, why not start at the beginning. The problem with Radio Nova is that it has a history that is unmatched by any other radio station anywhere in the world – save the possible exceptions of a couple of offshore pirates, perhaps.
In attempting to tell the story decades later there are many places to turn to in addition to the personal memory banks. These range from those involved, those who wished they had been, listeners, rivals – all with their own personal slant on events ranging from the mundane to the monumental. As much as is possible our references originate from materials of the time which, although granting them immunity from the ravages of diminished mental capacity, naturally many of those are also not without bias.
Radio Nova closed – or was forced to close or was switched off – a total of six times in Dublin, some with a bang, others with barely a whimper.
It was ten years on the air – with a couple of lengthy breaks – and the first of those ten years was 1981. However, you have to go back a little further to realise the beginning of the Radio Nova story.
One man is synonymous with the name Radio Nova. It’s hard to mention one without using the same breadth to mention the other. Chris Cary – or Spangles Muldoon whenever he was at sea – was the driving force behind the success of the station. But it could have been so very different.
On the following pages, the station’s story is told in two ways. Chapter by chapter, in which the story is told organically, with the help of photographs; and chronologically with the help of press cuttings and recordings which originally ran as a social media special feature in March 2021. They should complement each other and we hope you enjoy both.
Before we begin we must give thanks to a number of people for their help and input:-
Gary Hogg from DXArchive.com, who went above and beyond digging out recordings and materials;
Kevin Branigan for extra research and contributions (and the many theories and anecdotes!!!);
Mike Mahon for extra research and input;
Tom Colgan for extra research and technical advice;
To Richie Wild, Joseph King, Mike Mahon, George Talbot and also all at DXArchive for the excellent photographs;
To Declan Meehan, John Clarke & Seán McCarthy for their contributions, anecdotes and help with clarification;
To all who took the time to message or post extra background information – special mention to Ronan Segrave;
To Barrie & Ruth (Anoraks UK), without whom so much of the Radio Nova story would have been lost in the mists of time;
To everyone else who contributed, thank you again.
The Radio Nova Story was researched and compiled from a number of sources and written by John Fleming…if you have any additions, memories, anecdotes, comments or corrections please send to RadioNovaStory@Radiowaves.fm
Listen to a jingle
Chris Cary was widely recognised as the smartest of the many smart operators active during the days of pirate radio in Ireland. He fashioned the sound of Irish commercial radio with Radio Nova, making it the most successful pirate station in the country. While there were controversies along the way, including a stand-off with the NUJ, his influence was enormous and he is regarded with considerable affection by most people in the radio business.Hot Press