Radio Nova: Part 1 – Chapter 15

Whatever his personal character foibles, and we all have some, with Chris we got to fly the Apollo.

Seán McCarthy

Listen to a jingle

To this day, 35 years after it was very ceremoniously removed from the airwaves, Radio Nova is still remembered with reverence by all who ever listened to it. No other radio station in Ireland has managed to replicate Radio Nova, where all the elements required to make a fantastic radio station came together in the one place at the same time. Others have come close, of course they have, but nobody else ever had a blend of every single one of the ingredients needed.

It, therefore, is a real shame that its legacy is a little tarnished by the events of the final months. Enough people who were there have testified that Chris Cary had become paranoid and erratic in those final months, his instincts which had always seemed to produce the right solution, the one that worked best, had deserted him.

The day he closed Magic 103 was the day he unleashed the beast. The NUJ, and one or two of the strikeforce, seemed to revel in their desire to destroy Radio Nova. It was obvious they were not going to rest until they’d achieved that (and in so doing putting quite a large number of people out of work, incidentally).

Big name departures didn’t help. John Clarke; Greg Gaughran; Henry Owens – those are the kind of losses you do not recover from. Constant shuffling of the schedules, most caused by circumstance, certainly didn’t help. People like the familiar. Being greeted by a different jock in the same timeslot every few days can be very disorientating, especially if listeners had taken a shine to any particular one.

Two of the big name departures - Declan Meehan and John Clarke at Nova Park
Two of the big name departures – Declan Meehan and John Clarke at Nova Park (Courtesy of Richie Wild)

Having spent a year wooing audiences in Britain and the Isle of Man, by the time Radio Nova remembered who their core audience was, many had deserted them. Old familiars and new kids on the block were to benefit from Nova taking their foot off the Irish pedal. The major new kid on the block was Q102, which was to all intents and purposes, Radio Nova in disguise – the problem (for Nova) was that it was the Nova of the past rather than the Nova of the present. They had launched at the start of the year with huge emphasis on their local investment and ownership – a clever move as it was the Nova audience they were after, and many of the Nova audience had been feeling disenfranchised. The people who monitored the opposition at Radio Nova may have missed it as they were probably listening to Red Rose Radio (NW England) or Radio Merseyside.

Despite all of this, Radio Nova still sounded good. Very good. And was arguably still number one in Dublin – albeit hanging on by fingernails bitten to the quick. The end, however, was nigh and when the station closed it went out in a blaze of gory.

Radio Nova in Blackpool
Radio Nova spent a year chasing British listeners to the detriment of the home audience (Image courtesy of DX Archve)

Listen to a jingle

July 1985

The planned radio legislation looks like failing yet again owing to opposition within the coalition government.

A new three in a row giveaway is advertised to take place before September 30th with a phone number in Liverpool to ring and £10,000 up for grabs.

All references to the UK are dropped from the weather, traffic reports etc. Although plenty are listening across the water, advertisers have been slow to take the bait.

Henry Owens departs; Stuart Vincent (Caroline, Laser) joins.

Magic 103 extend their evening hours with George Long now on air from 7pm to 1am.

Magic 103 appears on 1530kHz (199metres), and then shifts slightly to 1521kHz.

From Radio Nova, this is a recording of Henry Owens sitting in on the Breakfast Show for July 4th

August 1985

Greg Gaughran departs Nova to join Q102.

Aidan Cooney leaves Nova to join Sunshine Radio.

John Clarke and Ric Harris leave Radio Nova.

Paul Kavanagh, who recently joined Nova from Sunshine Radio, is now doing regular weeknight shows.

It is reported in the newspapers that a consortium is set to buy Magic 103.

On Friday afternoon, August 9th, link issues forced Magic 103 off the air until the following morning.

Greg leaving for Q made the papers – Q very happy to pluck ‘Nova’s darling of the afternoons’, iirc Greg’s move occurred during his holidays. Greg, now on Q, inadvertently called it Q103 on air.

Tom Colgan

September 1985

A new promotion involves somebody from the station knocking on house doors and if they can hear Radio Nova playing on the radio inside then the householder wins £50.

Another extremely successful outside broadcast takes place in a shopping environment, this time from Arnotts of Henry Street in the city centre. Both Radio Nova and Magic 103 are promoted with staff from each station handing out merchandise to anyone interested.
One of the prize questions on Radio Nova was: “What is the FM frequency of Magic?

Radio Nova and Magic 103 merge to cover the Nova 10k Puma Roadrace on September 22nd.

Later on the same day Magic 103 closes for the last time. Chris Cary calls it ‘The end of the experiment’.
Eight people lose their jobs and pickets once again appear, this time at Upper Leeson St.
According to Cary, the station was not making money.

As a result of the Magic 103 closure, Radio Nova could now be heard on 103.5MHz in addition to 102.7FM and 103.2FM.

Magic 103 presenter Peter Madison was on holidays at the time of the station’s closure and was unaware that it had closed.

News on Radio Nova is affected with just two newsreaders on the staff. Bob Gallico (7am-1pm) and Mark Weller (1pm-7pm).

For now, there is no news after 7pm or at weekends.

At the end of the month, Radio Nova release a statement claiming that the dispute had been settled and that they had conceded to the Union’s wishes. The Union deny this and state that the pickets would continue.

Magic 103

Part 1 Chapter 14: Easy Listening for Dublin

Apart from the Union, Again

Part 1 Chapter 16: Apart from the Union, Again