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ABC FM

ABC Radio was a Waterford station which was on air from March 1982 through to the legislated closure of all pirates in December 1988

ABC Radio from Waterford ceased broadcasting at 3pm on December 29th 1988 in compliance with the new broadcasting wireless and telegraphy act.

ABC had been on air since running non-stop music tests on 729kHz on March 1st 1982. Station idents were added the following evening, with the official opening at 12 noon on March 3rd. At launch it was broadcasting from a caravan using a low-powered transmitter which only covered Tramore.

Some of the early names at the station included Andy Ellis, Stuart Clarke, and Clive Derek.

By October of that year, a higher powered transmitter was in place and the station were broadcasting on 101MHz FM and 1008kHz AM.

Andy Ellis (the first and last voice heard on the station) from on air in March 1982 – Photo: DX Archive

Increased coverage meant increased listenership and by Xmas 1982 the station had started 24 hour broadcasting.

By mid 1984 ABC had expanded so much that it needed to move out of its caravan base, into studios in Waterford’s city centre – its new home was located at 4 Arundel Square.

By the end of 1987, transmitters were now also covering Wexford and the station had moved location once more.

Just after 3pm on December 29th 1988 ABC Radio was no more. It was off air in order to apply for the new licence offered for Waterford.

It was unsuccessful in the licence bid but returned in the 90s as ABC Power 104FM.


Stuart Clarke gave the station’s history in Hot Press:-

It so happened that one of my old pirate pals, Kevin Turner, was home [Kent] following a spell on Suirside Radio whose star DJ was Eddie ‘Supersonic’ Coady, an Elvis lookalike who, aping the Kirsty MacColl song, worked in a chip shop. Mention his name to Waterfordians of a certain age and chances are they’ll quote Eddie’s “Supersonic, he is bionic!” catchphrase back at you.

Taking Suirside and Waterford Local Radio on in their own backyard would at that point have been suicidal, but Kevin reckoned a zero-budget station setting up in Tramore in time for the holiday season could make a killing.

Roping in two more friends, Andy Ellis and Clive Derek, who’d just come back from working on Israeli offshore pirate, the Voice Of Peace, it was worked out that if we pooled together the gear we had and each chipped in £250, the project was a runner.
It was thusly that in January 1981 [1982?] a red Mk 1 GT Cortina and a Morris 1100 containing four wannabe radio station owners and a junk-shop collection of old record players, tape machines, mixers and World War II-era transmitter parts rolled into Tramore.

Needing somewhere high on the hill above the town to broadcast from, we went on a scouting mission and spotted a rundown mobile home that Dick, the owner of the neighbouring Buywise Carpet Warehouse, rented out to holidaymakers whose circumstances were as reduced as our own.

With two tiny bunk rooms, we’d found somewhere to not only broadcast from, but also live in, for a mere £75 quid a week. No matter that the plumbing was confined to a cold tap outside, ABC Radio was in business. Incidentally, the reason for calling ourselves ABC was that we had a set of jingles from New York’s famous WABC that it was possible to remove the ‘W’ from with the judicious use of an editing block and a razor blade.

By the time broadcasts commenced on March 3, the ABC boss jocks were dirty to the point of being biohazards and down to their last 20 quid. The Hunger Strikes having only ended in October 1980, we weren’t sure how the good denizens of Tramore would react to a radio station run by four English blow-ins of dubious moral standing but, god bless ‘em, they loved us.

Well, mostly. There, at the time, being a three-year waiting list for new phone lines, listeners had to walk up the hill and knock on the caravan-door if they wanted a request played.
This all went swimmingly until one day when I was presented with a little old lady who said, “It’s great that the young people of Tramore have something to listen to. Just one little thing; why don’t you play ‘The Angelus’?”
I couldn’t for the life of me fathom why my “I’m sorry, but we don’t have any of their records” reply elicited such a negative response from the OAP in question.

Kevin had given us a crash course in how to pronounce Irish names, but I still made a complete first-day balls of Dearbhla (Dee-arr-ber-her-la), Siobhán (Sigh-oh-barn) and Caoimhe (Car-o-im-he). It’s 34 years after the fact, but I’d like to apologise to renowned local tradsters Bodhrán for making an unintentional mockery of their name.

Kevin, Andy and Clive’s previous radio experience, and having Nova to cadge ideas off, meant that ABC sounded pretty damn shit hot. We were certainly a lot more down with the kids than Waterford Local Radio whose primetime presenters included Sister Eucharia, and more technically savvy than Suirside – who had some great DJs – but audio of the two soup cans tied together with string variety.

When towards the end of 1981 [1982?] our mast was cut down, it was a DJ we’d sacked for stealing records that wielded the hacksaw rather than one of our competitors who had no interest in triggering a pirate war that would cost us all dearly.

Like Chris Cary, we were more interested in what sounded good on the radio than was in the charts, with John Ratcliff’s ‘Kerry Girl’, Loverboy’s ‘Everybody Working For The Weekend’, Michael Franks’ ‘Rainy Night In Tokyo’, .38 Special’s ‘Caught Up In You’, Toto’s ‘Africa’, Auto Da Fe’s ‘November November’, Wah Heat’s ‘The Story Of The Blues’, Steve Miller’s ‘Abracadabra’, J. Geils Band’s ‘Centrefold’, Quaterflash’s ‘Harden My Heart’ and Bertie Higgins’ ‘Key Largo’ (“We had it all, just like Bogie and Bacall…”) among the 7” singles we wore smooth.
One of our stranger A-List picks was The Wolf Tones’ paen to the Irish founder of the Argentine navy, ‘Admiral William Brown’, which was played during the Falklands War to demonstrate that we weren’t flag-waving Little Englanders. Had Margaret Thatcher found out, I’m sure we’d have been done for treason.

In addition to my weekday 7am-10am breakfast shift, I bagged myself the Wednesday night rock show, which organised a mini listeners’ outing to Dalymount Park in August 1983 for Black Sabbath’s Kings Of Rock gig with Mötorhead, Twisted ‘Fucking’ Sister and Anvil whose ‘Metal On Metal’ was a caravan favourite. On the Irish front, we couldn’t get enough of Sweet Savage, The Mama’s Boys or Neuro, a Waterford outfit with a penchant for Bowie’s Berlin trilogy who Phil Lynott took a shine to.

At first, I was fastidious about getting up at six o’clock to ensure that I was in super-chirpy waking the-Southeast form, but after a few months I’d leave it until two minutes to seven before semi-nakedly crawling out of my bunk, and had to wait until Andy read the news at eight for the chance to stick a pair of trousers on over my Y-fronts. Thank God there weren’t studio webcams back then…

I left Tramore in 1984, but ABC kept broadcasting right up until June 1988 when the new Radio and Television Act – boo! – spoiled the party. By then they’d moved into Waterford city centre, bought themselves a motherfucker of a medium-wave transmitter and joined Nova, Sunshine, South Coast, ERI, Coast 103 and Q102 as one of the aggressively commercial superpirates who didn’t win a licence because they didn’t have any church, GAA, Macra na Feirme or Chamber of Commerce members on the board. Yep, it’s nearly 30 years later and I’m still bitter! 

ABC Radio’s Timeline

Frequency Logs

Anorak Facts

Much more on ABC Radio can be found at The DX Archive

Information resource: Mike Wilson

radiowaves / radioanoraks.com 2019

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