It’s August and this month on Radio Retro from Radiowaves.fm we’re going mad for Limerick, a county with a vibrant and unique radio heritage.
Every day this month there’ll be at least one recording from The Treaty County, along with other bits and pieces of interest.
As always your contributions are welcome and will help to play a part in piecing together the history of radio in this quirky and wonderful mid-west county which is situated in the province of Munster.
And what better place to start but with the first known pirate operator from Limerick, Jim O’Carroll. Jim ran CBS – the City Broadcasting Service, which ran for around 18 months from February 1934. It proved to be a huge success until the authorities put an end to it in October 1935.
On this piece of audio, Jim is with Éamon O’Connor on Big L and although the station itself isn’t covered, Jim’s knack for telling a story is a good indicator of why ‘The Pirate’, as CBS was widely known in Limerick, became so popular.
There’ll be more from Limerick on Radio Retro from Radiowaves.fm tomorrow.
Every town, every city, every county in Ireland has a character, someone who stands out from the crowd and who everybody in the community knows. Limerick has had her fair share; and many of those took to the radio mic. But only Limerick could have given us John ‘The Man’ Frawley. As unique a character as you’re likely to find anywhere.
In today’s Radio Retro we have John’s last show on Raidió Luimní from December 23rd 1988 in which he got very emotional at the thoughts of having to close the station which had played a major part in his life for a decade.
Raidió Luimní had also become part of the fabric of Limerick and John’s unique presentation had become renowned across the nation.
Anyone who’d ever heard his show had a story to tell and he even got a mention during this Billy Connolly appearance on an April 1989 edition of The Late Late Show (neither had realised the station had closed a few months earlier).
Elizabeth Cantillon: He was a great man. He is missed to this day.
John Hoffler: Listened to him every morning before school , and Walters wonderful world was a staple, he once got my gran to make him onion jam which he proceeded to eat on air lol
Daithi O’ Shanahan: Get up Madonna it’s time for school. Do you remember that Pat Egan on our way to Anco every morning? Your father, god rest him, was a big John the man fan
Pat Egan: He sure was Shanna.. I remember it well. The song “Here I go once again, with a suitcase in my hand” is forever in my mind, he used to play it every morning on his show
Daithi O’ Shanahan: …and the death notices, followed by “Thank god I didn’t know him or her” was another favourite.
Padraig Moc Ambrois: When the film Grease was at its peak and everyone was in love with the songs, some girl phoned into John requesting something from Grease. Of course John, understanding exactly what she meant but pretended not to, played Nana Mouskouri singing The White Rose of Summer! Then he played a song from Grease afterwards! Forever the ball hopper.
Continuing our series of recordings and features from Limerick today on Radio Retro we bring you the final 35 minutes of Raidió Luimní from the early hours of Christmas Eve in 1988.
All the pirate stations of the time were facing new legislation with vastly increased fines and a threat of imprisonment. The vast majority ceased by the end of the year, many with the intention of applying for newly-created licences.
Raidió Luimní was not the kind of station the legislators had in mind when the licences were due to be handed out. More’s the pity.
The station was set up by John Frawley in the late 70s, starting life as Radio Limerick. Frawley had been working the breakfast show for RLWE which had failed to return following a raid.
He visited Mike Richardson at Big L and offered to do their breakfast show for no payment, instead funding would come through ‘mentioning’ offers from retailers, which he planned to manage and collect himself.
Mike Richardson recently told Radiowaves: “His style of presentation was not what I wanted at Big L and I felt there were more cons than pros so we parted company. “Frawley went on to set up Raidió Luimní and split the listenership down the middle. He created a phenomenon by reading the death notices out on air, it would never have happened but for him.” Asked if he had any regrets about not taking on Frawley, Richardson replied:- “No, none whatsoever. To be frank, I considered him a fucking idiot.”
We’ll have more from the straight-speaking Michael Richardson later in this series but for now, enjoy the final broadcast from the utterly unique Raidió Luimní.
On day 4 of our Radio Retro Limerick Special we stay with the closedowns of 1988 for another type of broadcast which was (as far as we know) unique to Limerick.
With every unlicensed station in the country (bar the odd rebel) either already closed or due to depart the airwaves by no later than midnight on December 31st 1988, in Limerick there was a one-off special broadcast to mark the occasion.
IRL was a chance for some broadcasting mates to get together, play some music, and reminisce. Involved were Francis Jones, Barry Sullivan, Ger Watson plus others.
The ‘station’ came on air at midday but we join the broadcast at 5.30pm, as they look to finish at around 6.30pm.
For our next recording from Limerick from Radio Retro, we stick with that fateful period at the end of 1988 when the country’s pirates all departed the airwaves as a result of new legislation.
We’ve heard both Raidio Luimni’s closedown from December 24th and the special one-off broadcast put in place for the final day under the moniker Independent Radio Limerick.
By our reckoning, there were definitely four (possibly five) other stations left in Limerick in the final few days as the deadline approached.
Two of them operated from the same building in the city centre – Radio Munster and Radio Vera. Mike Hogan wound down Radio Munster at 6pm on the 31st. He then popped in next door to wind down Radio Vera at 6.15pm!
Galtee Regional Radio (which returned post 1988) closed at 4pm on the 30th (there’s a snippet of their final moments on this page – http://radiowaves.fm/ire/radiowavesnews/the-pirate-closedowns-of-1988-part-4/).
Probably not last, and definitely not least, Power 98 closed at 7pm on the 30th. Formerly known as SoundChannel, Power 98 had been on the air for two years and had undergone a major format shift in mid 1988.
Today on Radiowaves.fm‘s Radio Retro we return to Limerick in our continuing series on The Treaty County and a look at the strange case of Radio Limerick One.
Radio Limerick One launched on October 28th 1989 as the first-ever licensed service for the area. The station had a fascinating and troubled history, which started just ten minutes into its launch when stormy weather knocked it off the air for a few hours.
The weird name was chosen because a second service was expected to be licensed for the area but this never materialised.
By 1992, under the new ownership of Ger Madden, they had rebranded to Limerick 95FM and moved into city-centre premises.
Unique for the time they also launched a sister service on satellite. This was to prove useful when in 1997 they were stripped of their licence for breaches of contract. Before they had departed the FM band as a licensed service, a relay of the satellite service which was now carrying Limerick 95 programming, had already appeared on 98FM! Naturally they denied responsibility!
They continued as a relayed service on FM in Limerick using the name Radio Limerick on Satellite.
Today’s recording comes from 1999 when the station had returned to its original name. It features Enda Caldwell sitting in for Ger Bradshaw on a Friday morning in July.
Enda, who was the station’s Head of Commercial Production and Imaging, speaks very fondly of both his time at RLO and of Limerick itself.
Enda on RLO:- “There was very much a Nova feel working with Ger Madden. He was employing around 53 or so of us and I made some great friends there.”
Enda on Limerick:- “Limerick was a city with a real homely feel. It felt very studenty in one way but like a large village or town.”
Enda on Ger Madden:- “Ger is highly intelligent; eccentric; a genius really in the vein of a Ronan O’Rahilly, occasionally Caryesque too in sackings!!! I think I got fired and rehired a couple of times in my year there!”
Enda on Limerick natives:- “Easy knowing Terry Wogan was a Limerick man…they have that lilt and humour and love that wit.”
Sticking with Radio Limerick One, today on Radio Retro from Radiowaves.fm we focus on Mike Richardson with a recording of him doing his own morning show and another with him being interviewed over the phone.
As mentioned already, as one of the most influential figures in Limerick’s radio history, we’ll feature Mike in greater depth later in this series.
Mike had left Ireland not long after the closedowns of 1988 but returned in 1996 when an opportunity to apply for a licence arose because RLO were stripped of theirs. The bid ultimately failed and Mike ended up working with RLO owner Ger Madden, a relationship that was to end in bitterness.
Mike – who’s not shy about speaking his mind – has this to say about Madden in an online blog:- “The Madden Family made such a mess of broadcasting in Limerick after buying out Limerick Radio One in the 90s, courtesy of Ger Madden, who doesn’t merit a mention on this or any other page…
All research is our own and is always open to correction.
Continuing Radiowaves.fm‘s month-long focus on Limerick, today we look at another larger than life radio personality from the city: Gerry Hannan.
Gerry’s late-night phone-in show on Radio Limerick One was the stuff of legend and it rarely disappointed. He could turn his hand to any topic and he wasn’t slow about showing off his vocal ‘talents’. It was once severely disrupted by Galtee Radio listeners after Gerry called the country music station “rubbish” on air. (We will have recordings of Galtee later in this series so you can judge for yourself!)
His show was never far from controversy and he was reportedly dismissed by station owner Ger Madden in 2003 because of allegations made on the show. Hannan set up his own station, Easy FM but eventually returned to RLO only to be forced off the air again for a number of months in 2004 due to a court case.[http://radiowaves.fm/ire/radiowavesnews/2004/09/15/legal-problems-for-rlo/]
Gerry told us about a funeral of a listener he attended, a woman he had never met, and on the coffin was placed a picture of him and a radio. Fans of the show tended to be fanatical about it.
During Gerry’s time at RLO, the station were devastated by a series of raids over a number of years. They were also excluded from taking part in a licence bid for a MW station in Limerick on the basis that they had previously lost a licence. A MW station never made it to air – ironically, RLO would definitely have made it happen.
Gerry Hannan even campaigned to be elected so that he could bring his fight against the radio authorities to a higher level. The bone of contention was that Limerick, the nation’s third largest city, still only had one licensed commercial service.
On Radio Retro today we have recordings from two of Gerry’s shows which ran on subsequent nights. The first, on July 18th 2001, features a strong reaction to a report released earlier that day. The following night, when we join at 11.10pm, things are a little more sedate, although there are still some calls on the previous night’s topic. Our policy at Radio Retro is always to let you listen to our recordings ‘as live’, so we tend not to give you any details of what happened during the broadcast. But in the case of the second show, it is worth listening to hear how Gerry interacts with one of his female listeners on a call that would probably still be going now if they were not interrupted by the necessities of live radio.
Two very different types of call-in radio by the same presenter, on the same station, and on subsequent nights.
All research is our own and is open to correction.
We go back to the mid-1980s for today’s Radio Retro recording from Limerick.
City Centre Radio were a pop music station operating from Parnell Street. It had quite a professional studio set up and Will Leahy is known to have started his career at this station, which ceased broadcasting in 1987.
This recording is from May 1985 and features Ger Hickey on the air from 9.40pm. It was made from the station’s 101FM frequency.
Radiowaves.fm have just added these files to the Radio Retro archive of Irish radio in collaboration with Ian Biggar.
Our Radiowaves.fm special from Limerick continues with a look at the relatively short-lived pop music pirate Hits 954.
The station launched in Summer 1987 with Stuart Clark at the helm. Stuart had migrated from the hugely successful ABC Radio in Waterford, so knew what it took to make a radio station work well.
Hits 954 targetted the 15-34 demographic playing a diet of contemporary hit music. With stations at that stage widely using their frequencies as an identifier in their names, uniquely Hits chose their AM frequency despite also being available on 101FM. Most others tended to use their FM frequencies.
Hits 954 ceased broadcasting in April 1988 and joined forces with Coast FM in Galway. The Limerick transmitter was then utilised to relay the Galway-based station.
Today’s Radio Retro, in collaboration with Ian Biggar, features two recordings from the same day in July 1987.