Radio Nova: Part 2 – Chapter 04

These were great times when radio was fun and the music was the star.

Gerry Lang

The home of Energy 103 was 144 Upper Leeson Street, located in the heart of the southside of Dublin city.

Courtesy of DX Archive

The street, or perhaps more accurately the type of people you’d be likely to encounter on it, was made famous to a worldwide audience thanks to a song by local band Bagatelle.

The premises, owned by Chris Cary’s Uniminster Limited, had earlier been used for the FM optout for Dublin Today when the first NUJ strike had been settled at Radio Nova. Shortly afterwards it became the home of Magic 103, the ill-fated easy-listening service.

As Radio Nova was closing the equipment in the building, originally bought to set up a broadcasting school, was used to launch Zoom 103, which lasted just six days before being put off the air by the Nova receiver.

A month later Energy 103 was launched and, thanks to a colourful logo emblazoned across the front of the building, nobody was in any doubt about what was going on inside.

Thanks to Mike Mahon (text and photos) we can take a detailed guided tour through the building.

The Energy 103 building was four stories high. On the ground floor was the reception area and a full production studio, which people walking by outside could see into.

Lisa Moreau in Energy 103’s reception area

Pat Courtenay was in charge of production and Lisa Moreau was the receptionist and she also looked after all the commercial scheduling.

The Production Studio

On the first floor there were two big offices – one belonging to Sybil Fennell who was the overall manager of the station.

Sybil Fennell in her office

The other office was for the Sales team, Alan Murphy and Alan Graham. Joan Mythen also used that office as she did the accounts and wages every week.

Joan Mythen

This was also where the mini phone exchange box was kept, bringing all the different phone lines into the building.

On that first floor there were also the toilets and a little kitchen.

On the third floor was a small record library which I was working on reorganising.

Alan Burns pictured in the record library

That floor also had the large newsroom which was at the front of the building looking out on to Leeson Street. There was a wire service printer linked up to the Press Association and the rest of the news was gathered from the Teletext and Ceefax service on TV. There were also radios hooked up to cassette recorders so that they could record the news from other stations like RTÉ in case they had any stories that we didn’t have.

The Newsroom

The fourth/top floor of the building had a small soundproofed newsreading booth (below), and the main on-air studio.

The studio had carpets on the walls for soundproofing and a large transmission mixer desk with record turntables and eight Sonifex audio cart machines.

Tony McKenzie in the on air studio

The back wall of the studio was covered by a shelf system where all the music carts were stored.

Cassidy Jones in the on-air studio

Right at the back there was a small room filled with the transmission equipment, in particular the microwave transmitters which sent the signal up to the main transmitter mast which was up in the Dublin mountains.

October 1986

A new winter schedule begins on October 28th:
Midnight Liam Quigley
6am Gareth O’Callaghan & Cathy Quinn
10.30am Gerry Stevens
3pm Colm Hayes
7pm John O’Hara
Saturdays
6am Richard Cooke
9am Colm Hayes
Midday Rick Dees
4pm Gerry Stevens
8pm Tony McKenzie
Sundays
6am Richard Cooke
9am Derek Jones
Midday Gareth O’Callaghan with Euro Top 40
3pm John O’Hara
6pm Tony McKenzie

The News team are Sybil Fennell, George Long, Teena Gates and Michael Lewis.

A new programme called ‘Black Friday’ commences from 7pm to midnight on Fridays. All artists featured are black.

November-December 1986

Noel Collins and Derek Flood are new to the station.
Departures include Gerry Stevens, Richard Cooke and Derek Jones.

On December 20th Energy put on an event for disadvantaged children and distribute toys and games collected following an appeal.

January 1987

Promos are heard for ‘Energy AIDS Awareness Week’ coming soon.

Promos are also heard for an Energy logo design competition.

Heavy snow in the middle of the month leads to ‘Snowline’ being activated in which the station heled out listeners with advice and regular updates.

Energy were off air on FM for a period towards the end of the month whilst a new transmitter was being installed.

February 1987

Energy launch their own version of the three songs in a row phone in competition which ran in the past on both Radio Nova and Kiss FM. The prize money up for grabs is £10,000. In this version the twentieth caller to call in after they play the three songs each week gets a chance to open one of 25 envelopes. One of these contains the £10,000; one contains a booby prize and the other 23 have a selection of prizes to be won. As each envelope is opened it is removed, giving the next winner an increased odds chance to win the big money.
The three songs are Hot Chocolate ‘You Sexy Thing’, Madonna ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ and Sly Fox ‘Let’s Go All the Way’.

‘Phone Fun’ is also running whereby the station randomly call a telephone number and if the person answering says: “Hello, you must be from Energy 103” then they win the prize pot. £100 is added every time somebody answers differently – with a maximum prize of £30,000.

Also running is ‘Seek and Collect’ in which clues could be picked up from the station’s main advertisers throughout the day and these eventually lead to a set of keys for a brand new Peugeot 205 car.

Instant Replay is another call-out competition in which £10 is awarded for each song named in reverse that has been played up to that point.

In the lead up to the General Election a threat to blacklist politicians and political parties from RTÉ airtime if they advertise or speak to the pirates proves very effective. A spokesman for Energy confirms that they had carried absolutely no political advertising.

Present line-up is Midnight:
Alan Burns / Derek Flood
6am Gareth O’Callaghan
10am Tony McKenzie
3pm Colm Hayes
7pm John O’Hara

Liam Quigley has departed the station.

Promos run looking for new presenters and newsreaders.

In a first for radio Energy 103 launch a week-long ‘AIDS Awareness Week’. Each hourly news bulletin is followed by an AIDS information bulletin. Also running are interviews with leading medical experts and lots of advice to combat the disease.

March 1987

Mike Mahon makes the step up to part-time weekend presenter and Newsreader Michael Lewis departs for RTÉ Radio 2.

April 1987

Newsreader Fionnuala Sweeney makes her debut on the station.

Derek Flood has departed.

The Phone Fun jackpot has not been won by month’s end and the jackpot is now over £9.000. The station call people randomly and if they answer the phone with the words: “I love Energy 103” they win the prize amount. If they don’t another £100 is added to the pot.

I didn’t realise Fionnuala used her real name on the airwaves. When did she change to Lisa Moore?

Billy Dane

Chatted her up at a party many, many moons ago – she was a friend of a friend! Let’s just say she ended the news bulletin immediately!

Ronan Segrave

May 1987

Energy 103 celebrates its first birthday all month and every Thursday gives away lots of prizes to listeners. Random dates are read out over the air and if a listener rings in whose birthday matches the date they win a prize.

An ESB strike in the first week of the month knocks the station off the air for long periods.

Colm Hayes departs to join RTÉ.

Liam Coburn is new to overnights. John Power is another new addition.

Pat Courtenay takes over the Breakfast Show from May 4th.

Joining Pat on News and other items is Lisa Moore. Up to this point, Lisa had been using her real name – Fionnuala Sweeney.

On May 25th another addition to News and the Breakfast Programme is the return of the familiar tones of Bob Gallico.

Energy 103 is advertised for sale in an American trade magazine.

Over the course of the month the station name migrates gradually to Energy Power 103.

The present line up is
Midnight Liam Coburn
6am Pat Courtenay
9.30am Alan Burns
Midday Tony McKenzie
3pm Tony Allan (who departed mid-month)
7pm John O’Hara
Newsreaders are Bob Gallico, Sybil Fennell, Lisa Moore, Teena Gates and George Long.

June 1987

At the start of the month medium wave power is turned down and announcements are made saying that the station are seeking a new AM transmitter site.

Later in the month it is revealed that major investment in the station from America will lead to new transmitters and towers being installed.

John Power has departed.

George Long and Teena Gates have also departed.

Alan Burns also leaves the station and his place on mid-morning is taken by Brian Clarke (Ernie Gallagher in disguise).

Present line up:
Midnight Liam Coburn
6am Pat Courtenay, Bob Gallico and Lisa Moore
9.30am Brian Clarke
2pm Tony McKenzie
7pm John O’Hara

Never got why Energy added ‘Power’ and why Sunshine added ‘Hot hits’ or Q102 added “Super Q” I always thought it sounded a bit tacky. A bit like putting a GT badge on your base model 1984 Escort.

Colm Mooney

American influence – in ’86 “Power” was the in word; every station was the Power FM, ‘Hot Hitz’ (spelled with a Z) was the other phrase in use. Funnily enough the ‘turbo‘ era had just passed.

Tom Colgan

Because Power 106 Los Angeles had beaten KIIS-FM. One reason along with a myriad of others. I liked the name change. I believed it to be POWERFUL while listening to it!

Enda Caldwell

As a former Super Q jock (pirate 99.4fm Dublin) I kinda agree but it’s all a selling point. Looks and sounds good to punters.

Tony Langsford
Outside 144 are Sybil Fennell, Tony McKenzie and Alan Graham, who was the advertising sales manager.
Comings and Goings

Part 2 Chapter 03: Comings and Goings

The Great Pretenders

Part 2 Chapter 05: The Great Pretenders