When radio pirates roamed Fingal

When radio pirates roamed Fingal

by Jon Kavanagh

Ah, the 1980’s: Barry McGuigan thanking Mr Eastwood, Denis Taylor looking at the world through upside down glasses, a Geordie in a flat cap sparking soccer fever, Music Television USA and the proliferation of pirate radio stations across the land. Seeing an opportunity, Loughshinny man the late Brian Matthews, sets up CRF Community Radio Fingal (189 medium wave) in the Rockabill Hotel in Skerries. Brian, a natural broadcaster, assembles a motley crew to run the station. Soon, they build up a large, loyal listenership. In the innocent days before social media people love to hear a request played for them. Much to the embarrassment of my mortified mother (“Don’t be making a show of yourself!”, she urges), I begin penning onion letters to the station. In one such epistle I paraphrase Lincon to describe CRF as ‘A station of the people, for the people, by the people’. Impressed, Brian invites me to get involved and allocates me a Sunday afternoon slot to spin a few disks. In a Walter Mitty state of mind, I don my helmet, kick start my trusty Honda 50, load the white carrier box (a must accessory) with vinyl records and set forth to become the next Terry Wogan. Following a fire in the hotel, the station is now situated in Brian’s back garden. “The studio” is housed in a small shed that looks suspiciously like a decommissioned outside convenience. The equipment is basic: a couple of turntables, a standard cassette player and a mike resembling a tennis ball that has been chewed by a bulldog. Like all pirates, CRF keep on the move in a bid to outrun Post and Telegraph officials who are launching raiding parties to seize transmitters. Broadcast locations include the basement of the old Quinnsworth in Balbriggan and the newly opened Castle Shopping Centre in Swords. New equipment including a small caravan for outside broadcasts is acquired as sister station Pulsar 98FM comes on air. On New Year’s Eve 1988 the era that demystified broadcasting comes to an end as all pirate stations switch off. You won’t be surprised to hear I didn’t become the next Terry Wogan. But thanks to Brian and the golden age of pirate radio I go on to work in licensed community radio.

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