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Big M Community Radio - Castleblayney - Co Monaghan

864kHz - 954kHz - 1283kHz - 1359kHz - 1404kHz - 1413kHz - 1422kHz



Big M Community Radio was a long running station in Castleblayney which began in June 1979 and with a break in 1981, continued through until legislation at the end of December 1988.  By the time of legislation in December 1988, it was covering a large area of County Monaghan and across the border, on two MW frequencies of 864kHz and 954kHz along with two FM outlets.  There was an early version of the station called 'Big M Radio' which operated between 1979 and possibly 1981 in Bree, Castleblayney. It is not known when this first station closed, but there was a gap until the summer of 1982 when 'Big M Community Radio' commenced broadcasts.  A nice description of this early station, including the lineup, can be read in the letters below from 1979 and 1980, which are by kind courtesy of John Dowling and Ian. The 1979 letter confirms the frequency of 1283.4kHz, announced as 234m.

      A 1979 QSL Card by kind courtesy of John Dowling
received from the original Big M Radio.
The actual frequency was 1283.4kHz, announced as 234m.

      A 6 page letter sent to John Dowling from
the transmitter engineer on the original
Big M Radio in August 1979.
It includes a description of both the
transmitter, aerial system and coverage area.
There is also mention of an FM outlet on 100MHz.

(Click image for a pdf of the full letter - Size is 4.5MB)

     A letter sent to Ian from the original
Big M Radio in October 1980 which
complements the technical one received
by John Dowling in 1979.
This letter describes more on the programming side.

(Click image for a pdf of the full letter - Size is 600kB)

Big M Community Radio had re-appeared by the Summer of 1982. The earlier operation may have been resurrected due to the out of town Radio Carousel opening an optout station in Castleblayney during early 1982. That Radio Carousel optout only lasted a short time and the transmitter was then understood to have later moved to the border area near Carrickcarnan, in order to better cover Newry. The 'New' Big M Community Radio operated until legislation in December 1988.

Ian recalls his time on Radio Carousel in Castleblayney, and athough he didn't actually work on Big M, his memories help to piece together the link between the old and new Big M's

'After leaving Boyneside Radio in March 1982, I was looking for some work to keep the wolf from the door. My friend and colleague Eric Vaughan suggested that I try Radio Carousel in Navan. So, I recorded a demo in the Boyneside studio and dropped it in to a contact that Eric knew. Within a couple of days I got a call from, I think, Tony Farrelly asking me to join Radio Carousel in Navan. That is a story in itself, but for this I would like to cover my time with the Carousel station in Castleblayney, County Monaghan.
I was a little wary of working so close to the so called “Bandit Country” just a few miles across the border in South Armagh. However, I was assured by Eric that there would be no problems.
The station was already on the air relaying the output from Dundalk on 1062 khz. The transmitter and aerial were located just outside the town at the Big Tom recording studios. The output was probably around 400 watts and probably built by Bill Ebrill. This location was where the original Big M was located in the 1979/80 period. I was to find out the connection when I was introduced to Tommy Toal (aka Fat Sam) who would be presenting a morning programme on Carousel. Tommy was the main man behind the first Big M and was one of the pioneers of local community radio in the area.
The studios were in a room in the Big Tom building. Eric, Tommy and myself would present the bulk of the days programmes, with Hugh Hardy coming across from Dundalk for the first week to present his “Hugh Hardy Special” in which he would give away 100 to a lucky listener. I remember one lady who was doing well and getting further in the quiz than Hugh expected. This was the Tuesday and he planned to have a winner on the Friday! I can remember his panic as he rummaged for his “difficult questions” and managed to thwart the listeners progress.
The journey from Drogheda or Dundalk, depending on where we were, was for me always worrying. There was a route from Dundalk to ‘Blaney that did not necessitate crossing the border, but it added quite a bit on the journey. Eric was always more interested in the direct route which involved crossing into the North through an RUC checkpoint and after a few miles through South Armagh, crossing back into County Monaghan through another checkpoint. Of course this was during the height of the conflict and checkpoints were always vulnerable to attack. Although the chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time were slim, it did worry me.
I spent several weeks travelling to Castleblaney, but Hugh’s focus seemed to go back to Drogheda and Eric and I were then sent to be part of the live programming from the Boyne Valley Hotel in the town. The transmitter on 1413 kHz normally just relayed the Dundalk station, but Hugh had decided to try again to establish the station in the town. I had left by the time the live programmes were terminated, probably around July 1982.
As for Castleblaney, Hugh had offered me the station manager job there, but I just felt uncomfortable being so close to the border. I was only 20 years old and had not yet sussed the area. Had it been a year or two later I probably would have accepted. Live programmes continued with Tommy, but he also left probably around July to re-start Big M along with Frank Morgan. The transmitter remained on air for a period, but was then re-located, perhaps to the border near Jonesborough, but I am not sure.'

A flyer advertising the return of Big M Community Radio in early 1982.
The frequency advertised was 1422kHz, but the station tried several,
including 1283kHz, 1359kHz, 1404kHz and 1413kHz.
By 1988 it had settled on the lower frequencies of 864kHz and 954kHz.
(Click image for more readable version - Size is 3.0MB)

A Big M Community ratecard from around 1984

A ratecard from around 1986 when the station was on 1413kHz only

A QSL Information Letter received in 1985

A letter sent to Ian in October 1985
And below two business cards with the different frequencies in 1987 and 1988.

A Big M Community Radio letter heading from when it was on 864kHz and 954kHz.
(Click image for a full version of the A4 letter paper, including footer. Size is 5.1MB)


Big M Community Radio Audio Library

1982_07_26_mon_bigm_1359am_1538-1626_juniorwalker-gh108.mp3 New Dec 2023 An early recording of Big M Community Radio from Monday afternoon 26th July 1982.  We are not sure of the first deejay, but Junior Walker takes over at 4pm.  The cassette notes the frequency as 1359kHz, but announcements are for 1422kHz / 211m. The tape is not good quaility and there is a lot of warbling on the audio in places. Recorded local to Castleblayney. 42MB
1985_04_15_mon_bigm_1035fm_0830-1030_airchecks_gerrydee_frank-ai.mp3 New Jan 2024 Airchecks from the breakfast show with Gerry Dee on Monday morning 15th April 1985, followed at 10am by Frank.  Recorded from 103.5MHz originally by kind courtesy of Kieran Murray.  The station was announcing 1400kHz, 88MHz and 103.5MHz at this time. 64MB
1985_04_15_mon_bigm_1035fm_0959-1045_gerrydee_frank-gh110.mp3 New Dec 2023 Overlapping the above recording from Monday morning on 15th April 1985, with the last link from Jerry Dee at just before 10am and followed by Frank.  Recorded from 103.5MHz originally by kind courtesy of Kieran Murray. 64MB
1985_04_15_mon_bigm_1035fm_1510-1556_alanhayward-gh110.mp3 New Dec 2023 An afternoon show on Monday 15th April 1985 with Alan Hayward.  Recorded from 103.5MHz and originally by kind courtesy of Kieran Murray. 64MB
1985_05_29_sun_bigm_882fm_1928-2040-ds.mp3 New Dec 2023 An extract from a Sunday evening show from 29th May 1985.  We are not sure of the name of the presenter.  Recorded from 88.2MHz local to Castleblayney and is courtesy of Dave Small. 34MB
1986_05_06_tue_bigm_1413am_0900-1035_overnight_tape_owenbarry-gh601.mp3 New Jun 2021 The last part of an overnight tape, and then following a large number of commercials, Owen Barry takes over live at around 0950. Recorded near Blackpool from 1413kHz, whch was putting out a good signal at this time. 85MB
1986_11_20_thu_bigm_954am_1245-1415_juniorwalker-gh857.mp3 New Jun 2021 Some early afternoon programming from when the station had moved to 954kHz.  Junior Walker hosts until 2pm and announces that the phones in the area were broken. News is read by Elizabeth Porter. Recorded near Blackpool from 954kHz.  The audio is a little distorted. 85MB
1986_12_01_mon_bigm_1037fm_1354-1529_juniorwalker_patrice-gh460.mp3 New Jul 2021 The end of the Junior walker show, who is followed by Patrice at 2pm.  Recorded from FM on 103.75MHz. There is some crackling and a bit of distortion on the recording which is in mono. 105MB

The original Anoraks Ireland cassette labels for the 12th August 1987 recordings below.

1987_08_12_wed_bigm_99fm_0845-1022_gerrybyrne_gerrycallan-ai917.mp3 New Jan 2024 Gerry Byrne with the end of his breakfast show on Wednesday 12th August 1987. Gerry also reads 9am news, and Gerry Callan follows straight after.  At this time Big M was announcing 954kHz/1413kHz AM along with 99MHz and 105MHz FM. This recording was made from 99MHz FM in mono, and donated by Paul Davidson to the Irish Pirate Radio Archive at DCU, and forms part of the 'Anoraks Ireland Digitisation Project'. 134MB
1987_08_12_wed_bigm_99fm_1022-1110_gerrycallan_juniorwalker-ai918.mp3 New Jan 2024 A continuation of the above Gerry Callan show until 11am, when Junior Walker takes over. Recorded from 99MHz FM in mono. This recording was donated by Paul Davidson to the Irish Pirate Radio Archive at DCU, and forms part of the 'Anoraks Ireland Digitisation Project'. 67MB
1987_08_12_wed_bigm_99fm_1139-1227_juniorwalker-ai918.mp3 New Jan 2024 More of Junior Walker from Wednesday 12th August 1987. Gerry Callan reads the news headlines just after mid-day. This recording was made from 99MHz FM in mono and donated by Paul Davidson to the Irish Pirate Radio Archive at DCU, and forms part of the 'Anoraks Ireland Digitisation Project'. 67MB
1988_05_18_wed_bigm_864am_1653-1955_864_alanhaywood_john-kb-reel8.mp3 New Jan 2024 Four hours of Big M late afternoon programming from Wednesday 18th May 1988. Alan Haywood hosts until 7pm. John Kerr(?) carries on after 7pm. Bob Lee reads the news at 6pm. Recorded in the West of Scotland from their second AM transmitter on 864kHz.  There is some electrical noise towards the end, as well as some night foreign signals creeping in. 183MB
1988_09_18_sun_1359-1820_954_big_m_reel_15-kb.mp3 From Sunday 18th September 1988, Junior Walker signs off at 2pm, and is followed by the John Mcann country music programme. Recorded in Scotland from 954kHz.
1988_11_02_wed_bigm_954am_0905-1528_pauljones_boblee_junior_johnmcann-kb-reel17.mp3 New Jan 2024 Over six hours of continuous programming from Wednesday 2nd November 1988. The recording starts at 0905 with the end of Paul Jones breakfast show followed by Bob Lee until 11am. News is read by Eileen Carroll. Junior follows the 11am news and John Mcann is on at 2pm. Recorded in the West of Scotland from 954kHz.  There is are one or two dropouts and some slight TV interference and splatter from an adjacent station but otherwise good for the distance. 294MB
1988_12_19_bigm_954am_0935-1141_boblee_juniorwalker-gh780.mp3 New Dec 2020 Bob Lee followed at 11am by Junior Walker from Monday 19th December 1988. Recorded near Blackpool from 954kHz 118MB
1988_12_19_bigm_954am_1141-1351_juniorwalker-gh780.mp3 New Dec 2020 Recorded near Blackpool from 954kHz 122MB
1988_12_19_bigm_954am_1351-1551_juniorwalker-gh780.mp3 New Dec 2020 Recorded near Blackpool from 954kHz 113MB
1988_12_23_fri_bigm_99fm_2142-2312_brianjones-gh799.mp3 New Nov 2020 Recorded in Monaghan from FM 83.3M
1988_12_29_thu_bigm_954am_0806-0938_brianjones_boblee-ib.mp3 New Jun 2022 The penultimate breakfast with Brian Jones, followed at 9am by Bob Lee. Brian also reads the news at 9am.  Thanks to Ian for this recording, made from 954kHz in the West of Scotland. There is small amount of background interference and an unknown station underneath at times, which could have been be UK station Radio Wyvern on a winter skip.  Otherwise good signal for the distance. 85MB
1988_12_29_thu_bigm_954am_0806-0938_brianjones_boblee-ib.mp3 New Jan 2024 Late afternoon programming from Thursday 29th December 1988.  As received on 954kHz in the West of Scotland, where the signal started to deteriorate due to uk foreign interference and becomes a difficult listen. 58MB
1988_12_30_fri_0929-1100_954am_big_m_last_day_reel_23_kb.mp3 Recorded in Scotland from 954kHz 73,813k
1988_12_30_fri_bigm_954am_1345-1425_juniorwalker_johnmcann_final_afternoon-kb.mp3 New Dec 2020 Recorded in Scotland from 954kHz 44M
1988_12_30_fri_bigm_954am_2000-2130_final_night-gh799.mp3 New Nov 2020 Recorded in Monaghan from 954kHz 83.3M
1988_12_30_fri_bigm_954am_2130-2215_final_night-gh799.mp3 New Nov 2020 Recorded in Monaghan from 954kHz 41.8M
1988_12_30_fri_bigm_954am_2215-2300_final_night_to_closedown-gh799.mp3 New Nov 2020 Recorded in Monaghan from 954kHz 41.9M


More detailed history, memorabilia and recordings of Big M Community Radio can be found at :
radiowaves.fm (history)
radiowaves.fm (recordings)