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THE 1983 RAIDS IN DUBLIN

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Further excellent reading about the 1983 raids, including numerous recordings, can be found at www.radiowaves.fm.  Here the story is told from a 'news' perspective as it unfolded during those few days in May.  As each paragraph in the story is read, a relevant off-air recording (news, announcements etc.) can be played from the day, giving the reader a real feeling of what it was like to have listened as your favourite radio stations were being taken away.



Personal Memories
By Gary Hogg


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The majority of the following text is from memory, and so some information may be missing or be slightly inaccurate after over 15 years in a less than perfect storage system!!  It is simply how I remembered those few hectic days during May 1983.

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I was working in Bradford at the time, and normally listened to Bob and Dekkie every morning on the way to work.  In this area, only Nova (then on 819kHz) and Sunshine Radio (531kHz) were audible in the car with any strength.  Away from the North West coast of England, Sunshine had been suffering problems with interference from a testing London traffic system on 520kHz, so I usually had Nova on.  The morning of Wednesday 18th May started just the same as any other.  However at around 10:10am I received a call from John Lewis, who was then staying with Anoraks UK in Blackpool, with the unbelievable news that Radio Nova was being raided by officials of  the Posts and Telegraph.   I attempted to listen, but the concrete building in which I worked, stopped most signals, including the one from Nova.  Half an hour later I got another call to say that the station had just left the air mid-record.

In fact, the officials had arrived at the Herbert Street studios at around 0930, expecting that all the transmitters were in the building.  They thought they would simply be able to switch them off.  Fortunately,  microwave links were used for both Radio Nova and KISS FM, to the transmitter sites at the Greenhills Country Club in Rathfarnham, and Three Rock Mountain respectively.  This gave the morning jocks chance  to announce that the stations would be leaving the air, giving them an excuse to play lots of jingles etc.  The officials didn't appear interested in the equipment at Herbert Street, and requested the keys to gain access at Rathfarnham (recently re-named Nova Park).  Perhaps they didn't realise they could have simply removed the microwave links to put both stations off the air.  The officials stated that they were going to cut the power to the transmitter sites, but were warned about the serious damage it could do to the large transmitters.  Station owner Chris Cary had the key, and so an announcement was put out over the air shortly before the news at 10am for him to contact the studio .  By 10:30, the engineers were at the site and the Radio Nova transmitters were switched off at around 10:40.   KISS FM carried on a little longer, as their transmitter was up on Three Rock Mountain, higher up the hill.

The Nova transmitters were housed  in portacabins adjacent to the aerials at the far end of the Country Club.  Also here was the rumoured 50kW transmitter and sections of a new and taller mast which the said transmitter would eventually use.

Under the supervision of Radio Nova staff, and the eye of the TV cameras, the P & T engineers spent most of the day dismantling and removing the equipment, which was loaded on an open backed truck.    Fortunately, the engineers from the P & T had not bargained on the vast amount of equipment which  they had to dismantle at the Radio Nova site.  In fact, the rumours were indeed true, and a 50kW transmitter was in the process of being installed.  News reports of the night on RTE Television showed proof of this.  It was later discovered that Sunshine Radio was also on the list for a raid that day, and the resulting delay at Nova gave Sunshine an extra day before a visit.

As I woke up on Thursday morning just prior to 0700, a very weak signal was audible around 819kHz, but approximately 1kHz off-channel.  On continued listening, I heard Bob and Dekkie back on the air as Radio Nova. (It was understood that this temporary transmitter was kindly donated by Joe Jackson, formerly of Sonic Independent Radio.)  Unfortunately work beckoned, but I left a tape machine recording 819kHz, as well as Sunshine Radio on 531kHz.   A phone call at 0930 that morning informed me that officials arrived at Sunshine shortly after 0900, and Robbie Dale was at that moment announcing that the station was now being raided.  The station left the air just after 09:35 with an emotional statement from station owner Robbie Dale requesting listeners to support them by coming down to protest at the Sands Hotel, Portmarnock studios, and also by writing to their T.D.'s.  Luckily the P&T apparently didn't get all the transmitters here, as there was a further FM transmitter at another location, which remained concealed.  This helped the station return several weeks later.  According to RTE news bulletins, Community Radio 257, just down the road from Sunshine, was also raided that morning.  Again I was frustrated by not being able to listen due to the concrete buildings at work. The Sunshine raid was announced on the 10am Radio Nova news, and Declan had played a special record for Robbie and Stella  shortly before this.  Radio Nova carried on with their normal schedule until around 1:20pm, when Tom Hardy announced that the station was to voluntarily close at 6pm that evening.  At almost the same time, Radio Leinster on 738kHz also announced they were to close.  (In fact Leinster was never heard again and their 1kW transmitter eventually turned up in 1987 at Independent Radio Mayo.)   Throughout the afternoon, further announcements were made on Nova, and a hastily prepared promotion from Tony Allen requested listeners  to congregate at the Herbert Street studios at 6pm.  By late afternoon, Herbert Street was full of supporters, and the Nova offices and studios were full of deejays and staff, including many from Sunshine Radio, who had been raided earlier in the day.  I left work at 5pm, and immediately turned on the car radio, but the weak signal was not audible. I sped home, and with 10 minutes to spare quickly tuned in to listened to what I thought would be the final minutes of Radio Nova. The weak signal by that time had all but disappeared under foreign interference, but I just managed to hear the emotional closedown with the crowds chanting 'NOVA' outside.

In Cork City, as the news of the Sunshine raid spread, both South Coast Radio and Radio ERI closed temporarily because of the uncertainty.  Equipment was stripped out of  the South Coast studios just in case.

Later on that evening, Radio West from Mullingar could be heard on 702kHz with a programme supporting the current radio situation.  Radio West were operating  with the former Radio Nova 10kW Gates transmitter and were the most powerful of the 'country' stations.  Possibly due to the threat of losing this transmitter, the station had decided to closedown at midnight.  From around 10pm that evening, most of the deejays were in the studio to each do a final few minutes and say their final goodbyes.  Radio West did indeed sign off at shortly after  midnight with the national anthem, although the studio microphone was left open for a few seconds afterwards.  With two stations raided in Dublin, and several having closed down for fear of losing equipment things were beginning to look bleak.

On Friday, we were expecting Radio Dublin to be next in line for a raid as they were the biggest station left on the air.  The station's defences had been improved by 'The Captain', and during the day, deejays from Sunshine and Nova turned up to support the station which was the longest established 'free radio station' in the country.   Perhaps the authorities were just happy to have got rid of the 'English influence' or were uneasy of the feelings they had unleashed in the general public, but for some reason, no more raids were carried out.  As a result most of the stations which had voluntarily closed, began to gradually return to the air.

At short notice we decided to take a trip over to Dublin to visit some radio friends and have a get together with some of the jocks involved in the raids.   After all, at this moment in time, no one knew what the future held for free radio in Eire.  I travelled to Blackpool on Saturday 21st May, and joined up with Barrie and Ruth of Anoraks UK and John Lewis.  We set off for the docks in the early evening.  As we waited to board the ferry in Liverpool, we noticed that music had re-appeared on 819kHz - Nova was back, but in what form?   I spent the night (or part of it) in the ferry bar with John Lewis and we enjoyed a few beers.  John had befriended some of the crew including Captain, as they knew him from his overnight shows on Sunshine and Nova, and they talked and drank until the early hours.  As a result, Johnny was a little worse for wear as we approached the Dublin quayside ready for embarkation.  By 0745 we were ringing the bell at 19 Herbert Street.  Scott Williams was on the air at the time, and let us in.  We spent a while talking about the events of the previous week, and found out that it was the deejays idea to risk going back on the air - after all it was their livelihoods they were trying to protect.

After a couple of hours at the Nova studios we headed for Portmarnock to hopefully meet Robbie Dale and find out his response to the week's happenings. He was indeed at home and we were made welcome, finding out first hand about the raid on Sunshine.  Shortly before lunchtime we travel travelled across the city to Nova Park for a look at what was left after the raid.  It was a particularly dull and miserable day, which was apt for the moment, as the photographs show.  There wasn't much to see really, as the place was deserted.  The portacabins were still there, and sections of the new taller mast were strewn on the ground.  We presumed the donated AM transmitter was in the portacabin.  We were not sure if the FM transmissions were from here, as the only transmitter left was apparently a low powered driver unit which was at  Herbert Street.  After leaving Nova Park we headed towards Dun Laoghaire , and passed the Radio Leinster studio / tx site on the hill in Sandyford.  The aerial mast was still up, but it was a little early on a Sunday morning to go visiting. Little did we know that this would have been our final opportunity to see Radio Leinster, as it never returned to the air.   We finally got to Dun Laoghaire just before lunch to visit some free radio friends who were just rising and stayed with them over lunchtime.  At 1:30pm we were all eagerly tuned to Radio Dublin to see what 'The Captain' had to say on the raids.  Needless to say his 'news' that day became a marathon, lasting for over 2 hours.  Johnny then contacted some of his jock friends and we managed to have a get together at the Queens Hotel in Dalkey.  As the drinks began to flow, several on-the-spot interviews were done for a possible documentary on the raids. This went on from late afternoon and into the evening.  Unfortunately we had to leave at around 8pm in order to catch the ferry back to Liverpool.

As we left the ferry in Liverpool at 07:30 on Monday morning, we quickly tuned to 819kHz to find Bob and Declan back hosting the breakfast show.  What would happen after 9am?  Would the P&T raid the station again? Would they raid Radio Dublin?  As it turned out, there was no further action against any stations at that time.  Whether the lack of  any action was due to the huge number of complaints to TD's and the consequent bad publicity for the government is not known.

A protest march was organised for that Friday, and was advertised on Radio Dublin (which had become a catalyst for the campaign) and many other stations.   The original march promotion produced by Tony Allen had to be re-recorded with Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) removed after the station said they didn't want to be named.  This was probably in case it prejudiced their case for a license (although it would be almost a decade before any 'legal' local stations were licensed)..

The march of Friday 27th May 1983 was understood to have attracted several thousand protestors, who supported radio stations around the country.  There were also floats from several radio stations.  The friends we had visited the previous weekend kindly sent us some photographs of the march which we were unable to attend.