Big L Radio Limerick The Real Story

Updated 22.20 pm 24th  July 2014

I guess it startedBig L Radio Limerick when I was approached by a Cork DJ and equipment reseller based next to the Metropole HotelBig L Radio Limerick in Cork, to enquire about premises to locate a Radio Station in Limerick. I had met him on a number of occasions to buy equipment I needed for my own Mobile Disco units, unfortunately I can’t remember his name, although he did put on a Disco Equipment show in the Two Mile Inn around 1974. Pete Brady another County Cork DJ was the resident DJ at the Grand HotelBig L Radio Limerick in Fermoy, who I had built a rig for in the early 70’s (for the HotelBig L Radio Limerick on his recomendation), and he was later to become involved in Big L Radio, he may have introduced me to the shop in MacCurtain st, I don’t know, put it down to old age and a failing memory, which might actually accountBig L Radio Limerick for some minor discrepancies, but overall I see it as the way it was, with a little insight from friends long after the actual events occurred.

After getting the residency for Poldarks off of Mike(The Rave)Mcnamara, I signed the lease for a shop in Ellen St. with Hal Lewis the estate Manager for Clancy/Lewis organisation who had recently purchased the whole block down as far as Ormstons Supermarket for £600, that’s right the whole block all 7 shops and the flats above for £600 punts. I say flats loosely, for the most part a new roof had been put on the block, but there was little by way of floors from the shops to the roof!  Anyway No13 had been a boutique of some type, not sure how successful it had been but there was a carpet and display booths on the left, and a stairway out the back to a loo and the basement, pretty much in a mess. The shop had given me the means to get my Disco equipment out of the house in Caherdavin, much to the delight of the family and I must admit myself. The shop, which I named Studio Sound, was a better way of doing businessBig L Radio Limerick with other DJ’s.

The basement was used for wood cutting and building Mobile DJ rigs and was pretty dusty and dishevelled for the most part, but I was quite happy working down there. I also built a new counter for the shop upstairs and also a display section for records I bought in from the UK(Golden Oldies on The Harrow Road, London), which did not interfere with my friend Patrick McKenna The owner of Stardiscs next to Cruises hotel, who I bought most of my regular records for the Mobile Disco, budget in those days was about 30-90 punts per week, depending on what was available in Ireland at the time.(not all UK releases were available).hence my own specialised Record Shop.

Following up on the request from my Cork DJ early in 1978 I asked Hal about the basement at number 12 which he said was available(Previously a hairdresser), and also about accessBig L Radio Limerick to the roof  which was available at no extra charge, I think we agreed to £15/week all in. This basement was in sharp contrast to mine at no 13, completely fitted out for hairdressing with it’s own door by way of a corridor to the street but no access to the shop upstairs, which was also vacant at the time. After 6 weeks of  occupancy without any action or contact from Cork I was about to pull the plug when I was approached by one of the Punters from Quinns Pub across the road, who asked if I was interested inBig L Radio Limerick a Radio Station. ………..Err no not really I had enough on my plate with the shop and the disco’s around the country, I had recently left Poldarks and was in negotiation with Roger Porritt of Durty Nelly’s Fame who had recently purchased the Bunratty Castle HotelBig L Radio Limerick(later Fibber McGee’s), which I had hoped to recreate a new dimension in Night clubbing in the area, with I must admit a determination to wipe Poldarks off the Circuit.

However it transpired that this person(Forgot his name…..again), this is startingBig L Radio Limerick to get embarrassing! And his friend Vincent were friendly with a Limerick guy currently employed in sales in one of the Dublin ‘Pirates’, who wanted to disprove the curse of St. Munchins, and be a success in his home town. I wasn’t particularly interested but after a couple of persuasive chats with the group from Quinn’s I decided that a meeting would be fine with no commitment. A couple of weeks later I was introduced to Hayman Harris nephew to the Great man himself, and we got down to talking about radio in Limerick of which none were broadcasting at the time. I did mention my Cork ‘enquiry’, and Haymans eyes lit up. “ why don’t we startBig L Radio Limerick a radio station before he does”. I replied there was no commitment on my side as I had been paying the rent for the past 8 weeks for no good reason, so why not give it a go.

I agreed to supply all the records, and build the furniture for the ‘Studios’ including the electronics as Hayman had nothing in this domain, what we didn’t have was a transmitter and antenna. We needed both so hayman came up with 800 punts (borrowed from Vincent I believe) to purchase a transmitter, in return for 50% of the profitsBig L Radio Limerick from advertising but no claim to any of the hardware/records or lease which I would take care of. This agreed I set off to England to purchase a transmitter,(Medium Wave), from god knows where.

Margaret Myself and Hayman in Studio 1 TX rack behind Hayman - Big L Radio Limerick

Margaret Myself and Hayman in Studio 1… TX rack behind Hayman. (This picture taken during the 60 hour non stop broadcast,before the Glass division was put in to create Studio 2)

I headed for my old stomping ground in London where the shops in the Edgware road were second to none for components, I had had considerable dealings with Henrys Radio over the years, and after a few enquiries found a shop called Lee’s Electronics who supplied short wave radio products to overseas customers in Arabia & the rest of the World.

Trying to buy a Transmitter was not easy.

The salesman in the shop was not at all co-operative virtually telling me to bugger off, as I didn’t have a licence(Ham), and he was not allowed to sell to ordinary plebs! After a prolonged discussion I eventually made some sort of friendship with Norman, (I was desperate), he eventually advised me that if I purchased a Yaesu 101e Shortwave Transmitter, with a bit of modification it could be dragged up to the lower end of the Medium wavelength with reasonable power from it’s 100+ watts, but not that he was going to help, he didn’t sell Transmitters to the general public anyway! I eventually purchased the said Transmitter ‘out the back door into church st’, for £650 and made my escape back to my transit box van with Irish plates and illegal booty,and made a break for the Ferry.

The first of 2 Short Wave Transmitters converted to broadcast on 194 Metres - Big L Radio Limerick

The first of 2 Short Wave Transmitters converted to broadcast on 194 Metres

Rosslare customs had always been a problem for me having had ‘duty free’ appliances taken from me before at this point of entry, so with the Yaesu tucked under the drivers seat I awaited the unloading onto Irish soil with total predilection of the consequences of carrying not only a duty compliant product on board but also an illegal one, I couldn’t afford to lose it and I certainly would have lost it had I declared it on entry! That day someone was watching over me the customs didn’t even want to look in the cab, when they saw the van was empty, not even a spare tyre they waved me through the depot, was I relieved or what!

There is an epitaph scratched onto the customer(prisoner) side of the customs office in Rosslare which reads:-

Please Tell my Son I died here waiting to get past this lot!

On reading it on more than one occasion(It was never removed for some reason) I often wondered who buried this poor forgotten soul. On the road back to Limerick I couldn’t believe my luck in getting past the Gestapo at Rosslare expecting to be run down at any moment by some flying squad detail from the port of lost souls, eventually Limerick came into site, but arriving back I was told that Capital Radio had already started broadcasting from a top floor somewhere at the top end of Catherine St and that one of the two Limerick newspapers, the Limerick weekly Echo, was telling it’s readers that it would be starting to broadcast it’s own station very soon. I had no idea the opposition was going to be sooooo big, I didn’t think we had a chance against the big guns, our Transmitter couldn’t even broadcast on any wavelength receivable by the radio listening Public.

Hayman had managed to contact two guys from the fledgling UL(not a Uni yet), who might be able to get the Yaesu to perform. They came and took it away and returned after a week saying it might transmit on 194 metres(some radios didn’t go down below Luxembourg on 208, but if it was to be 194 then so be it, a long way from the preferred 266 meters of the original radio London that our un-baptised tx was going to be called after!  I was told the antenna had to be a quarter wavelength of the proposed frequency which meant a height of 194/4= 48.5 metres, over 160 ft! The height of the building from the pavement was 50ft+ and I had a mast just 40 ft high on top, I was 70 ft short! According to the text books we could erect an inverted L, (how appropriate), of which the 70ft excess was  stretched to a house roof top towards Denmark St. This row of houses no longer exists. They would have been where the pedestrian car park entrance is opposite the old quarter, the car park then being the steel works of the O’Donnell family. The 70 foot of the ‘Inverted L’ was trimmed back to 50 ft, the remainder tied to the chimney of the house by 100 ft length of washing line!

I had no Dummy load capable of retaining the offered 100watts of power from the Yaesu so the ‘test’ broadcast was to be a direct connection to the inverted L and hope for the best. My roadie Joe MacNamara was asked to spin a couple of discs while the ‘engineer’ and myself attended to the antenna and Yaesu transmitter to get it right, fat chance.  With no SWR meter to check on the feedback from the Antenna(The voltage return that destroys valves if its over 3, ideally 1:1.5 is ideal) we later checked the SWR of the antenna was in excess of 1:10, which is why the valves blew after less than 25 minutes of broadcasting from Joe,(he never spoke a word) just 8 or so records including ‘Airport and 5705’ by the Motors. He was still playing records when we had to tell him that nobody was or could indeed listen to this first show, he didn’t want to stop ,I could see the disappointment in his eyes , but what could we do!

(NB.  I met Joe recently in Cruises St Limerick,(24th  July 2014), and during our brief encounter reminded him that he was the very first DJ on Big L Radio Limerick, quite some title, I hope he stays in touch?

What a disaster we did have a few chosen listeners to this broadcast(friends), how embarrassing, but they did report later that the quality was brilliant if extremely short lived , like listening to FM, so I was on the right track with the Yaesu instead of a home built Transmitter.(Most made in Ireland at that time Hummed like the Devil).but what to do now, nobody in Ireland had heard of the valves required(The Yaesu was a relatively new product on the market at that time), so the only option was to return to the UK to get replacements. Hayman had to go, I was way behind with my Disco contracts so the flight was booked, hoping that no customs official at Shannon would want to Know what the valves were for, at least his story could and did hold up, they were valves for a high powered Audio amp for a showband Public address amp a Dynacord Gigant but the valves weren’t remotely similar except for size, the Gigant’s  KT88s couldn’t broadcast past the volume knob….oops.

Hayman’s arrival back at Ellen St was eagerly anticipated, whilst he had been abroad the antenna had been lengthened and 6 earth rods inserted under outside toilet behind the studio. The previous earth had just been the domestic earth rod for the ESB supply. The SWR now measured 1:5 still excessively high but if we reduced the output of the Yaesu we might get away with it! So once again a night time launch approached, this time I just put an album on the deck, Chuck Magnioné I think and told NO-ONE, hallelujah the valves lasted and I had to put on side two, and then went for a drive in my Lancia to see how far the signal was going.

I headed out the Dublin road past Castletroy what a great sound! Then on past Castleconnell into the great unknown of Big L’s footprint, it didn’t last, the signal got swamped by Vatican radio at a Pub 2 miles short of Birdhill, but it was covering Limerick City, and that was enough For Now!

Just a Little exagerated - Big L Radio Limerick

Just a Little exaggerated…maybe

The Transmitter was gingerly switched off at 1 am that morning hoping it would remember to behave later that morning for the First day of Broadcasting. Big L’s Signal didn’t travel as far as Capitols footprint or indeed of RLWE now broadcasting from the newspaper offices with some kind of Rhombic antenna stretched all around the entire block that the Weekly Echo was situated in possibly 300ft or more in length.

Gerry played records in the morning not speaking very much and I took over at 1pm. The phone started to ring and I realised we actually had a listernership. Requests started coming thick and furious with comments like I haven’t heard that record for ages etc. etc. But soon dawned on me that I couldn’t do this on my own, Hayman didn’t want to be a DJ, just wanted to sell, that was ok by me. That Night I called my friendly DJ from The Grand in Fermoy and wondered if he would be interested in travelling to Limerick to ‘help out’.

Sure came back the reply, I was delighted Pete Brady was the most talented ‘live’ DJ I knew of, so now we had a chance against the ‘Big Boys’ on the block.

Pete Brady taking tea at Big L - Big L Radio Limerick's Ist Birthday Party

Pete Brady taking a tea break at Big L’s Ist Birthday Party

According to this article in the Limerick Chronicle  we had this ‘first’ broadcast on Sunday of that week in 1978, I presume Sunday 17th of July 1978? Almost 11 years after the closure of the original Big L Radio London on August 14th 1967.  Peter was to do the afternoon show whilst I did the morning slot.

This first schedule was to start on Monday 18th July?

The phone line in the shop at no 13 was extended down through the basement and into the stairwell of  No 12 so we could handle the phone call’s directly at the consul. I  wasn’t sure if we were going to be allowed to use the phone for ‘illegal’ purposes but whilst I was paying the bill we chanced it. Capitol we know were using the phone box 4 floors down in the road at Catherine St. to receive requests but this had obvious disadvantages, not the least that some stranger would be using the box to make a call, no mobiles back then, worst still somebody taking a request that never got to the DJ.

RLWE was a registered newspaper and had their dedicated telephone line, so we were all in it together so to speak, what affected one affected all.   By mid morning on that Monday I had probably taken half a dozen calls, all very complimentary over the choice of Music and the accessibility to make requests. By the time Peter arrived up from Fermoy about Mid-Day it was clear we had a hit on our hands. He went on the air at 1 pm and got up to his antics straight away cracking jokes and when school time was ending targeted the younger listeners to write in with poetry and drawings for our first competition.

Friends of Pat Mckenna at Stardiscs were encouraged to listen in, and the most complimentary of reports came from one particular travelling salesman, who whilst driving around Limerick in the following afternoons could spot the drivers listening to Big L, they were invariably doubled up in the front seat laughing their heads off with tears in their eyes ‘enduring’ this lunatic DJ/Teacher from the Cork College Of Commerce.

I have no recordings of Peters Shows which is a Big Loss, I would certainly rate him in  the same mould as Kenny Everitt (Big L Radio London and Capitol Gold London). By Friday morning post he had received over 120 letters/parcels from children entering this first competition, I can’t remember what the prize was but at 2.30 pm we got our BIG surprise.

I was in the shop at no 13 just after Peter had started when a stout and well groomed man came in followed by two Guarda. He asked if this was Big L to which I replied yes, I think he was amazed he could just walk in! He then wanted to know where the studios were, to which I enquired


Well you would wouldn’t you! But I didn’t like the Garda presence. He then said he wanted to have a ‘look’ at the transmitting equipment, to which I enquired “was this a raid”. He merely re-instated his desire to ‘look’ at the equipment!  I uttered something like you don’t have to treat us like children expecting a spanking I trust we’re all going to behave like grown ups.

Was I wrong, the minute I opened the door to the basement of no 12, he charged past me like a bull in a china shop, crashing in on Peter who was just announcing the next record’ Love affair’s Everlasting Love’ and chatting to his afternoon listeners which I guess could have been at least a thousand maybe more, even after only a week on the air! The Man in question was a Patrick J McNamara.the great Limerick historian, who had been commissioned by RTE to head the raid on Limerick specifically RLWE, but had been thwarted by their scouts who had information that they were going to be ‘Hit’. Being wiser to the then very basic law regarding the broadcasting act (which was hopelessly out of date), all they did was shut down the transmitter, thereby avoiding the confrontation that we were now having to endure.

Patrick was obviously not in a good mood when they found Big L was still on the air along with Capitol Radio, and as we were the nearest….. Without any care for Peter He immediately went to the transmitter, situated behind the presenters chair in it’s own rack and started to rip it out of it’s compartment without disconnecting any of the wiring!

I met him many years later (2004) through my political editor Sean Buckley for NCW 106, when he was preparing an interview with Patrick on air about the unsung Irish heroes of W.W.2., and the humiliation they received from friends and family for having fought for the ‘King’s Shilling’. He remembered the day very well back in 1978,saying he hadn’t meant to be so aggressive, but the orders from RTE, were to take out the ‘Pirates’ by whatever means, and if he met with resistance to deal with it accordingly. In other words wreck them if there was any problem. The Dublin Pirates had been treated appallingly on occasion with brutal tactics, but they did erect steel doors to keep out the authorities, Big L Radio Limerick however offered no such resistance, and as such following the law to the letter everything being used for broadcasting in the event of a seizure was to be removed for ‘evidence’.

1 off SM58 Michrophone

1 off record namely Love Affair – Everlasting Love.

1 off record player Garrard Sp25 and Shure sm75 cartridge (left hand deck in studio)

1 off Millbank Disco 3 Mixer and all connecting leads from the deck and to the transmitter

1 off Yaesu TX.

I appealed to the Guards to allow me to disconnect and switch off  the Yaesu so not to do any damage (I assumed I was going to get everything back, and didn’t want any blown valves!) they called on Patrick to allow me to box everything up, to which he reluctantly agreed. Whilst I was carefully dis-assembling the gear, Peter had been talking with the guards and showing them all the correspondence from his listeners and they admitted to listening themselves, and how enjoyable it had been. One even asked him not to reveal he was in the raiding Party(they were on first name terms at this stage), if we ever got back on the air, apparently his children would never forgive him for being so dastardly as to take away their new found companion of the airwaves!

After 30 minutes or so everything listed above was taken away by the raiding party and the Big L studios seemed strangely quiet. I had heard through the grapevine that some of the raids on the Dublin Pirates had been violent to the extreme, smashing equipment and record collections as well as physical damage to property and DJs. In our case Patrick left behind the other record player the other Millbank Mixer (used for Mikes and telephones), although he would have been within his rights to remove it, and also left the connection to the Medium Wave antenna intact, in Dublin some of the masts were ripped out of the ground!

Hayman arrived back at the studio after hearing Big L as well as the other stations go silent, he was pretty devastated. After getting over the shock of it all we sat down to discuss what we should do. The original Big L Radio London had survived almost 3 years before the marine offences act forced them off the air, at this point anything towards a year would have done me, I wasn’t expecting to be shut down inside 7 days!

RLWE came back on the air after tea time followed by Capitol and were to remain on the air till later that week. The next raid was far more organized and Patrick got into the building before they could shut down, and after 8or 9 weeks ON AIR, were shut down with their equipment confiscated for ‘evidence’. They stated in their newspaper that they would remain off air until the court appearance and seek to apply for a license to broadcast legally.

We on the other hand had no such notions, and prepared to buy another Yaesu as quickly as funds would allow, we had a devoted listernership to take care of!  I replaced the Deck from one of the mobile rigs as well as the Mixer, and set off once more to the UK in the car for the second TX this time with spare valves and an SWR meter. As far as I can remember I took the old Northern Ireland route out through Stranraer by way of  Eniskillen and the west coast run which I was to use from now on to avoid any threat of customs interference. A route I knew well when traveling with ‘Bloody Morgan & The Pirates’, this was the preferred route for the next few years as crossing the Border was relatively painless,(No customs on the roads I had found and used regularly in the Show Band days) despite having to travel through Scotland as well as Northern Ireland, the extra mileage incurred was well worth the ease of passage.

Big L Radio Limerick was back on the air after the now routine modification to the Yaesu, which was all done in an hour or two, by August we were the only station on air offering an alternative to RTE One. 2FM didn’t arrive on the airways till May 31st the following year, but another Limerick ‘Pirate’ was about to come on line before the end of the year.  By the time we got back on the air despite having the Limerick broadcasting airwaves to ourselves, there had been a significant change, in communication.

Whilst Big L was being re-installed a national postal strike was approaching and was to last for four months, I’m afraid the general public seemed to have lost the will to communicate by mail, our competition entries(by Mail),were never to be the same again.

The main telephone line no 061 46271 is probably imprinted on more than one or two brains at this stage, I can certainly remember it without any effort, but we did need more lines and I was amazed when I asked for an extra line P&T told me I could have as many lines as I liked, they even offered Big L Radio Limerick an exchange to handle all the roaming lines, yes please we’ll have all of that! Late in 1979 The Kiddies show on Sundays with host Philip Irwin, could still manage to blow a fuse or two at the Main exchange in Roches St. whilst some of the Mothers & Fathers getting through to the popular show on behalf of their offspring,(little fingers get worn out pretty quick on the old dial telephones), would eventually gasp out over the airwaves “I’ve been trying to get through for 6 months, please put my little one on the air”.

After getting back on the air in the late summer of 1978, I was coming to the end of a breakfast show (7-10am), when I was asked to receive a guest for a chat off air. I agreed and before me appeared John ‘the Man’ Frawley in a raincoat with a loose leaf pad to hand. The glass panel between the two rooms had not been installed at this stage, so he sat down on a chair in front of me roughly where the photo above was taken from and proceeded with his plea.

RLWE was off the air and not likely to come back, so he had been let go off the payroll, since his breakfast show was no longer required, what he wanted was a breakfast show on Big L Radio Limerick, for which he required no remuneration, funds would be generated by ‘mentioning’ offers from prospective clients(retailers), which he would manage and collect himself.(That was a big no no from the start),

John - Big L Radio Limerick'The Man' Frawley at Radio Lumní

John ‘The Man’ Frawley at Radio Lumní

as to his type of presenting, it was not what I wanted for the Station, so after about a half hour we graciously parted company. Had I really thought about it His show would have cornered the entire Limerick listenership for both of us. As it was he set up his own Radio Lumní, and polarized the potential listenership into two camps, I still think I made the right decision, he went on to do his own thing and created a world wide phenomenon of the death notices being read out on air. It wouldn’t have happened without him!  After he left and I was sorting out the music between 10 and mid-day, Margaret came into the studio to ask about the meeting, of which I explained the not too many pros and a lot of cons when she found a cheque on the floor made out to John Frawley for £2,000(it must have slipped from his loose leaf book, but had he done this on purpose? I’ll never know). She rushed out after him and caught up with him heading towards the Milk Market. Don’t recall who the cheque was from or what was said, I presume that he was grateful, but that was his start up money for HIS station, you could do it for that then.

Being back on the air was great but full of trepidation prior to our ‘court appearance’, wondering whether or not we would be raided again, plus the fact communication from the fans by letter dropped quite significantly with more reliance on the phone. Before I carry on with the story, there is an enormous gap in the line-up of radio stations. Who is missing? you may well ask. I can’t remember the name of the station, but it did broadcast from Southill in Limerick. The owner and engineer for the Station was Tony Kenny, and his one and only DJ was John Dronay (Johnny Reggae). How I had forgotten this station(along with everyone else I might add), I just don’t know. I met John in the Crescent shopping centre about 2011, and we promised to get keep in touch, never happened!

I do know he was managing his Daughter at the time who was a very competent Tina Turner/Madonna Tribute Artist. I have tried every channel I know to try and raise both John, who I think still resides in the Limerick area, and Tony who following my last contact with him prior to 2005 was last heard of in the Sligo area. But all to no avail. In their absence I will try and fill in as much as I can from my own deteriorating memory.

Originally targeting a 12 hour program schedule,(wasn’t sure how many hours I could fill without the listeners getting bored), it became apparent there were going to be more DJ’s than we could handle! Declan Copues, Mike Howes, John Ryan, Philip Irwin, all came through the doors of Studio Sound at 13 Ellen St, not forgetting the Finn brothers, and were more or less given jobs on the spot, out of their enthusiasm to Broadcast to Limerick and the surrounds. As the daytime began to ‘fill out’, Peter and I wondered what to do with Friday nights after the Stardisc’s Top Ten Show, (Sponsored by Pat McKenna of Stardiscs Patrick Street). And so began the ‘Mad Hatters Ball’, more or less till we stopped getting requests for music that we guaranteed would be not only found but played immediately after the ‘on air’ record. Thus began a trial by listener to see not only how ‘big’ the record library was but if indeed we would or could play the requested track! I can pretty much say that I don’t think we were ever ‘caught out’ and managed to play all the requests, if not by the artist then at least the track, however never resorting to ‘cover’ tracks, or re-recorded items that were in abundance on albums pushing unknown artists ‘covering’ the original version at the time, I hated them:-            (the covers) always striving to play the original in whatever condition it was in! cracks scratches ét al.

The playlist ranged from all the oldies I had in ‘the vaults’ some 3000+ ,as well as the current charts. That year a lot of Eurovision entry’s spilled into the mainline charts as well as a lot of peculiar entry’s like

The Smurf song by Father Abraham

Loving You Has Made me Bananas by Guy marks

Cá plane Pour Moi by Plastic Bertrand

Throw in Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue oyster Cult

Rosalea by Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy

And She’s So Modern by the Boomtown Rats

And you had a playlist not even RTE radio could match in one show! One night we received a call from a ‘Mature Lady’, who claimed we were nothing than a bunch of Brit’s with no culture, no Irish connection, and no class!!!! Peter came on the mike and spoke to her in Irish full on(not realising he was a secondary school Teacher, she was taken aback by his fluency) then still came back at us for having no Classical Music at which point Peter asked what would she like to hear? Anything by Brahms or Tchaikovsky would be fine not that we had anything of that ilk (her words) anyway! I motioned to Peter to keep her talking while I dug out my Classical collection. After a couple of frantic minutes, in which the engaging Peter wooed her with jokes and his comprehensive Irish tongue, we were ready to go. Asking again what would she like played she said the 1812 by Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, within seconds it was on the deck, I think she was dumfounded. We played it all and kept her on the phone for the whole track after which she confessed she had been a little mistaken, but still insisted we were still an ‘uncouth rabble’. I still think we won that one.

John Ryan In Studio 1 Big L  1980 - Big L Radio Limerick

John Ryan In Studio 1 Big L 1980


A long with Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton, Two out of Three Ain’t Bad by Meatloaf, the 1812 became a popular entry into the play list on Friday night’s, not forgetting 3 Times a Lady by the Commodores, all entrenched in the folklore history of Big L radio Limerick’s ‘Mad Hatters Ball’.

We must not forget the Live phone in’s which hadn’t been heard of before on radio national or local, the most popular phrase would be X was Mad about Y, Bruce Ruffin’s ‘Mad About You’ from 1972 was dug out to facilitate a ‘Mad About You’ corner to facilitate the popularity of the Phrase. Needless to say within a few weeks the Live Phone in on Friday Nights had become very popular, leading to a dedicated Children’s talent show on Sunday Mornings, hosted by Philip Irwin and Declan Copues, the phone lines were hot!

On one of these Friday nights just after close down probably about 2 am or so, I got a phone call from Tony Kenny, who wanted to know if I was listening to his show on the air at that time. I had no idea anyone was broadcasting that late! After we talked for a while we agreed that at closedown instead of playing our closing theme(Don’t Make Me Over by the Swinging Blue Jeans) I would announce the continuation of late night broadcasting on the Limerick airwaves by Johnny Reggae(John Dronay) on Tony’s Radio Station. Possibly the only time two local radio stations co-operated with one another, anywhere never mind Limerick. Alas I cannot remember any of the details of Tony’s Station frequency or power etc., but I’m sure we were the first to establish almost 24 hour broadcasting in Ireland in the 70’s!

I met Tony a few weeks later at which point he took over the maintenance of the Medium Wave Transmitter and built and supplied Big L’s first FM transmitter broadcasting on 92.1 Mhz. I had known John for a number of years we shared ‘gig’s at the Hawain Club on Wednesday nights  at the River Room Motel in Newcastle West, after he went on to have a successful residency at the Augustinian Club, in Limerick City amongst others. At That time I had been resident in the Franciscan Club Nights ran by the Church in their Hall, underneath where the Mogul Emperor now serves delicious food 7 nights a week,(that sounds like an advert). The Priest, (Forgotten his name) who ran the 3 night a week session for the teens of the city charged 2 shillings a head! Of which I received 8 punts per night all in 2 shilling pieces! The Pockets were heavy going home on those nights but the Franciscan Hall was always jammed every night, and no trouble ever! I’m sure a lot of those ‘kids’ from the Franciscans in 1972-73 ended up on the other end of the hot line on the Friday night sessions on Big L.

It’s hard to believe that Ireland was in a severe depression back then, just as bad as the one we’re in at present, it’s not a recession it’s a depression!!!!!!

How come  nobody has ever admitted that fact?,

and it’s not getting any better anytime soon, no matter what they (the Govt) say. But still, there was money to be made and people generally seemed happy with they’re lot. Big L certainly seemed to make a lot of people happy, I’m glad we did our bit during those hard times, and if only a few have fond memories of Big L then I’m Happy too.

This has been Chapters 1 and 2

Updated 22.20 pm 30th  March 2015

More to come……continued here

Big L Radio Limerick

Big L Radio Limerick