“Just For The Record”
Dateline Sunday 14th April 1985
Zone;-London Highbury Hill
Rosemary;-“Michael it’s for you!”
Michael;- “yes Francis how’s Limerick?”
Francis;-“not too good, when are you coming back?”
Michael;-“I don’t know, couple of weeks maybe.”
Francis;-“The generator is running out of fuel”
Michael;”Then Close down”
Michael;”No close down now. I’ll see you when I get back”
Michael;”That’s It Bye.”
As he put down the phone Michael realized his hand was shaking, Big L Radio Limerick had survived the trauma’s, the bitching the jealousy’s and theft for just on seven years and now it was over without such much as a whimper, or was it?
Let’s hold on here a moment, before I go any further I would like to add a comment by way of a preface to this epistle. I have from time to time surfed and found some relative items to Big L Radio Limerick, from ex Dj’s to Anoraks and such, but nowhere can I find an article about Pirate Radio in Ireland by any of the people who used to own and run these ‘stations’! except “Radio Radio” by Peter Mulryan,(well worth a read available as a download from Smash Words for only 9.99USD), but sadly based on the Dublin Pirates in detail without any real reference to the ‘other’ Pirates, I do get a mention on page 61…quote:-
“Late 1978 also saw English DJ Mike Richardson setting up The Big L. While initially slow to take off, the professional Big L eventually swamped the other local stations; for example, Independent Radio Limerick, a hobby station with very irregular broadcasting hours, faded as time passed.”
Why did they all disappear into the ether?
Part of the proposed 1987 Bill…………..
“In relation to the question of applications from existing Pirates, the situation is that in line with the position adopted by all previous Governments they are not debarred from applying. There is, however, no question of any guarantee that they will be given licences. On the contrary, it will be noted in the criteria laid down in Section 3 of the Sound Broadcasting Bill] that the character of the applicant must be taken into account in selecting licencees and, in this regard, pirate operators will clearly Not be in line for any bonus marks.”
In other words don’t even bother applying! Despite assurances from the then minister that if we went away quietly we,(the pirates), would have a real chance at the license issue the following year.(Joke). The real agenda was to rid the airwaves of the numerous repeater stations broadcasting BBC TV channels et all, usually for free by community groups all over the country.
I have read many comments about Pirate Radio in Limerick and very few seem to reveal the real facts. The First Radio Station in Limerick was Capital radio broadcasting from upper Catherine St, with more than a little success but only for a little while, among those involved was Mike ‘The Rave’ MacNamara’s brother Ger. Then came RLWE broadcasting from the Offices of The Limerick weekly Echo in O’Connell St, Run by the Newspaper of the same name. One of the early presenters was John ‘The Man’ Frawley, next came Big L in June of 1978. The first broadcaster/DJ was Joe MacNamara, one of my roadies in those days because I and my Radio engineer we’re on the Roof in Ellen st. trying to trim the Antenna so as not to blow the valves. However we managed to accomplish this within 30 minutes as the swr* was just too high! Haymen Harris my then Partner in Big L, had to travel surreptitiously to the UK to purchase replacement valves not available in Ireland. On Hayman’s return the Antenna had been modified and extra earth rods buried out the back of 13 Ellen St. Big L came back on air Sunday 20th July 1978. The Two Studio’s had been assembled at this stage, purposefully built to a reasonably high standard, as you can see below. Two on-air telephone lines fed to the Millbank 8 channel microphone mixer which also handled the five microphones in studio 2 for debates/sports and news programmes, and as you can see, a second pair of Garrard sp25’s for jingle recording and advertising promo’s.
Studio One Layout…. Millbank 5 channell stereo mixer for the two decks Millbank 8 Channell for telephones and Studio two Microphones 3 tape decks and monitor amp for speakers in studio 1 & 2.
The Second Big L Outside Broadcast Van(replacing the earlier ford transit box van)parked opposite Quinns Pub, the red shop was Des Kennedy’s Bookies office over Big L studios at 12 Ellen Street, the Official Shop(Studio Sound) and Reception open to all 09-2100 next door at no 13 Ellen St.
Studio Two…. Citronic mixer with 2 garrard sp25’s + goldring GL75, echo unit, Yamaha cassette tape deck(1 of 2) 5 SM58 microphones (2 in the picture) 1 spare Millbank stereo Mixer and1979 11 08 Eugene O’Connor show intro (Probably the most imaginative of all Big L’s Dj’s when it came to jingles Eugene O’Connor’s opening jingle following John Ryan’s Afternoon Show)
what you can’t see on the back wall and to the right of the picture is the record library containing some 13,000 singles(45’s) 4,500 albums and storage for 300 cassette tapes (on the back wall) of show recordings and interviews at the time this picture was taken around 1981/82.
The Three stations continued to broadcast until the following week when the first ‘Raid’ hit Limerick. Their target had been RLWE and the “Hit squad” were surprised to find Big L was not just on the air but had it’s own shop front and land telephone lines accessible to all.1980 12 17 Round Table Host Philip Irwin with dj’s Michael Howes Michael Byrnes and Declan Copues This soundbite of a ‘Round Table’ Session hosted by Philip Irwin, guest Dj’s Michael Howes,Declan Copues,and Michael Byrne
Big L was The first to be ‘hit’ and once silenced, RLWE shut down immediately. RLWE went Off the air, apparently famously making rude gestures at the hit team as they drove up O’Connell St, unable to gain entry because RLWE was off the air. Capital capitulated quickly afterwards, and the ‘Hit Squad’ returned a few days later to silence RLWE until the Court Hearing! I immediately set about replacing the Yaesu(80Watt) MW *Transmitter, The Millbank Mixer also the Garrard SP25 record Player with the record that was playing at the Time of the raid, ‘Everlasting Love by The Love Affair’ the SM58 microphone being used by Peter Brady (the ‘on air’ Jockey at the Time) all items in the Link to the antenna, which they did not cut, but could be taken away and used in evidence of our ‘crime’ for the later Court hearing. It took us nearly 4 weeks to get back on the air, and for a time Big L and RLWE were the ONLY radio stations Broadcasting to Limerick up to the Court Case. Capital and RLWE were fined £50 each after promising not to broadcast again, RLWE saying they were going to apply for a license and would go off air till then. We got fined £100, primarily because not only were we still broadcasting, but I also refused to shut down. We were never raided again by the authorities, and I got back the originally confiscated items 3 months later.
So to recap Capital was the First ‘Pirate’, and RLWE was the second, neither station lasted more than 3 to 4 months, Big L remained Broadcasting till spring 1985 nearly 7 years later! But even then I continued broadcasting in Ireland till 1988, In 1981 the book ‘Radio Radio’ gives the impression that the ‘best radio stations’ in the country (according to ‘Radio Radio’),were nothing more than a heap of scrap wiring and poor broadcasting facilities which 2 fairly minor DJ’s from the UK’s Off Shore establishment quite rightly thought was rather pathetic, I think they would have been more than surprised if they had bothered to travel to Limerick or Waterford. What ‘radio radio’ fails to mention at all is that the most powerful of all the ‘off shore’ Pirates in the 60’s, Big L Radio London some what dwarfed Radio Caroline’s supposed supremacy and as for the dj’s…………… was the name “Spangles Muldoon” (aka Chris Carey), merely a joke I can’t even remember any of them perhaps, because like myself most of south east England listened to Big L, Real DJ’s with real names, and real talent including Kenny Everitt, Dave Cash, Tony Windsor, Tony Blackburn etc. Perhaps it was a different story for Caroline north, but frankly that registered even less than Caroline south, don’t forget Radio Luxembourg was still a big player after Dark…………..now back to the story.
His mind drifted back in time taking comfort from his usual Bacardi & Coke,(no Ice) a large one on this particular occasion! Sitting in the family home in London 118 Highbury Hill(opposite Exec entrance to Arsenal),away from a cold and now it seemed an inhospitable Limerick, he settled back in his favourite armchair, not really paying attention to the after lunch discourse or the muted film on TV. Neither awake or asleep or seemingly dreaming he was back in Limerick on one of it’s normal wet dismal Monday mornings! Ellen St was in a mess, but the city works equipment lay silent, the road such as it was lay more than 3 feet below its normal level. To get the speakers and Disco equipment back to the shop from the nearest place the van could be parked in Michael St. required navigation across this man made trench with the dexterity of a participant in a greasy pole competition across a river! Having negotiated the rubble and stone, and the occasional 10ft deep hole revealing the pre-medieval roads from the old Viking settlements down to the river, the gear was eventually stored safely in the new shop, no 13 Ellen Street, which had been a long time coming. The first shop at 19 Broad street had been the first shop after a brief stopover in Killaloe after leaving the family business at The “Arena” in Askeaton. In Ellen St the Ink was hardly dry on the lease when the wood supplies were delivered to start building the Ricson brand of Discotheque equipment for the new fledgling DJ’s in town, Brendan Murray for one, who loved the idea of BIG Consoles and speakers just what mike was capable of supplying. On the other side of the coin as the DJ in Poldarks, times couldn’t have been better, However, it didn’t start like that!……………………
After early beginnings running only on Wednesdays with Mike “The Rave” McNamara all seemed lost as the ‘gig’ at the two Mile Inn had been given to Mike ‘The Rave’ Mac by Brendan Dunne after the position had been promised to Mike R by the owner Mr. Ryan after a demonstration in the recently acquired Limerick Inn.
This had been a Disco set up purely for the managers in the Limerick Inn one Saturday afternoon some 3 months previous. Walking into Stardiscs(Patrick St.) on a Saturday morning not long after Poldarks was fast becoming the No 1 Gig in town(less than two weeks in fact after taking up the void by the collapse of the “Airlines” Club at the Royal George in O’Connell St) Mike R found Mr. Ryan and Stardiscs owner Pat McKenna in the record dept at the back of the shop,(roughly where HMV is now, but in those days next to Cruises Hotel) unable to help the angst that had been building up inside of him Mike R launched a blistering attack on Mr. Ryan and all around him having scant regard of the consequences of humiliating one of the prime hoteliers in the region. Leaving the shop in an extreme rage Mike at least felt vindicated at having stating the state of affairs as it had existed in Limerick with Micky Macs perceived auto-dominance of the scene by way of his inherited status in town against “outsiders”. The following week Mike R was in Brendan Dunne’s office at the Two Mile Inn, being offered not only Wednesday night as the DJ in 1977 03 24 Poldarks Saturday 9.30pm 1 hour (This session from March 1977 warm up probably from about 9.30pm till 10.30) Poldarks but an immediate expansion to include Thursdays as well! Prior to this meeting Brendan Dunne and his under-manager had called into one of the Friday night ‘Junior Chamber’ Disco nights at the Shannon Arms in Henry Street, barely capable of holding 100 or so, the place was heaving with the usual 170+ revelers enjoying the antics of Mike R and the great sound from his custom built Klipsh Horn Loudspeakers and Vitavox Horns all driven by his favorite amp the Quad 303.
Equipment :Ricson Marble effect Console containing
Millbank stereo Mixer + Quad 33/303
2 Thorens TD126 Transcription Decks
Shure SM75 cartridges
Klipsh horns (Blue/Chrome)
Vitavox S3 Hi frequency horns
4 of 6 record boxes against window,
2 more behind holding 300 45’s each
And the album box against back wall
Numerous UV lights and 2 Kwatt sound to light system
The owner of the Shannon Arms who also owned Old Moore’s in Kilkee where Mike R had played, realized the two well dressed gents were not there to party! Mike was pulled off the decks into the kitchen where Brendan Dunne exclaimed interest in the DJ for the 2 mile Inn. John said he would hate to see Mike go but wished him well, at the same time asking Brendan to remember where he was poached from. Mike never saw the owner of the Shannon Arms again, he died shortly afterwards.
All of Mike R’s enthusiasm was poured into Poldarks at the Two mile Inn, the lighting system from the Shannon arms was now given a permanent home, together with wiring to facilitate the easy installation and extraction of projectors still used in outside Mobile gigs, Prior to Poldarks as well as the Shannon arms Friday night session Mike R also took care of relief disco to the Show bands appearing in Abbyfeale(Sundays at the Flamingo), Athea(Fridays at the Town Hall), and Glin(Saturdays at Tir na Nog). But these were soon passed on to other dj’s as Poldarks consumed more and more of his time.
The Cratloe Suite at the Two mile inn was the official residence of Poldarks for those first few months in 1976, but was getting so popular that managements eyes turned to the unused and now silent swimming pool in the complex. Brendan Dunne had his eyes on the expensive bespoke green leather wall to wall suites in the Limerick Inn and he made the decision to take over the pool area and install the said suites and move Poldarks lock stock and barrel to accommodate in excess of 330 revelers. Mike R’s Vision could now run riot with a bespoke DJ consul specifically designed to remove any feed back(Tecky Stuff*) from the Thorens Decks to the 4 new Klipsh Horn Base Bins specifically built for the Club. On top of this once the seating from the Limerick Inn had been installed in the club, new under seat and wall lighting was installed together with pre-wiring the roof to take a further 60 par 56 300 watt units in 3 con circular areas (never to be completed). All was set for the opening night, when the builders decided to have a look under the floorboards to check the water level from the old pool. DISASTER…. The water table was less than an inch from the dance floor! It would have to be pumped dry!
Delay was two weeks to clear the rubble from the old pool followed by sealing the pool area from the ever rising Shannon Estuary, ESB protocol rearing it’s head in total mismanagement of the Shannon Estuary and the Parteen Weir later to be exposed in the devasting floods of the entire region in the Winter of 2011!
After the impromptu delay courtesy of the Shannon Estuary, Poldarks opened with a flurry of tv advertising on RTE Television, however sponsorship, even endorsement from the UK TV Series Poldark did not arrive, although I think Mr Dunne Managed to get permission to hang Pictures of the Main Stars from the TV series in the entrance for a while. Poldarks ran every Wednesday through to Saturday, Shannon Rugby Club having gained a special licence to sell liquor from midnight Sunday so managed to do there own thing for a few weeks, but the Sunday night eventually became part of the 5 day MR session. Every night was full to capacity despite the proliferation of numerous nightclubs in the City. Names that come to mind was:-
Ruby’s in Cruises Hotel
Barbarella’s in the Green Hills resident DJ John Dronay,guest dj’s including BBC’s David Hamilton
Samantha’s The Royal George later becoming Fernandos Resident DJ Micky Mac, but I think previously at the Glentworth Hotel but with a band! No DJ
Needless to say opposition was plentiful
Christmas 1976 came very quickly and Poldark’s was getting a reputation for the place to be for the sound, the atmosphere, and the company! You’d never know who you would bump into! Standing at the door next to our brilliant security guys, you wouldn’t believe the number of extremely well dressed patrons coming through the doors all through the festive season, Jewelry was very evident , and even in mikes normal tux get up on occasion he felt remarkably out dressed by the clientele. The popularity of the Club at the Two Mile Inn continued unabated throughout 1977 with the arrival of Bernie Flint with the expected crowd so big the club had to take over the entire front bar as well to accommodate the huge Crowd! And then August the 16th came. MR had just popped in for a sociable drink to the front bar to enjoy the music of the live band when Gerry from the band came over to Mike at the Bar to tell him the news that he had just heard that ELVIS was DEAD!!!!!!
What a shock to everyone who heard the whispers going around the Two Mile Inn, the band refrained from the public announcement till the end of the night! The Pop world was reeling, even non Elvis people seemed to appreciate the grief of the fans that The King of Rock & Roll was Dead! Mike returned home that night, wondering what he was going to do to honour the ‘King’. To be honest the next few days were a blur, there is no memory of what tributes were played at Poldarks, suffice to say the odd and rare Elvis sing a long (karaoke if you like) on the floor of Poldarks were never performed by him again! This wasn’t the case world wide as countless Elvis impersonators appeared as tribute to the greatest pop singer of all time, but “ The King was Dead”.
The days after the loss of “The King” still remain a bit of a blur.Life goes on I suppose, but his demise certainly left a big hole in the entertainment scene, and everyone who was a fan were visibly upset for quite some time after. Poldarks continued to grow in popularity, Berni Flint’s performance at the Club was quite a night, as the folding partition between the club and the “front” bar was opened up to accommodate the huge crowd that came to see the 12 week succesive winner of Opportunity Knocks sing his song ‘I Don’t Want To Put A Hold On You’ and a few others in an entertaining show.
Towards the end of year celebrations it seemed there was no end to ‘Poldarks’ success. Christmas had been a great season for the Club and Mike wanted to put on a great show for New Years Eve, and managed to get hold of the ‘Bloody Morgan’ Coat and sword from his days as roadie from the Band leader of ‘Bloody Morgan & The Pirates’,Bob Sullivan. Unfortunately the boots were no longer part of the remaining wardrobe so a pair of size 6 high calf leather boots were procured from Mikes Sister Rosemary who was visiting from England at the time. Usually taking a size 8 in footwear, the pain was excrutiating towards 12 o’clock but worth enduring as a change from the usual ‘tux’. He didn’t have the faintest idea of what was to happen the following year as he he took on the mantle of a real ‘Pirate’ in the form of starting Limericks 3rd ‘Pirate’ radio Station ‘Big L’. Anyway on the Night in question the bewitching hour was approaching and a liitle spash of champagne was expected from the Kitchen area (As previously discussed with management)for those dancers packed in close enough to The DJ to toast in the New Year. At 5 minutes before the hour there was no sign of any Chapagne ‘action’ from the Kitchen area so Mike dropped out of the Consul to investigate the ‘delay’!
“There was to be no Champagne for the crowd” were the words uttered by Mr. Brendan Dunne the Hotel Manager of the Two Mile Inn, tucked away in his office, away from the festivities. Mike asked why not, and was told it just was not going to happen, even offering to buy the supposedly only 6 bottles on the premises, Mike was refused and so returned to the decks seething with anger,(not a good frame of mind to be in on New years eve,was this to be the begining of the end?
Where did this all begin?
Mike was always interested in music, his Mum Mary, was a great piano player and encouraged him from a very early age, first with violin and later the piano forte, but mike was always more interested in listening to and enjoying both radio and records. The only radio in the 50’s was BBC “auntie’s” home service, the records came from Mum & Dad’s 78rpm collection, everything from the ‘Nun’s Chorus’ to the ‘Dark town Strutter’s ball’,2 titles from an enormous collection housed in the family home at 24 Lonsdale Square London N1,used to entertain the regular parties.
Prior to “24” they were living in rented accommodation in Wightman Road just North of Finsbury Park. Picture Left is Mike with Mary outside #24 with mikes latest “stray”, Blackie, a large black Persian. Mary always accommodated Mike’s passion for strays, but Blackie was his favorite Cat. There were numerous budgies and other creatures, but the love of music always came first. 24 Lonsdale square came about after Jack,(Mikes Father), came to obtain the lease of Lonsdale Place Garage. This had been one of the many garages owned by the Moriarty Family used to run their Taxi empire, started between the two world wars, and run by Mary’s Uncle, one of four brothers born by the “Queen of Clerkenwell. Mary’s father George was never involved in the running of the Company, he was more than happy to be behind the wheel of his cab, one of many built by the family at Lonsdale place garage. New Chassis were stored 8 to ten high in the corner of the garage alongside the office. When they had the need a chassis was brought down onto the garage floor and literally built from the ground up! Not only taxis but also flat backs were assembled here, not many cars or trucks owned by the general public in London in those days. Trams were common place with many of London’s cobble stone roads perforated with train tracks which happened to be exactly the same wheel width of the then popular Austin “Ruby”, many of which used to get stuck in
the tracks, and had to drive to the terminus at Kingsway, to be lifted out of the offending tracks! Alternatively if the car was near one of the many markets in London help might be procured from 4 or maybe 5 burly market traders or barrow boys as they we’re called to lift the entrapped vehicle off the rails. Remuneration was rarely sought as the hilarious situation would become part of the days many stories repeated throughout the breaks and possibly into the night at the local hostelry’s in the neighbourhood. Tram fares were cheap, Mike could travel the 3 miles from the fire Station in Upper st near Islington town hall(Shown here looking down upper st towards the Angel)) to Blackhorse road in Finsbury and on to 23 Tollington Park to see his Grandfather George for 1 whole penny……return!! One of his friends was the fire chiefs son who lived in the fire station in upper St, the view from the top floor flat was brilliant to the south St Mary’s Church and to the right The Hope & Anchor Pub. the landlords son Billy who was also a friend,
The gig later responsible for the Sex pistols, first outing in the 70’s. Being able to go to the local shop in Barnsbury st, around the corner from Lonsdale Place garage to by cigarettes(20 Weights), for his father Jack was a regular treat for Michael, the change from the half a crown(2 shillings and sixpence about 14p today) would allow the purchase of 16 Blackjacks for a penny(1 farthing for 4), and a bar of chocolate or even a sherbet dip, quite a feast for a five year old to share with his friends. Sadly trams we’re taken off London streets on July 6th 1952 one month before his 6th birthday
The Moriarty Cab Company was run by George’s brother, 1 of four brothers who served King and Country in W.W.1, none of whom we’re allowed home from the trenches in France, to bury their Father,(Husband to the “Queen of Clerkenwell”) in 1916. But they all returned safely home after the war in 1918.
Cattermoles Garage at the top of Pentonville Road at the junction of Gaumont Square, now a storage facility was purchased by the brothers before the end of the WW2, to run The Taxi Business, Lonsdale Place Garage (@ 51*32’24.52N 0*06’26.53W) used previously to store hay for the horse drawn cabs up to WW1, was to remain as the main cab assembly and fuel depot for the Moriarty Cab Company. However the building of the semi-circular façade at ‘Catermoles’,(still standing today (@ 51*31’53.03N/0*06’42.05W Google earth ref)) cost too much money for the family (believed to be £100,000), which caused the demise of the company, followed quickly by the death of ‘the Queen of Clerkenwell’,the whole ‘Empire’ collapsed.
.………TO BE CONTINUED more soundbites available here: