Chapter 5 January 1979 to July 1979 Updated 27th July 2014
We knew it was coming, but what were going to be the consequences? RTE Radio 2 was going to launch this year, despite no regulation against the ‘Pirates’ being introduced. Would we be wiped out by Big Brother? I don’t think so. Even the two ‘boys’ from radio Caroline didn’t think so, and had there eye on the Irish Radio scene, and would eventually launch Sunshine Radio and later Radio Nova, and blow RTE radio 2 out of the water, sorry Dublin, never really to be able to compete with the Independants in Dublin ever again! More of that later. In January the Whiddy island disaster at Bantry Bay captured the news headlines, Fifty people were killed when an explosion destroyed the French oil tanker Betelgeuse and the decision was forced upon me to start a News service for Big L listeners.
So using the powerful Russian radiogram in Studio Sound, Philip Irwin and myself started ‘compiling’ news from around the world, from every news feed we could receive. Big L Radio Limerick’s first news broadcast was over 20 minutes long, we had enough to do nearly 45 minutes, but decided that at 20 minutes we had done more than enough to satisfy our critics, from no news to 20 minutes a bit O.T.T., but anyway it had begun, but the early start at 5.30 am to get ready for the first news at 7 am was heavy going. Eventually the news service settled down to the usual 3 minutes or so, when Ingrid Kelly came on board the news team and later Trish Long, which survived well into 1984. as far as I can remember, the Boomtown Rats were the first group to be played on Radio 2’s new pop station, later on in the year, but in January an event inspired Bob Geldoff to write their classic no 1 “I Don’t Like Mondays” taken from the words, by way of justification, of Brenda Ann Spencer, who killed 2 faculty members and wounding eight students at her school in San Diego.
Other news we carried in February was the downfall of the Sha of Persia and the return of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to Tehran after 15 years in exile, whilst in New York City Sid Vicious is found dead aged 21 of a heroin overdose the day after being released from a 55-day sentence at Rikers Island prison on bail. In March Scotland Voted narrowly for home rule, which was not implemented, looks like it might be this time around, and the John F. Kennedy Space centre received the first fully functional Space Shuttle
‘Columbia’ on March 25th.Space Shuttle Columbia launching And whilst Jim Kemmy minority vote brought down the Government here later in 1981, in Britain, Jim Callaghan’s minority Labour government loses a motion of confidence by 1 vote, forcing a general election which saw the election of a new Tory Government with the first ever female Prime Minister in Margaret Thatcher on May 4th. However the first of the IRA’s devastating Assassinations’ of the year happened on March 30 when Airey Neave, World War II veteran and Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman, was killed in the British House of Commons car park. On the same day Ireland ended Irish pound parity with sterling on joining the European Monetary System. The next evening on March31st Gali Atari and Milk and Honey won the Eurovision song Contest with Hallelujah.
Timmy Mallet & Martin Stanford At BBC Radio Oxford 1979 Approaching
Easter of 1979 saw the release of Monty Python’s the Life of Bryan. The Film was banned here in Ireland for eight years from it’s release on April 4th until 1987, and on Good Friday, with fuel becoming ever more scarce, Peter was finding it difficult to come up from Fermoy, even with help from my Father supplying fuel from Arena in Askeaton. So for something exciting to liven up the holiday weekend as well as fill in the impending gap in ‘on air’ presenters, I decided to go for the World’s non stop broadcasting record which at that time was held by Martin Stanford and Timmy Mallet of BBC Radio Oxford at 28hrs. Not knowing anything about their ‘record’ I decided that I would do as much of the normal programming as possible. Including the ‘Mad hatters Ball’. So I started on Friday 13th , (yes I know!), with the Stardisc’s Top Ten Show, with the intent of raising Money for the 40 Hour attempt, for charity similar to Radio Oxford. We phoned the Guinness book of records,(Postal Strike), and were informed that BBC radio Oxford were going to go again for a 40 hour session!
So to be sure of getting recognition 60 hours was set as the target. With 3minutes per hour break allowed which could be accumulated, meant that I could take a break of 30 minutes every 10 hours, or an hour every 20 hours broadcasting. As far as I can remember I went for 30 hours straight off, giving me my first break of an hour and a half at 11pm Saturday the 14th. When I came back at 30 minutes past midnight I presented a ‘Soul’ special featuring Atlantic records which ‘filled’ the airtime till around the breakfast show on Sunday 15th. It’s hard to describe my mental state at this point but it was starting to deteriorate exponentially! By Mid day on Sunday achieving the potential 40 hour stage (the target attempt by the then record holders, BBC radio Oxford), I was pretty well much exhausted, and considered taking 30 minutes break, (the in studio photo of Margaret myself and Hyman), was taken around this time,would explain why I look so shattered!
If I did take the break, I can’t remember but assuming I did I would have reached the 50 hour stage at 1 am Monday morning, time for my next 30 minutes ‘rest’. I wouldn’t call it sleeping at this stage I was so shattered after being woken up, the break hardly seemed worth while. Ann Sullivan the antique dealer appeared at some stage in the early hours, of Sunday with a salmon Platter and I think a glass of wine(not sure about that item) but it was all received very thankfully at that point. The shop at no 13 Ellen st had been kept open most of the time during the broadcast, to facilitate donations(about £600 at this point) and people asking for requests, and the occasional visitor to the studio Jim Kemmy for one as he was my moderator for the Guinness Book of records, and friends and well wishers. In the early hours of Monday, between the records I was definitely experiencing weird ‘visions’. One minute the back wall of studio 2 was 16 feet away, the next moment it was in my face, and then 50feet away, then people would appear and disappear as quickly as they had arrived, some through the wall! The Studio started to get very busy with visitors(real & imagined), and at 1 pm Tom O’Donnell appeared with the entire St. Mary’s Pipe band, all 40 of them, to end my ‘ordeal’. I was so exhausted at this stage I was not very receptive to all the commotion around me, I didn’t know which was the greater desire, to sleep or eat! Sleep prevailed, but I was up again around 7 pm and went to the Granary for a BIG T bone and chips courtesy of the then manager Pat ………….., I don’t remember much of the night after that, I do know that my attitude to broadcasting changed significantly afterwards. I remained presenting the breakfast show for the next few years, (nobody would get up at that hour), but I relinquished the lunchtime show and the evening personal top ten show, as more DJ’s came on board. I did manage to continue with the ‘Elvis Show’ on Sundays at 4pm, but sharing it eventually with Eric Mitchell.
Eric had come to the station by way of sending his personal Top Ten (mostly Elvis), which sat in the in tray for almost a month without any one else submitting their entry’s. Despite asking for more ‘personal top ten selections’ no other entry’s came into the request box so I decided to play Eric’s submission on a Friday night before the Stardiscs Top ten show, to give us the weekend to work out what to do with the ‘slot’ by Monday!
The Personal Top Ten show came from Capital Gold in London, where it had become very popular, but with no particular time slot, so I thought the idea would work well in Limerick despite not having every record made, even Capital got caught out with the odd stinker that they either didn’t have in the Library or wouldn’t play for whatever reason! As we announced the show Eric rang up proclaiming his delight at being the first ‘PTT’(Personal Top Ten), to be aired. Despite the apprehension over the follow up we received two more PTT’s, on Saturday, one in the shop in Ellen St, the other in the competition entry ‘box’ at Stardiscs in Patrick street. After these two PTT’s were played the following week, the entries came thick and fast, eventually building up to a 2 month waiting list!
After the 60 hour broadcast we attempted to verify the occasion with the Guinness book of records, which they wanted by mail. Unfortunately the postal strike was in force and despite a vigorous protest by Jim Kemmy over the phone, our attempt was deemed unofficially ok, but no recognition from the UK! It didn’t really matter anyway BBC radio went on to break theirs and Big L Radio Limerick’s attempt within the month, however as you may have noticed from earlier in this epistle there were two of them and because of needle time restrictions, most of their show was by way of phone in’s and chat shows, not quite the same!
Anyway by the end of May more important agenda was on the horizon notably the launch of RTE’s pop station Radio 2 (lot of imagination there!) on 31st of May, first request was from shall we say a mature lady from the north looking for a mention for her family to which Larry Cogan allocated the Boomtown rats, not very appropriate at the time, but then that was RTE nothing changed there then! Listening to the new station from RTE, we began to think that we had nothing to worry about too much. Unlike the UK in the 60’s the Labour government had got rid of the Pirate Broadcasters first and employed nearly all the off shore DJ’s en masse for the new Radio One. The one main exception being Jimmy Young who took on the après breakfast show slot,
pioneered by Tony Windsor on Big L Radio London, virtually identical in format. Tony Windsor never made it to the main stream broadcasting platform in the UK, big shame. Summer approached and Big L radio Limerick settled down to a format dictated by listenership and a growing list of DJ’s willing and eager to ‘learn’ the ropes, not available from National Broadcasting Facilities.