Sea shanties – JOE's history of pirate radio stations 10 years ago

Sea shanties – JOE's history of pirate radio stations

Ireland has a great history of pirate radio stations, whose names might be very familiarrrgh to you.

We love a good shanty here at JOE, but back in the day the only sounds in the land were those landlubbers who had real licences, so pirate radio stations popped up around the place taking the law into their own hands and bringing music, parrots and eye patches to the airwaves.



Back in 1996, the lads at Phantom took to the airwaves playing alternative music that no other station seemed to be giving time to at that stage, and was a huge hit in Dublin.

They were rarely off the air as there was little concern from the authorities about what they were up to, but once they did suffer a bit of bother when their equipment was stolen from Three Rock, where they had their secret, illegal headquarters.

They ended up abandoning piracy and moving on to a life on land, where they have been pretty successful under their new guise as Phantom 105.2.


Radio Nova

Radio Nova started life as a pirate station too, with one of the most influential figures in both Irish and UK pirate radio Chris Cary. With his backing (and a few guys who used to be involved in the BBC), they became the first pirate radio station in Ireland to broadcast on an FM frequency, which was a pretty big deal.

Nova cranked out rock and alternative music 24 hours a day, and similarly to Phantom, managed to broadcast pretty much interruption free for most of their time on air, bar one raid from the lads at Comreg. They too have also gone mainstream and legal, and have been filling our ears with some classic rock for the past few years here in Dublin and worldwide online.

Radio Caroline


The The Boat That Rocked was based on the story of the famous Radio Caroline, one of the most iconic pirate radio stations that there ever was. These boys did things properly, they got a boat and went out to see, playing rock music and tunes the like of which the UK had never seen.
However, the ship from which they broadcast has an Irish connection, as it was docked and made its first transmissions from Greenore in Co. Louth.

A huge number of DJs, radio personalities and TV figures are happy to acknowledge their days spent bending the rules and broadcasting on pirate radio in Ireland back in the day, among them are Tony Fenton, Marty Whelan, Phil Cawley, Martin King, Dave Fanning, Aidan Cooney, Brian Dobson, John Kelly and Colm Hayes, amongst a whole host of others.


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