Let me be one of the first to wish you a very Happy Saint Patrick's Day.
We Brits have a lot of thank Ireland for. For many years my family and I were entertained by Radio Eirann, which we could hear very clearly across in East Yorkshire. Radio Eirann seemed to be the only ones who had a comprehensive horse racing results service back in the early 1960s. Off-the-course betting had just been legalised and my Dad was 'pretty keen", so we all gathered around my Mum's old Bush radio and listened to the RTE every teatime. We soon got used to the Irish Hospital Sweepstakes too!
Then in 1964 Ireland's biggest gift to the UK was offshore radio which broke the monopoly of the BBC, at least for day time radio. Radio Caroline and Radio Atlanta were both fitted out there, in a tiny port near the border called Greenore. It was run by the father of Radio Caroline's charismatic leader, Ronan O'Rahilly, the man who first said "The Irish bring the excitement to the party!"
In the 1970s, yet another offshore radio ship had been equipped up in Belfast. Radio Sunshine, put together by my mentor Chris Cary and my old pal Dick Palmer. That station foundered during a three month stay in the Scilly Isles, a story for another book (once Dick gets his pencil sharpened!)
By the 1980s Ireland was the breeding ground for many radio projects, thanks to its very easy attitude to unlicensed broadcasting, which led to lots of our friends working in the radio industry there and even running stations. My old Caroline pals Robbie Dale and Chris Cary both ran stations in Dublin, Radio Nova and Sunshine 531, which both built up a sizeable audience across in the UK.
Chris also dabbled with TV and a Long Wave transmitter which he called Radio Exidy. That Long Wave project was later realised by the RTE and CLT as Atlantic 252 - which made huge waves in radio in the 1990s. It also led me to obtain a licence a for Long Wave station from the Isle of Man later that decade, but that's a longer story for another day!
The money that paid for Laser also came from Ireland too, despite the silly claims of the New York manager that it was all American. In fact every penny for the first year came from one Dublin based businessman. Laser was copied by Luxembourg and the RTE and called Atlantic 252, simply a blatant copy of Laser, on land!
The Dutch have cause to thank Ireland too:
In 1964 Freddy Heerema built an offshore TV station called TV Noordzee, as well as Radio Noordzee on a structure called the REM Island. It was built in Ireland in the Verolme shipyard in Cork. Lasting only six months it was a huge success in the Netherlands with its daily diet of Mr Ed and other popular TV shows - it's better known now as the TROS public broadcaster, while the REM Island now is part of the Amsterdam skyline and is a "restaurant with a view."
In 1981, a motely bunch of would-be pirates led by Ben Bode assembled another radio ship right in the heart of Dublin. Equipped with the finest equipment, it was called Radio Paradijs, but it was arrested by Dutch police just days after it began broadcasting off the coast of Holland.
We Brits certainly have a lot to thank the Irish for, so this evening I hope you will join me by raising a glass or two of Guinness, or Jameson's, to the Emerald Isle and her people.
May you always have the Luck of the Irish!
St Patrick's Day 2017
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