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Capitol Radio Dublin, 1975 – 1981

Read about Capitol Radio broadcasting history, an independent Dublin local station which broadcast daily to Ireland’s capital city on AM (Medium Wave) from 1978 – 1981. View station photos, video clips & listen to archive interviews. Capitol Radio provided an alternative to other radio stations with its specialist music programmes & vinyl album format.

Ireland Independent local radio broadcasting history.

Capitol Radio launched daily broadcasting from studios located at 26 Bachelors Walk in February 1978. With its album orientated format and specialist music programmes the station was unique on Dublin city airwaves. Capitol quickly found a niche with radio listeners, weary of incessant top 30 hits on most other local stations at the time. In addition to entertaining the city’s radio listening audience, until its 1981 closure Capitol Radio helped many aspiring broadcasters gain valuable presentation experience.

This compilation dates from 1975 > 1981 and records events during the early years of Irish Local radio. Where possible I have included published press references, photos or audio material.

In Dublin during the mid 1970’s, there were several unlicenced “pirate” stations, operating mainly at weekends. They included Radio Dublin, Radio Eamo, Channell 70, Radio Melinda and Radio Empathy. Empathy was the city’s first AM & FM station on 98FM, operated by Ed McDowell. The station was closed by the Dept. of Posts & Telegraphs on Aug 2nd 1974 at 1310hrs. Capitol Radio began AM broadcasting on 220 metres on Aug. 2 1975 at 12 noon from a studio near Portobello, Rathmines. Operating on Friday evenings & Sunday afternoons the station remained on air until mid-December 1975 when it was raided by inspectors from the Dept of Posts & Telegraphs. Although a transmitter wasn’t found, the PSU was taken – without which the transmitter couldn’t function. Capitol Radio returned to Dublin airwaves in February 1978 with daily 18 hour programming.

Perhaps worth remembering that until May 1979 when RTE radio 2 was launched, there were few programmes available to Irish bands & artistes to play their music. Aside from spinning discs Capitol Radio regularly recorded interviews with bands & singers for weekly broadcasts. The following is an example – one of the last interviews broadcast before the station was closed in December 1975 with a relatively young Alan Russell & singer/songwriter Chris De Burgh.

Al Russell & Chris de Burgh
Al Russell & Chris de Burgh.
Capitol Radio Dec. 1975 interview, Chris De Burgh.

In February 1978 Capitol Radio returned to the airwaves with daily 18 hour broadcasts from studios on the top floor of 26 Bachelors Walk, 50 yards from O’Connell Bridge, over Des Byrne Jewellers. The Basement Record Exchange was located in the same building and provided a means to regularly improve the station library & album music .

Capitol’s daytime format included many American bands & singers including Al Stewart, Doobie Brothers, Dan Fogelberg, Steve Miller Band & Billy Joel. In addition to popular hits of the day, generally playing album (LP) versions when available.
Early station line-up included Kathy Doran, an American who had experience of working on radio in the U.S.A. While in Dublin Kathy met and married an Irishman and subsequently returned to America.

Presenter Kathy Doran in Capitol Radio studio 1978
Kathy Doran in Capitol Radio 1979.

Other presenters included Barry Lang, Ian Dempsey, Chris Barry, Ed McDowell, Alan Russell, Philip Jackson & Adrian Horseman on News. At weekends Jim Sherlock & Paul Shepherd. After 9pm evening programmes were part of the stations Night Flight section & included Contemporary & New Wave rock with Frank Matthews & Nicky Moss. Specialist programmes included Ken Stuarts Jazz Hour, Stompin’ George with his Rockabilly Hour & Traditional Irish music. Ken Stuart was the vibes player with Rock Fox & his famous orchestra & Stompin George was a well-known figure on the Rockabilly circuit, hosting weekly music sessions in the Magnet bar on Pearse Street.

Capitol radio staff on rooftop May 1978
Some Capitol Radio staff on studio roof, May 1978.

Some technical info on the AM tx rigs Capitol used for broadcasts. Both were built by the late Mark Buggy. The 1st rig when the station launched on 220 metres comprised 10 x 807 valves, screen grid modulated into a quarter wave horizontal dipole. The antenna stretched from the Bachelor Inn roof to the far side of Litton Lane, past where the Arlington Hotel stands today. The station was located at the mouth of the Liffey & when atmospherics prevailed the signal “bounce” had few barriers as it headed across the Irish sea. The dipole antenna was regularly chopped down by an employee of a neighouring building, a fact we discovered by accident one day hearing what we thought were seagulls on the roof & investigating. We subequently changed the aerial configuration to an end fed L longwire. In November station frequency moved to 226 metres to avoid night – time interference from Radio Moscow. Also deployed a new rig which used 6 of 807 valves to drive 2 x 833A valves. I recall the 833A valves being more fragile and expensive too.. around £80 a piece in 1979 compared to the 807s at around £20 each & £25 for the American RCA brand.

Many reception reports were received from overseas listeners in Norway, Sweden & U.K. (see below).
1978 Dx Report with music tracks played – Jethro Tull, Eric Clapton, Issac Hayes, Chicago.

Dx report Capitol Radio 1978
Lancashire radio listener report 1978
Listener letter from Lancashire England.
Capitol Radio 226 poster advert,Serving The City.

View of 26 Bachelors Walk, Dublin, Ireland in 2022. The Capitol Radio studio was located on the top floor of the building (highlighted).

Press Cuttings, Capitol Radio Dx Report 1978.

Norway reception report from May 1978.

Capitol Radio Norway DX report, 5/1978
Capitol Radio Dx Report from Norway, 5/1978.
Capitol Radio 1980 Hot Press Yearbook
Hot Press 1980 Yearbook, Capitol Radio schedule highlights. Including Ken Stuart Jazz Hour & Stompin’ George Rockabilly programmes.
Hot Press editor Stuart Clarke remembers the early days of Irish unlicenced radio
Horslips band members Jim Lochart & Barry Devlin
Horslips Jim Lockhart &
Barry Devlin

Interview with Horslips band members Jim Lockhart & Barry Devlin 1975 on Independent Radio. (recorded after a gig in old National Stadium SCR Dublin)

View Youtube video with Capitol Radio jingles, voice clips & press adverts.
Capitol Radio Dublin 1978 Evening Press cutting
Evening Press report 21 June 1978, raid on Capitol Radio Dublin.
Evening Press June 1978
False alarm as P&T inspector returns Ian Dempsey’s ID card.
Radio Month Jan. 1980 Irish Broadcasting feature
Radio Month feature article on Capitol Radio Dublin, 1980.

“Capitol Radio – deserving of a worthy place in the history of Irish Radio”. Listen to veteran British broadcaster the late Leon Tipler & his Capitol Radio review.

Capitol Radio reviewed by veteran British broadcaster Leon Tipler (1942-2013).

Sunshine Radio Dublin 1980’s photos & Radio news articles.

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