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Saturday, 10 April 2021

The 'Dublin to Kilcullen Turnpike' in 1729 to Ian Dempsey at Today FM in 2021, Six Degrees of Separation


Communications takes many forms. It can be communicating verbally to each other or travelling from one town to another with news and information. Modern communications include wireless telegraphy as in ship to shore or the radio broadcasting of today as voices through the ether communicates with their listeners. ‘Six degrees of separation’ is the idea that on average people and events are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. With this in mind, one can postulate that without the building of the first turnpike road in Ireland in the 1730’s we would not be able to listen to Morning Ireland on RTE, Ian Dempsey on Today FM, the Strawberry Alarm Clock on FM 104 or the breakfast show on 96FM in Cork. That journey from the innovative turnpike to entertaining tones of Ian Dempsey, will take us from the first toll road and creating the connection with rural Ireland, to the first major mass transportation company in Ireland described as the Ryanair of its day, to the greatest Irish whiskey export of all time and onwards to harnessing the radio waves, eventually reaching the multitude of radio studios and bedroom podcasters across Ireland and of course Ian Dempsey.


In the mid-18th century people rarely travelled further than a day’s walk from home. A person of means would have access to a horse and buggy but the roads were bad often subject to flooding and damage as the loads increased. The result was the Turnpike, a tolled road of better quality that often varied in both length and cost but massively improved transportation across the country. The first Irish turnpike road was opened from Dublin to Kilcullen in County Kildare in 1729. They expanded quickly. A major investment in better roads led directly to the success of one entrepreneur who made use of the growing number of these toll roads which initially radiated from Dublin but later connected many of the growing towns in the South East and South of the island.


As the network of turnpikes expanded, far away from Ireland in the Lombardy region of Italy, Carlo Bianconi was born in 1786. According to his biographer, Samuel Smiles,

‘learning took little effect on him’.

Regarded as a ‘dunce’ in school, his parents wanted him to gain experience outside their small enclave and importantly for them, allow their son to avoid the compulsory military service enforced at the time. A family friend, Andrea Faroni, agreed to take the young sixteen year old and a couple of other local lads on an apprenticeship in painting framing and selling. The young Bianconi left behind his parents as well as three brothers and a sister, walking out of Italy into Switzerland and eventually reaching England. This was the original plan but Faroni decided to go one step further to the edge of Europe and travelled across the Irish Sea to Dublin.


After arriving in Dublin in 1802, Faroni and his charges stayed in Temple Bar near the Essex Bridge. They began selling framed prints around Dublin but the young Italian found it difficult without any grasp of the English language. The young Carlo knew however he had a better chance of success by increasing his English and by anglicizing his name to Charles. Like pioneers or explorers Faroni and the four apprentices left the sanctuary of Dublin and headed south to Waterford, where much of the gold they used to guild the picture frames were imported. At one point Charles Bianconi was arrested in Passage when he was caught selling prints of the disgraced Napoleon, who had just been defeated by the British at Waterloo. After a couple of nights in the police cells he was released. The team carried their heavy load of wares from town to town, walking many miles, it was back breaking work. In 1804, his apprenticeship ended with Faroni and the young Bianconi rejected the offer to return home to Italy. While in Waterford he had met with Edmund Rice, the founder of the Christian Brothers, and was the beneficiary of an education which opened his eyes to a multitude of possibilities in now his adopted homeland.


In 1806, Bianconi moved to Carrick-on-Suir. He travelled to Waterford on Tom Morrissey’s boat along the River Suir to obtain the gold for his gilding process. By boat it was a distance of twenty miles and was subject to the vagaries of the tides. By road, it was a distance of only 12 miles but it had to be walked and with a heavy load, the boat, despite its slow speed of travel, was the better option. In 1809, he moved once again to Clonmel and continued to earn a good living selling prints, travelling by foot and the slow boat back to Carrick – on – Suir and Waterford.


It was now that the young Italian struck upon an idea that would revolutionize travel in Ireland. On July 5th 1815 at Hearn’s Hotel in Clonmel, a horse and buggy were readied for the departure of the first Bianconi car that would travel the twelve miles from Clonmel to Cahir. That first trip carried a driver and six passengers. It was not overly popular but the shrewd Bianconi put a slower coach on the route and pointed to how efficient his brightly yellow coloured ‘Bian’ car was. The following year the Clonmel to Waterford and to Carrick-on-Suir routes were added. The new regular passenger service, despite not having any protection against the inclement Irish weather, departed, and arrived on time and travelled even if there were no paying passengers on board. The convenience of the cars and its affordability became popular and the routes continued to expand. Bianconi was able to connect with both the Royal[1] and the Grand Canals[2] that travelled from Dublin to the River Shannon. From one horse and a cart, the Bianconi Cars developed into two, four and six horse transports carrying more and more passengers and cargo. He delivered the mail from outlying areas to central hubs for the Royal Mail and earned a reputation as being punctual and safe, employing his own security guards on dangerous routes or for expensive cargos.


Charles Bianconi became an important member of the Clonmel community earning himself Irish (British ruled Ireland) citizenship. He married the daughter of a well-known Dublin stockbroker, Eliza Hayes in 1827, who was twenty years his junior. He would move into a palatial house known as Longfield and the couple would have three children. The first born daughter died relatively young as did his son. His son had married the granddaughter of the Great Emancipator Daniel O’Connell, whom Bianconi was a great supporter of. Charles Bianconi became Mayor of Clonmel and continued to expand his flourishing business. His cars were affordable for the working/farmer classes and opened up Ireland for exploration and business development. From Dublin his cars departed from the Hibernian Hotel on Dawson Street and as they journeyed, Bianconi Inns opened along routes providing rest periods, overnight stays and changing facilities for fresh horses. Even when the railways arrived in Ireland, the first section opening in 1837 and they expanded rapidly, he adapted. The rail lines made some of his routes redundant but he adjusted connecting new towns to the railway stations hubs, his web was radiating across much of Ireland.


He provided employment for over one hundred and sixty drivers on his one hundred cars, known as ‘Finn McCool’s’ and ‘Massey Dawson’s’[3]. His drivers were regarded as very civil, well turned out, wearing similar hat wear to identify their position. Bianconi required punctuality, truthfulness, honesty and most importantly sobriety. In many cases, drivers who proved themselves ‘Bianconi men’ could pass on their position to a family member upon retirement. When a driver became too ill to work or died, Bianconi insured that the family were looked after financially and educationally. Workers were only required to work six days, a novel approach in the mid 1800’s. He was the largest employer in Clonmel especially when he opened his own factory to build and repair his fleet of vehicles. Along his routes, there were changing stations for the horses each employing grooms and blacksmiths. The so called ‘Bianconi Inns’ developed in over one hundred and fifty stops each one providing direct employment and indirect employment through supplies. He put many smaller coach companies out of business or bought them out, these were usually operator by owners of Inns or Taverns. One commentator wrote about a rival company, McCarthy’s in Kanturk,

‘his cars in shape and size resemble Bianconi’s, but here the comparison ends. McCarthy’s horses are poor starved hacks, whereas those of Bianconi are fine, well fed and strong’.[4]


When Bianconi began, his timing was perfect as there was an abundance of good horses available that had been readied to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, but with the defeat of Napoleon, there was over supply and he was able to purchase horses relatively cheaply. At the height of his business in 1857, Bianconi had 1,300 horses travelling 3,800miles on 23 routes. The local farmers and economies boomed as he purchased 4,000 tons of hays and 30,000 barrels of oats per year. He was as generous to his horses as his men. Despite his demand leading to price increases, he purchased the best of horses and they were well treated. He once wrote,

‘Experience teaches me that I can work a horse eight miles per day, six days in the week, much better than I can six miles for seven days; and by not working on Sundays, I effect a saving of 12 per cent.’

This from a speech delivered by Bianconi at the Cork meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science on August 19th, 1843.


With the continued improvements of the turnpikes, the arrival of the canals and the railways, the time spent traveling greatly reduced for the Irish passengers. For example, in 1757 a traveller from Dublin to Kilkenny would be on the road for almost two days with an overnight stay at Athy on the outward journey and in Kilcullen on the inward return journey. By 1825 that journey time had been reduced to eleven hours and with the arrival of the railway by 1860, it took only 3 hours and twenty minutes. Similarly Dublin to Cork in 1793 was advertised as taking over two days, in 1820 that was reduced to just over one day and to 6 hours and 50 minutes when the first train ran on that route.


By 1866, the transport entrepreneur had decided to retire and with his son and heir having predeased him, he rewarded the hard work of those who ran his business by selling off his routes and Inns to the workers of the Bianconi company for reasonable and affordable amounts.


During his tenure as the head of the company, he wanted to ensure that his livestock received the best of treatment and decided to ask for a nephew in Italy to be despatched to Ireland to become the senior veterinarian, looking after both the horses and the other vets in his employ. Giuseppe Marconi arrived in Ireland and was based in both Clonmel and Waterford. Giuseppe was born in the village of Porretta in the shadow of the Apennine Hills on July 5th 1823. He had inherited some of his father’s wealth but was himself a hard worker and generated considerable wealth. He married Giulia De Renoli in January 1855 and their son Luigi was born the following October. Just a couple of years later Giulia died, leaving Giuseppe a single father and a widower.  In 1860, he was in London where he invested in a cafĂ© selling penny ices and a music hall near Charing Cross with former neighbours from Italy, the Gatti brothers. His journey then to Ireland was short when summoned by Bianconi. He would travel to and from the Hibernian Hotel on Dawson Street on a Bianconi coach to Clonmel. He would make the return journey through Waterford to New Ross, Enniscorthy and onwards towards Arklow and Bray before reaching Dublin.

Meanwhile Andrew Jameson, son of whiskey magnate John Jameson, departed from the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin and set up his own whiskey still on the River Urrin, a tributary of the Slaney, at Fairfield outside Enniscorthy in 1818. The area is still known as The Stil. Andrew and his second wife Margaret Millar acquired nearby Daphne Castle in 1823 from the Pounden family. Andrew and Margaret had five daughters, all born at Daphne − Elizabeth, Helen, Janet, Isabella, and the youngest Annie was born in 1839[5].  Annie’s family also bought an elegant house in Dublin known as Montrose House. Montrose House, perhaps more familiar to you all now as a backdrop to many RTE News reports. Montrose House is today part of the RTE complex in Donnybrook.


According to Maria Marconi, Annie Jameson, her grandmother was.

‘a lovely girl, charming and vivacious. The whole family had a passion for music. It was their favourite occupation and they used to play different instruments together in the evenings. Annie played the piano and she also had a beautiful soprano voice. To her family’s disapproval (it was quite out of the question for a young girl of good family to become an opera singer in those days), she was offered an engagement to sing at the Covent Garden Opera House in London. She was forbidden to accept but after much discussion and argument she was allowed to go to Italy to study singing with a famous teacher of the time. The Jameson company had contacts with a Bologna banker named De Regoli and Annie went to stay with his family. De Regoli’s daughter had died while giving birth to a son, Luigi, and their widowed son-in-law Giuseppe Marconi spent much of his time with them. He was charming and lively with a good sense of humour and he and Annie soon fell in love.


When Annie returned home to Ireland, she asked permission to marry Giuseppe[6]. Her family was just as shocked at Annie’s choice of husband as they had been at the thought of her singing at Covent Garden and they refused consent to the marriage. Annie was ordered to forget him and, apparently obedient, she remained at home and led a social life going to parties and meeting suitable young men approved by her family. However, she continued to correspond secretly with Giuseppe. When she came of age she ran away from home and crossed the stormy water of the channel to France while Giuseppe drove his carriage across the Alps. They met in Boulogne-Sur-Mer, a romantic town by the sand dunes and were married there on April 16th 1864. ‘

Giuseppe Marconi

It is perhaps a more honest explanation as to the joining of Signor Marconi and Annie Jameson, that they had met while Marconi was still in Ireland. Secretly carrying on their liaison when Marconi continued on his travels. According to a report in the Weekly Irish Times newspaper on July 1st 1901, it stated,

‘After some time, he sent to Italy for his nephew to act as veterinary superintendent of his stables and this man from his daring riding, his knowledge of horses and his attractive appearance, soon was golden opinions for himself in County Tipperary. His first stay in Ireland was not however of long duration, for having fallen deeply in love with a young Irish lady, whom he had met in the hunting field. He married her without the consent of her parents and it was thought better both by her people and by Mr. Bianconi, that the youthful couple should begin their married life in Italy,’


They settled at Villa Griffone, outside Bologna. Annie was reconciled with her Jameson family after the birth of her first child Alfonso in 1865 but it would be the birth of her second son nine years later that would lead to another communication revolution. Guglielmo Marconi was born on April 25th 1874. For four years, from the age of two, Guglielmo and Alfonso were brought up by Annie in the English town of Bedford. As children, the family would often make summer visits home to Daphne Castle. Annie ensured that Guglielmo spoke excellent English but he laboured in school. Guglielmo Marconi was as much Irish as he was Italian and without that Irish connection and the finances it generated, he would not be seen today as The Father of Radio.

In 1894 Marconi began experiments at his home in Bologna but despite his best efforts to get the Italian authorities to embrace the importance of his wireless telegraphy, He needed a commercial backer and it was one of his mother’s cousins Henry Jameson Davis who stepped in and began to publicise Marconi’s Wireless Telegraphy system. Annie’s fathers’ distillery at Fairfield in Enniscorthy was put out of business in 1840 by a temperance crusade led by Father Theobald Mathew, who had actually been a friend of Bianconi. Jameson rented his property to a local businessman Abraham Davis who would marry Annie’s older sister Helen in 1850. Their second son was Henry Jameson Davis was born in 1854.

Marconi, who had been encouraged to learn English by his Irish born mother travelled to England in 1896 to demonstrate his invention to the British post office. Jameson Davis became the first Managing Director of the newly incorporated Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company in 1897 generating almost £100,000 in capital to obtain the patent rights for the Marconi system worldwide. Some of the other investors were James Fitzgerald Bannatyne from Limerick. He would serve as Deputy Lord Mayor of Limerick and was involved in the milling business until his company was bought by the Goodbody Milling Company. Henry Obre, a Cork Merchant who lived at Fort Villa, Queenstown (died 1906), Thomas Wiles, SW Ellerby, Frank Wilson, Cyril Bennet, Robert Patterson, and Goodbody’s who were all involved in the Milling and granary business.


Some of Marconi’s most exciting progressions in wireless technology happened in Ireland. His first experiments linked Rathlin Island with Ballycastle in 1898. In that same year, the first use of the new medium in sports journalism took place in Dun Laoghaire when reports on the local annual regatta were sent by Marconi from the Flying Huntress steam paddle tugboat in Dublin Bay to a receiving station in the harbourmasters house on the quayside and then telephoned to the Daily Express Office who immediately published the race updates. In 1916 it was a 1.5 kilowatt Marconi transmitter that was used to broadcast communiques to the listening world making Ireland the first nation in the world to be declared by radio. In 1923 Marconi operated the first licensed radio station in Ireland 2BP in August 1923 and it was a Marconi transmitter that was used by 2RN to get on the air in January 1926. 2RN would morph into Radio Eireann and then on to today’s Radio Telifis Eireann (RTE). It would be also the Marconi Company whose television transmission equipment that would outlast John Logie Baird’s experimental equipment when the BBC launched a television service.


The Flying Huntress

Marconi also married an Irish woman, Lady Beatrice O’Brien, the daughter of the Lord of Inchiquin whose home was Dromoland Castle in County Clare. She was the great niece of the Irish Nationalist William Smith O’Brien. She married Marconi on March 16th 1905 but separated in 1918 and divorced in 1924. The Belfast Newsletter reported,

‘He asked her to become his wife, ' but her mother objected, saying so many weddings turned out badly that she refused to let her" daughter marry if the bond was indissoluble, as it was for Roman Catholics. This difficulty was only overcome by Senator Marconi entering into an agreement, not only with the Hon. Beatrice O’Brien but also with her mother, whereby it was expressly stated that cither party could sue for divorce, at any time he or she thought fit.’



The success of radio is global with thousands of stations broadcasting news, sports, opinions and entertainment. Ireland fell in love with radio and in the seventies and eighties a revolution took place which broke RTE’s monopoly. The proliferation of pirate radio drove the campaign to create a new broadcasting landscape in Ireland. These stations came on air using Marconi technology and equipment. One of those illegal broadcasters was Ian Dempsey on Alternative Radio Dublin who found himself going legit when he joined the State broadcaster’s second channel RTE Radio 2. When the clamour for independent radio and television reached a crescendo, a demand created by the choice offered by pirate radio, independent commercial radio became a reality. Following the ill-fated Century Radio, the national franchise was won by Radio Ireland which was rebranded as Today FM. One of the major rating winners on Today FM is Ian Dempsey.


The lineage of Marconi’s efforts in Ireland from the first turnpike built, has eventually led to Ian Dempsey at Today FM, the independent national commercial radio station which is based at Marconi House on Digges Lane. If the turnpikes had not been built, the roads would not have been as good or as extensive enough for Charles Bianconi’s transport company to thrive and grow. It connected communities. If it could not grow there would have been no need for hundreds of horses and therefore not require the arrival of Giuseppe Marconi to Ireland to tend to Bianconi’s stables. If Marconi had not visited Ireland, he may have never met and married Annie Jameson. While radio was an inevitability, Marconi, the second son of Giuseppe and Annie, and the key influencer in both its spread and success, would not have been born if his parents had not met. Without Marconi, radio would not be the success in Ireland today that it is and Ian Dempsey might be driving a Luas tram rather than broadcasting to a nation.

[1] Royal Canal Construction began 1790 and completed 1817

[2] Grand Canal construction began 1756 and completed in 1804

[3] The Bian’s by Ivor Herring

[4] Bianconi’s Cars by Thomas P O’Neill

[5]Marconi My Beloved’ by Maria C. Marconi

[6] A widower

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Gender Imbalance Continues to be an issue at 2FM in 2021


In July 2013 Darragh McManus in his Radio Column in the Irish Independent[1] wrote, when it was announced that Louise McSharry would temporarily replace Ryan Tubridy on 2 FM,

‘It’s a big deal because Louise McSharry as you will have gathered from the name, is female. And 2FM is almost entirely a female free zone. Out of the roughly 20 shows in a normal week three are hosted by females (one co-hosting with a man). None are anywhere near primetime.’

He added,

‘The fact that taxpayers fund 2FM – and half are women- seems to make it worse’.

Half those taxpayers by inference are therefore men and are entitled to equal representation on the 2FM airwaves, gender equality. The issue now is the under representation of the male voice as presenters/DJs on the national pop channel and reverse inequality. As of March 25th 2021, this was the line up on 2FM,

6am             Doireann Garrihy

9am             Jennifer Zamperelli

12 Noon      Tracy Clifford

3pm             Jenny Greene

6pm             Game on Presented by Marie Crowe (with Ruby Walsh & Donnacha O’Callaghan)

7pm             Tara Stewart

10pm           Dan Hegarty

News          Jan O’Connell

But how far has equality come and now surpassed itself on the national airwaves. By 2014, a Women on the Air conference claimed only 25% of voices on Irish airwaves were female. Jenny Greene at the time said,

‘a woman should only be allowed on the air if she is good enough’.

 Fellow broadcaster Alison Curtis who works as the national commercial station Today FM said,

‘I don’t think you should put somebody on based on their gender, we need to divide the talent equally but put the best on the air’.[2]

In 2017, the in an article titled ‘'You won't hear a woman's voice, and it's not acceptable': What are Irish radio stations doing about gender balance?

They reported,

‘Fierce discussion has been taking place about gender balance in Irish radio, after it emerged this month that two of the country’s most high-profile stations, Today FM and Newstalk (part of the Communicorp stable), do not have any women on air during peak listening times of 7am – 7pm.’

In 2018, The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) asked the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) to monitor the Irish airwaves for gender balance on a yearly basis but the emphasis seemed to only focus on gender balance as it affected women not male broadcasters.

As of March 2021, from 6am to Midnight, only 11% of on air voices as male, a different gender imbalance. It may absolutely be the case that only the best should be heard on air, those most popular with listeners.  This has to be balanced with the JNLR figures in November 2020 which saw 2FM lose listeners and Newstalk becoming the second most listened to station Nationwide[3].


Much has been made of gender equality in the workplace over the past decade and major strides have been made in numerous male dominated industries. There has been an improved balance with the Irish radio industry but just as the campaign to gain greater acceptance of female recognition and opportunities, the same must now be applied to the gender imbalance against the males in the industry. Gender disparity in favour of female presenters is not gender equality. The gender equality that RTE DG Dee Forbes said she would address[4] when she was appointed in April 2016 has yet to find a balance.

[1] Page 89 Irish Independent 27th July 2013

[2] Interview with Woman’s Way Magazine


[4] Sunday Independent April 3rd 2016

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

A St. Patrick's Day Pirate Radio Throwback

Over the decades Irish pirate radio stations have garnered newspaper headlines for their antics in and around St. Patrick's Day. Here is a small selection of those headlines. 

In 1978, Radio Dublin announced it would be taking part in the iconic St Patrick's Day parade, but just a couple of days later...

In 1979, unlike Dublin, Radio Cill Dara takes part in the local St Patrick's Day parade in Newbridge.

One station that launched on a St. Patrick's Day was Centre Radio in Clonmel in 1986. 

and finally back to where we started with Radio Dublin who would suffer with their FM Frequency woes when Radio Ireland, who had won the national radio franchise following the demise of Century FM, would officially go on air on St Patrick's Day. 


Sunday, 14 March 2021

Pictures of the Actual Equipment & Aerials used by the 1916 Rebels to Broadcast to the World


In the early 1990’s I read Maurice Gorham’s book ’40 Years of Irish Radio’ and after a couple of pages I came across the startling discovery for me that the rebels during the 1916 Easter Rising ‘broadcast to the world’. I thought,

‘why are we not celebrating this unique historical fact more?’I began to research the subject slowly to find out if it was, as some history books put it ‘a happenchance event’ or that it could not be really described as a radio station as no one had heard these broadcasts. In an old Jackdaw publication from the 1970’s, that my parents had bought me as a birthday present’ was many facsimiles of documents relating to the Rising and one of those was a signed order from James Connolly ‘to protect our wireless station’.

For the next twenty-five years when work and family time allowed me, I continued to research the subject and the picture emerged of a truly historical event, that Ireland became the first nation in the world to be declared by radio. The culmination of that research was my 2016 book ‘Rebel Radio’ published by Kilmainham Tales Teo. It sold extremely well, and it led to the commemoration of the rebel broadcasts erected at the site of station, now the Grand Central Bar on the corner of O’Connell Street and Middle Abbey Street.

Since the publication more information has come to light of both the scope and success of the station and I want to share some of it here with more appearing in the next edition of the book due out in 2022.

First are pictures of the actual aerials and equipment that was used by rebels in 1916 and taken in the rooms that the rebels seized in April 1916. These pictures were taken when the Irish School of Wireless Telegraphy originally opened in March 1913 as a subsidiary of the Northern Wireless School, that was based at 47 Market Street, Manchester. Photographed sitting at the table in front of the receiver in the station is the School’s chief instructor when it opened A. P. Corcoran, a former Naval Marconi wireless officer. We know that this was the equipment used by the Rebels as the school was closed by the British authorities in 1914 under the Defense of the Realm Act as the War broke out. The British fearful that the equipment would be used to contact the Germans. 

AP Corcoran behind the desk in the Wireless School on the top floor of Reis's Chambers
The aerials on the roof of Reis's Chambers. Taken down after the enforced closure at the beginning of the First World War. They were left on the roof and partially re-erected by the rebels including John Blimey O'Connor and Fergus O'Kelly to allow the rebel broadcasts. 

 In the aftermath of the Rising and Reis’s Chambers completely destroyed where the rebels had broadcast from, the Marconi Company who had leased the equipment to station owner Phillip Keston Turner (later to be one half of the duo who invented Hi Fi), claimed for damages for the loss of the equipment used to run the Wireless School.

For any radio stations listeners as a valuable commodity. In the book we already discovered that the rebel station was heard by the wireless operator on board HMS Adventure, the journalist Sidney Cave and an amateur wireless operator in Wales. This letter that appeared in the Irish Times in March 1961 written by J G Reid, reveals that the station’s broadcasts were also picked up by the wireless operators at the Naval wireless station in Skerries.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Longford Pirate Radio post 1988


What was described as a golden era of Irish pirate radio came to an end on December 31st 1988. Longford had seen its fair share of pirate radio activity throughout the 1980’s but the introduction of the 1988 Wireless Telegraphy Act did not silence pirate radio activity in the county of Longford. From 2000 onwards until increased Comreg activity in the area, there was increased illegal broadcasting activity. A number of stations battled on the pages of the Longford Leader rather than over the airwaves. One in particular Big LCR, the brainchild of Paddy Farrell, is covered here on the pirate archive website, including his court appearance following a ComReg/Garda raid on his station.

(c) Longford Leader 2002

In 2000, a number of stations claimed that they were broadcasting in Longford including Tilt FM, Sham FM and the aforementioned Big LCR.

The increased activity in the Longford area brought unwanted attention on some of the Catholic churches in the county who were broadcasting on FM.

But by illegal parish broadcasts did return to the airwaves including Ardagh on 108mhz FM.
(c) Longford Leader 2020

The Longford Leader Newspaper
The Longford News
The Irish Pirate Radio Archive
The DX Archive

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Easter Rising Coach Tour: 2020 SUCKED!! THANK GOD FOR 2021

Easter Rising Coach Tour: 2020 SUCKED!! THANK GOD FOR 2021:   For reasons that will probably become clearer shortly, I have recently been attending counselling and one of the ‘tricks’ she encouraged m...

Friday, 26 February 2021

Harold Forster, The Art of Advertising 1920's Radio. The Marconi Hero


Today the real success of an advertising campaign can be reflected in how memorable their campaign was. Coca – Cola’s musical ads, ‘I’d like to Teach the World’, their reappropriation of Santa Claus from his original green out fit to the Coke colours of red and white are instantly identifiable, ‘For Mash get Smash’ or ‘It’s Martini’ are still fondly remembered. In the 1920’s the print media was the main weapon of the advertisers to reach the public but in the early part of the roaring Twenties, a new pretender to the advertising crown was making it way to market, radio.


The Marconi company led the way with innovation in both transmitting and receiving, producing the most popular ‘listening-in’ devices for the wireless. To deliver their message, the Marconi Company used the newspapers and trade publications. In order that their products stood out from the crowd, in 1923 they commissioned a series of drawings used in newspaper ads encouraging purchases of their radios sets. They showed how valuable they were to enrich the lives of those who invested in the new medium.


They contracted an illustrator and artist to capture the ‘joy’ of radio listening and his work created a sensation in the newspapers and for their readers. Radio became a must have. The graphic illustrations, portrayed in an art deco style were stylish, appealed to the emotions and illustrated how radio could make like better. Advertisers were selling a dream; the world of radio was elegant no matter where you were or what you did. Many of the Marconi portrayals were of upper class people in decorative, modernist settings, creating a utopia often far from the lives of working class post war Britons. The purchase of a radio set was far beyond the financial reach of many of those who were still recovering from the First World War. Homemade crystal sets were extremely popular with working class listeners. Marconi’s advertisements exuded luxury and created a theme that the new medium of radio would offer everything including music, weather forecasting and information talks.

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The illustrations displayed a modern affluent Britain. The surroundings are plush set in drawing rooms, with quality furniture and fittings. The men are smartly dressed, with nearly all of them smoking a pipe or a cigar. The women are drawn in elegant dresses and crafted hairstyles. The ballroom scenes exude affluence and a rich lifestyle and spell the end of the live music era replaced by music through the wireless. Radio is a unifier of the family unit as the drawings feature parents and their children, even the children enjoying the radio broadcasts with their grandparents. One depicts what appears to be a teacher and her children outdoors being educated by the radio broadcasts. In one scene a couple have gone to the country to have a picnic in their automobile listening to the radio while the enjoyed their moment yet if you look closely, they are not alone as another man watches on from the tree line. The radio set is shown as the perfect accompaniment indoors or outdoors.  The reality however for many living in the UK in the early twenties, all of this high-brow living was aspirational.



By 1923, the British Broadcasting Company had just been formed and had taken over the running of the various stations around Britain operated by wireless set manufacturers. On 18 October 1922 the British Broadcasting Company Ltd was incorporated with a share capital of £60,006, with cumulative ordinary shares valued at £1 each and six major shareholders,

The shares were equally held by six companies:

·        Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company

·        Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company

·        Radio Communication Company

·        The British Thomson-Houston Company

·        The General Electric Company

·        Western Electric Company

Marconi was at the heart of transmitting and manufacturers radio sets. They wanted to cement their position at the forefront of radio, in a crowded field of manufacturers. Harold Forster was employed to produce a set of illustrations that would be used in the newspaper campaign for their premier product ‘The Two Value Marconiphone’. The campaign, which was broadcast at a national and local level, helped the Marconi Company maintain its lead as the main seller of ‘listening-in’ sets in the UK. The illustrations used in the advertisements had two different styles often used deliberately in the publication they were placed in to appeal to various classes. The more elaborate drawings appeared in national newspapers and trade publications, and often as half page advertisements while the darker, less crowded portraits appeared in regional newspapers.


Forster, in his late twenties in 1923, would have an illustrious career as an illustrator and an artist. He did not confine himself to the Marconi work, illustrating many products and brands. He was responsible for pre-war Black Magic chocolate illustrations. He produced a number of the famous World War Two posters commissioned by the British Government including the ‘Keep Mum, She’s Not So Dumb’ and ‘Forward to Victory’ posters. He would also produce iconic movie posters including for the Jack Hawkins action film, ‘Angels One Five’.