New book recalls the launch of Clare FM

New book recalls the launch of Clare FM

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It is 30 years since legal local radio came to all parts of Ireland. One of the first local services to commence broadcasting was Clare FM which launched on Sunday 10th September 1989.

It was a historic day for the county and the team of 30 full time and part time staff had worked hard in advance of the launch to ensure that it would be a success.

“Launching Clare FM – The stories of those who launched Clare‘s local radio station in 1989” is a new book, written by the first voice on the station, Ger Sweeney, who can still be heard occasionally on Clare FM.

The book looks at the lead up to the legalising of radio stations in Ireland, the establishment of the Independent Radio and Television Commission (IRTC), the competition that decided who would get the licences and it profiles the four Clare groups who sought the Clare franchise. The bulk of “Launching Clare FM” introduces us to the individual members of the original team and profiles each one – where they are from, how they became interested in radio, how they got the Clare FM job, their role in the launch and in the station as a whole, why they left, where they went and what they’re doing now.

Ger Sweeney with the late President Paddy Hillery in a studio

Ger Sweeney said: “We were fortunate to be part of a historic moment in 1989. That moment cannot happen again and I thought that the story should be told. In telling it I placed great importance on the stories being told by those who were there. That ensures that each person’s contribution can be appreciated because it was truly a team effort.”

In the book the various stories reflect the importance of local radio, especially in areas like County Clare that are fortunate to have good local radio services. “Launching Clare FM” outlines the planning that went into the programming and what was considered important like local news and current affairs, local sport, local culture and bringing all parts of the county together. It also deals with struggles such as trying to get the signal into all parts of the county and the information campaigns that were run to teach people how to tune in.

It was a very exciting time and because of the advance publicity that Clare FM received in the local press there was a great air of expectancy across the county from early summer of 1989. Ger comments “this was great because we knew that there would be a listenership when we launched but it did add some pressure because the expectations were high. We had to come out shooting with all barrels when the time came, and we did. President Patrick Hillery, a proud Clare man, performed the official opening which we broadcast from an Ennis hotel. That evening we broadcast a celebration concert live from Dánlann an Chláir in Ennis, and during the first programme which I presented (12pm – 5pm) there were live match reports from the County Senior Football final in Cooraclare with Marty Morrissey, our News and Sports Editor. That was an ambitious start!!”

Caimin Jones en route to another story (Photo: Liam Hogan Photography)

The book is packed with memories and stories from members of the original team. Some names that were in Ennis in 1989 will be familiar to the masses including two former RTÉ presenters, Caimin Jones and Áine Hensey along with future national figures like Marty Morrissey, Rachael English and Alan Cantwell. It’s almost a “behind the scenes” look at what was going on and what went on in the early days. Some highs and lows are recalled and each story is different but there are a few similarities that pop up.

Ger Sweeney says, “Clare FM’s 30th anniversary is the ideal time to tell the story, before we all forget it. As only one of the original presenters has died in the past 30 years I was able to get stories from most of the original crew. Sadly, there are three others who were part of the team but not on air who have passed away and these are recalled in the book. Also remembered in some stories are others who joined us later who have since died. There are four people currently with the station in some capacity that were there at the start and of these, two have unbroken service. I’m still involved but only as occasional substitute after leaving full time work there on three occasions. Bad penny has been mentioned!!”

“Launching Clare FM” is a book for radio buffs everywhere. The book will be officially launched tomorrow (Tuesday 12th November) at 7pm by Cormac MacConnell at The Civic Room, Buttermarket Building (formerly Ennis Town Council), Drumbiggle, Ennis.

The book looks back at some wonderful Clare FM memories.

*The first song played at 12pm on 10th September 1989

*One of the presenters who got caught speeding – the judge later threw out the charge as he was a “fan”

*How the JNLR listenership figures forced a Programme controller to apologise to a presenter.

*Interviewee who was literally talking to the radio instead of speaking into the phone

*The West Clare man who was waiting for Christmas to get the “Clare radio”

*The presenter who set up a stall outside the radio station

*Who was Mary from Ballyalla?

*The presenter who got bags of chips from people on their way home from bingo

*Robbing the boss’ cigarettes to get the Bishop’s mass on air

*While heading for lunch an over-worked producer got shouted at

*Driving the Outside Broadcast unit inches from a Garda car for miles trying not to run over members of the public while being blinded by the Garda car’s flashing lights

Photoshoot in Shannon Airport 1993. Seated Ger Sweeney and Mike Gardiner. Standing Pat Flynn, Jacinta (Eade) Forde & John Carey

Ger’s book can be purchased at the following locations:

Killaloe The Forge Newsagent
Feakle Post Office
Scariff Post Office
Ennis Ennis Book Shop
Lahinch Lahinch Book Shop
Shannon Eason (McLoughney’s)
Kildysart Centra (Michaels)
Kilrush Leisure Centre, Francis St
Kilkee McNamara’s
Kilmihil Johnson’s Centra
Quilty Post Office
Miltown Music Makers of West Clare
Miltown Larkins
Ennistymon Banner Books
Corofin Minihane’s Centra

 

Limerick City O’Mahony, O’Connell Street
Parkway Shopping Centre Eason
Crescent Shopping Centre Crescent Bookshop

“Launching Clare FM” is also available at Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway

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Chief Reporter Pat Flynn has worked as a journalist for almost 30 years. His career began during the late 1980s when, like many aspiring radio presenters of the time, he worked for local pirate radio stations in Clare and Limerick. Pat joined Clare FM in 1990 where he worked as researcher initially and later presented several different programmes including the station's flagship current affairs programme. He was also the station's News Editor and Deputy Controller of Programmes. Despite leaving in 2003 to pursue a career as a freelance journalist, he continues to work with the station to this day. As well as being the Clare Herald’s Chief Reporter Pat is also freelance journalist and broadcaster, contributing to Ireland’s national newspapers and is a regular contributor to national broadcasters.

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