A LOCAL hospital radio station that plays many classic songs which are no longer to be heard on the national airwaves celebrated a milestone birthday recently.Funded by the Northern Area Health Board (NAHB), St Ita’s Hospital Radio is located at St Ita’s Hospital in Portrane and for the last 21 years the station has broadcast daily on 97.4FM to listeners across Dublin.
By Eimear Cotter
A LOCAL hospital radio station that plays many classic songs which are no longer to be heard on the national airwaves celebrated a milestone birthday recently.
Funded by the Northern Area Health Board (NAHB), St Ita’s Hospital Radio is located at St Ita’s Hospital in Portrane and for the last 21 years the station has broadcast daily on 97.4FM to listeners across Dublin.
As well as playing the greatest hits from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, the station also prides itself on playing songs that the listener just won’t hear anywhere else.
So if you remember ‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas’ by Gayla Peevey, Pussycat’s 1975 hit ‘Mississippi’, CW McCall’s ‘Convoy’ or Loudon Wainwright III’s song ‘The Man Who Couldn’t Cry’ then perhaps you should tune into 97.4FM.
And if you love Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, U2, Christy Moore, the Beatles, Level 42 or even Supertramp, then St Ita’s radio could be your cup of tea!
St Ita’s Hospital Radio was born in early December 1983 during the height of the pirate radio boom in Ireland. The original transmitter and antenna were home-made and the first studio was based in a disused storeroom in the Hospital.
Tom Noctor is the Station Manager. He’s been with St Ita’s Hospital Radio for over 11 years.
‘It’s a pleasure to work with St Ita’s radio. We’ve a great bunch of DJs here, there’s no egos involved. Everyone is spot on and it’s just hugely enjoyable,’ said Tom who has every UK number one hit single since the charts were first compiled in the early 1950s.
Many of the DJs, who are all volunteers, have been with the station for a long time, with Seán Cahill there since day one. Many of the DJs are also household names – Mick O’Brien, John Martin, Jimmy Field and ‘Stereo’ Jack Delaney will be all familiar to radio listeners in Dublin.
From its first broadcast in December 1983, St Ita’s radio has enjoyed a large amount of regular listeners.
The station’s tagline is ‘Much More Than Just Music’ and all the DJs speak warmly of the ‘deep community’ bond which exists between St Ita’s radio and the Portrane people.
By the late 1980s, when the then Minister for Communications, Ray Burke, introduced his bill to legalise local and community radio, St Ita’s Hospital Radio was the first station in Ireland to receive a licence.
And St Ita’s Hospital Radio has come a long way since the early days in a disused storeroom. The station now operates from a purpose built studio with commercially built equipment under the criteria laid down by the Independent Radio and Television Commission.
Although St Ita’s Hospital Radio has successfully broadcast for 21 successful years, a robbery four years ago came very close to shutting the station down.
‘The robbery almost cleaned us out,’ explained Tom Noctor. ‘All the equipment was taken. If it hadn’t been for the wonderful support of the health board we would have closed. As it was, we kept going.’
At the present time, St Ita’s has 13 voluntary presenters and broadcasts around the clock. The station broadcasts live shows from 10am to 2pm each day and recorded material for the remainder.
Between 2pm and 10pm, a selection of hits are played while from 10pm until 7am there’s a mix of Irish and country music, which has proved to be extremely popular with listeners.
As well as music, St Ita’s broadcast a weekly bingo for residents, Sunday morning Mass, a community noticeboard and has a free buy and sell section. The weather reports are sponsored by Shanahan Solicitors in Swords.
The presenters are; Colm O’Grady, Jack Delaney, Jimmy Field, John Martin, Phil Fagan, Mick O’Brien, Seán Cahill, Alan Quinn, Austin Sherlock, Ozzie Brad, Rob Davis, Jason Reynolds and Ken Hughes, who is Mr Fix-it, the station’s engineer.
So why do they give up their free time to come out to Portrane, at their own expense, to play music?
‘I don’t feel this is work. It’s not about getting paid, money’s not everything,’ said Colm. ‘It’s more about job satisfaction.’
Phil added: ‘Every one of the DJs has a different taste in music and it’s great to hear that variety. I don’t think you get that at any other station, the freedom to play what you and the listeners want.’
‘We don’t have a play list,’ said Mr Noctor.
‘The DJs don’t have a list of songs, or jingles, they have to play. We can play what we want, we can improvise.’
So if you listen into 97.4FM what sort of music can you expect? Colm O’Grady has been told his Saturday morning show is ‘great for ironing to’, a ‘great compliment,’ he said.
Colm loves ‘the joy and great sense of happiness that music brings to people’.
Of all the DJs, ‘Stereo’ Jack Delaney probably plays the most modern music, from the 1980s.
He prides himself on his research into the groups and always has anecdotes and titbits of information for his listeners, ‘it’s just tremendous fun’, he laughed.
John Martin’s show is entitled ‘Orange Blossom Country Special, Mick O’Brien’s show is ‘What’s Another Year’, when he plays the hits and relays the headlines of a particular year and Phil Fagan’s show is ‘Non Stop Gold’, Rob Davis plays love songs and Seán Cahill has the lunchtime show.
‘We’ve a good collection here and if someone requests a song we’ll do our best to find it and play it,’ said Tom Noctor.
St Ita’s Hospital Radio broadcasts on 97.4FM. The DJs are only too delighted to take requests and listeners can text in their requests on (087) 67997974.
Tom said he’s always on the lookout for volunteers. If you are interested and would like further details please contact him at 8436633.
No experience is necessary as training will be given.
Tom would also like to thank the DJs ‘who give time and expense to come out here’ and to the Management of St Ita’s Hospital and the NAHB for their continued support.
Finally, a huge and sincere thank you to the listeners of St Ita’s Hospital Radio who have listened for the past 21 years and here’s hoping you keep on listening!