In a Word ... Radio

It was the 1980s and we pirate broadcasters wanted to free Ireland’s regional accents

So you survived yesterday, April 1st. Good for you. Inevitably “the day” brings me back to an ever-more distant youth and the way we might look at things.

As with many others who have made careers in Irish mainstream media, I began my professional life as an outlaw. Principle, you see. All in the greater interest of freedom for small stations.

Yes, we radio pirates took on the great behemoth that was RTÉ, then the unchallenged broadcasting empire where much of Ireland was concerned and before which there would be no other. By law.

It even had its own ARE TEE EEE accent, suppressing all others despite the rich variety of local takes on the language that still survive throughout this island, with a range that is every bit as scintillating as our countryside. It was also our ambition to free the long-oppressed accents of Ireland. No less.

Yes, dear reader, I too was a pirate at the super-station Sunshine Radio in Dublin. It was the 1980s and everything was ridiculous. The country was going down the tubes yet still the government of the day, and RTÉ, found time and resources to fight our motley rag-and-bone crew and the threat we represented to all that was good and holy.

They failed and, lo, today we have a rich variety of local, independent radio stations all over the island with accents to match. Your gratitude is appreciated.

To April Fool’s Day. We took our news programming at Sunshine very seriously but on April 1st each year we would let our hair down, so to speak. One year we broadcast an item on alleged research that showed ducks in the pond at Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green quacked in a variety of accents and, remarkably, that Dublin and Cork ducks there also tended to avoid each other assiduously.

Another year we announced a mini-budget introduced that day that levied new taxes on all household pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits, goldfish, budgies, and canaries. We listed the government levy for each.

Listeners were outraged but not at all surprised. Such were the times. But it got to such a point we had to make a special announcement reminding people of the date.

I still have a soft spot for that quack duck story.

Radio, from Latin radius, for "beam".

inaword@irishtimes.com

Read More

Recommended