Irish Radio News 

13 October 2023


I have been at this broadcasting history malarkey for a very long time. I can talk, for ages, in detail Proust would find excessive, about almost any point someone cares to make about British television and radio. And have (I’m a historian, we’re not famed for being interesting at parties).

It’s nice, therefore, to be presented with some archive that leaves me immediately throughly out of my depth. And here it is: a magazine, slightly shorter than A4, printed on newsprint, that is on its 729th edition that I’ve never heard of. And while it covers a week’s worth of programmes on the BBC Home Service and the BBC Forces Programme (very comfortable territory) it also covers a week in the life of Radio-Eireann, a subject I know very little about.

And it’s from 1942, a period of world, British and broadcasting history that is right in my wheelhouse. I have studied this period, hold quite a nice shiny certificate and title relating directly to this period, and I can say I know a lot about this period.

I don’t, however, know much more about Irish history at this time than I’ve read on Wikipedia. And Irish broadcasting history of this time? Cupboard’s bare, mate.

That’s why this is a blog post and not the standard article or even in-depth piece I’d write otherwise.

There’s also the large issue of a Brit writing about Irish history, which is guaranteed to make the replies on to such an article on social media a complete sewer for weeks (the only thing worse is writing anything ever about Australian broadcasting history, although that’s because you’ll get 50 replies from 50 people with 50 diametrically opposed points of view, all of them unanimous in only one thing: that I am an idiot).

So, first up: Irish readers – please pipe up in the comments and write the article I should’ve written had I had any knowledge at all about this matter.

Second, and the above notwithstanding, here’s two things I noticed.


Monday 23 March at 9.30pm: Traditional Welsh Airs
Thursday 26 March at 10.30pm: Scottish Half Hour


With regional broadcasting abolished in the UK on 1 September 1939 in anticipation of war breaking out in the next few days, the couple of hours a day given over to programming for the distinct populations of the UK has ceased. There’s a gap in the market, which Radio-Eireann seem to have inserted themselves with these two programmes addressing fellow-Celtic people in the areas with the strongest overlap from the Athlone transmitter: Wales and west Scotland.


Monday 23 March at 10.35pm: German Military Bands


German music pretty well disappeared from the BBC on the outbreak of war, mainly because the listeners-in vocally said they didn’t want to hear it. But Ireland is not at war with Germany. There’s still a German embassy in Dublin. The president of Ireland and the Führer of Germany exchange birthday greetings by telegram. Everything was done to pretend that things were normal (whilst quietly the Irish government and most of the Irish people were rooting for Germany to lose the war, which isn’t the same as rooting for the British to win it, and were actively cooperating to make this happen).

Here’s a piece of pretence, I reckon. Ireland and Germany are not at war. Therefore, there’s no problem in playing German music. Playing German military music, though, feels like a bit of a slap in the face to this Brit. Well played, lads.


You Say

3 responses to this article

Zaph Camden 13 October 2023 at 11:36 am

I noticed the broadcasts of recent records (from the second half of the 1930s) every weekday morning on the Forces programme and chuckled to myself, as the great-uncle of BBC Radio 1 proved there’s nothing new about the Golden Hour in the mornings :)

Nigel Stapley 25 October 2023 at 7:48 pm

A couple of points of note:

1) An early appearance by Milo O’Shea (March 22 at 6.0). He would have been about 15 at the time and later of course went on to star in movies such as ‘Barbarella’ and the screen adaptation of Joe Orton’s ‘Loot’, as well as TV (‘Me Mammy’).

2) This was a time before the concerted efforts to standardise the spelling of the Irish language (Gaeilge), which altered the spelling of many words in order to evict unpronounced letters and to create a standard which was as much as possible dialect-neutral. Hence the spelling here of ‘Nuadhacht’ (*) (which became ‘nuacht’) and ‘amhránuíocht (which became ‘amhránaíocht’).

(* in the sub-heading on the front page in traditional Irish script)

Nigel Stapley 30 October 2023 at 6:07 pm

Oh, and The Roosters (Forces Service, March 28 at 3:30) was a concert party set up to entertain the troops in WW1, but who continued to perform up to and during WW2.

Their material was written by Percy Merriman, who was the father of Eric, who went on to write ‘Beyond Our Ken’ amongst other comedy works.

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