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ON THE EIRE

Photos by Simon Hardwick and Richard Moore

Long Wave radio (148.5 to 283 kHz) is unknown in the USA but commonplace throughout Europe.

Here in the UK the BBC occupies a central point on the Long Wave dial first with The Light Programme on 200kHz, and now with BBC Radio 4 on 198kHz . For decades these services provided the only English language voice on that band, with World Service also available on that frequency overnight and audible throughout Western Europe.

During the 1980s there were rumours that a new and commercial Long Wave music station was planned which would be clearly audible throughout most of the UK and in 1989 that rumour became a reality as Atlantic 252 hit the airwaves from studios at Mornington House, in the otherwise sleepy village of Trim, Co. Meath, and their 500kW transmitter at nearby Summerhill, some 5km away.
   
Atlantic 252 was originally a joint initiative between RTÉ and the then Radio Luxembourg. The sound of the station was actually fairly 'piratical' and sounded more like an offshore station than any of the UK's independent local stations, and the warm, mellow sound quality of the Long Wave transmissions did much to encourage that feel. 

The station gained a small but devoted listenership, not just in Ireland but particularly in the West and North of England where reception was often better than that of the English AM music stations, e.g. Virgin Radio.

Above: Mornington House

 

Left: Mornington House Reception


Atlantic 252's Studio 1 at Mornington House, Trim


Presenter Gary Wilkinson - a.k.a. The Pizzaman


The London Studio and below: one of the London Production areas

One of the presenters who worked at both the Trim and London ends of the Atlantic 252 operation was Simon Hardwick:

"There was one studio in London and two small production areas. The on air studio was linked to Trim via a Cable and Wireless Kilostream line. This came up as a fader in the Trim studio and could also be switched direct to air.

"The studio was built in 1999 originally for the breakfast show during the "real music, real radio" era. When John O Hara came in and relaunched the station he moved programming back to Trim, and then let me move back to England to do my drivetime show from there. The London studio was based in 74 Newman Street just off Oxford Street, and was home of CLT UK Radio Sales, which once sold airtime for Talk Radio, Atlantic 252 and County 1035."

The River
Boyne which
runs through
Trim.

 

It's rather
surreal to
think that a
UK national
radio station
came from
such a tiny
village in
Ireland.

The RTL Group offered RTÉ first refusal on its share of the radio channel, but the resources were not there to buy it or to continue running it.

Rebranded TEAMtalk252, the station is now a sports channel. The station is aimed mainly at a UK audience of 20 to 30-year-old male sports fans and will give wider coverage to minority sports than is possible on any other channel, but the potential of the Irish sports market still remains to be tapped, she said, and TEAMtalk hasn't ruled out the possibility of eventually reopening the studio at the Trim site.

The reality of competition from other dance stations had meant falling revenue and listenership figures for Atlantic 252 and the station ceased broadcasting at the end of 2001 after an 80% stake in its parent company, Radio Tara Ltd, was controversially acquired by sports station TEAMtalk.

Summerhill mast and Transmitter Hall

Gary Wilkinson's Atlantic 252 site

Droitwich | Isle of Man International Broadcasting

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