By Frank Lewis
Radio Kerry, as a dream and in reality, has been a central part of my life since 1980. It has been a privilege to meet so many people and go to so many places. If it were not for Radio Kerry, Storied Kerry/Ciarrai Scealach would never have started to enable all of us to see how our story can enrich and enhance all aspects of our lives.
The memories go back some forty years. Throughout the 1980s attending meetings of the National Community Broadcasting Association and setting up of Kerry Community Radio who met regularly in my gallery in Killarney with Paddy O’Callaghan as chairman, Eamonn Langford, Fr Billy Crean, Robert Pierse.
In preparation for our first licence application we became Kerry Community Radio Co-op/Comharchumann Radio Pobail Chiarrai. On behalf of Radio Pobail Billy and I asked Joe McGarry to become chairman. Joe was then the Head of the School of Business Studies at the ITT (Institute of Technology Tralee). He had run a conference on local radio in Tralee. That first licence application failed because of a doubt that we had the financial resources or the expertise. I asked RTE senior radio producer Dan Collins who gave us a confidential written commitment that he would become our general manager if we got the licence
Radio Pobail/Kerry Community Radio were the core and the catalyst to getting ten people to each put up £30,000. The Radio Co-op got over a hundred interests from all over Kerry to become shareholders and in that way funded their investment. The embryonic Radio Kerry shareholders included Radio Pobail, Ardfert Christian Media Trust; Boyle Brothers; Paul Coghlan and Tim O’Shea (a joint shareholding), Fexco , Gael-linn, Tomas Garvey, Denis Kelleher, Lee Strand and Maurice O’Donoghue. I became Company Secretary and Dan Collins served as General Manager. The commitment of all was to do something that would be good for Kerry – with a feeling their money was a donation rather than an investment.
Saturday July 14th 1990 was the realisation of ten years – a dream, became a hope and was now a reality. On that very first day from the loft over the tearooms at Muckross House I interviewed horticulturist Cormac Foley and zoologist Jim Larner whose great knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for nature was the first of what became a monthly feature of the Saturday Supplement down to today.
For the next 27 years I produced and presented the Saturday Supplement missing only two Saturdays – one to make way for the Listowel Races and on the other because of a family death Joe Stack delivered the programme I had prepared.
First Saturdays were feeling the pulse of Kerry with politicians responding to listeners questions. This evolved into a five week rota with panels on succeeding months of the four Kerry Mayors, south Kerry TDs, North Kerry TDs, Kerry Senators and Munster MEPs.
Second Saturdays featured one individual’s life and times. Here the subject was in the studio with me and we were joined on the phone by many people adding their story on the featured person.
Third Saturdays had a self help theme. Over the years these included communities, voluntary bodies, individuals, commercial concerns and public bodies.
All of those walk programmes. On Kerry mountains. Our islands – and Iona off the coast of Scotland. Along most of the Kerry coast as well as the 13km Cliffs of Moher walk. Through woods and on mountains all over Kerry, in Cork and Perthshire in Scotland. In all our great gardens – as well as the Botanic gardens in Dublin and Wicklow and the RHS gardens at Wisley (outside London). Walks around some 90 Kerry communities over the years. Tours to War of Independence, Civil War and faction fight sites.
And so much more.
The four strands continued without a break until 2017. Then Storied Kerry/Ciarrai Scealach took over my life. But I still produce and present the walk programme I still on the last Saturday of the month. On the other days the Saturday Supplement is under the careful care of Joe McGill who brings his own unique style to the air.
None of this would have been possible without the Board of Radio Kerry, all of the station staff, the advertisers. In a very personal way, my wife Siubhan, who looked after the home fires and for the past ten years has been my sound technician. Mary O’Shea the inveterate researcher. Colette Foley who handles post production.
To go back to the beginning. Kerry Community Radio is unique as its sole ambition is to see Radio Kerry continue to develop. That is a tribute to its directors over the years.
Radio Pobail Chiarrai and Storied Kerry wish Radio Kerry a happy birthday. It is truly Guth na Riochta, the voice of the Kingdom.