I went to see The Boat that Rocked in the cinema today. It brought back a lot of fond memories. I started out in radio before moving to print. I met the husband when we were both working in Anna Livia FM, a special interest station that used to be based on Grafton Street. I’ve fond memories of working in conditions that would have given a health and safety inspector palpitations – it was always more fun than working in commercial stations.
I never worked for a pirate but you can’t work in radio without meeting an awful lot of people who did. The nostalgia would be rife on late night shifts or Sunday afternoons when the phones weren’t hopping and the pre records were longer. Here in Ireland pirate radio had it’s heyday for much longer than the UK. Commercial radio didn’t kick off here until the late 80s so pirate radio had a much higher profile for a lot longer.
I didn’t move to Dublin until 1991 so I missed the glory days of stations like Sunshine, Radio Nova or Q102 (a different operation to the station of that name currently broadcasting although there are some overlaps). By the time I moved up legal stations like FM104 and 98FM had started broadcasting and the pirates were no more. I know several people who get decidedly misty eyed when talking about Sunshine’s last night on air.
These days though, my mind tends to jump in one direction when the subject of pirate radio comes up. One of the drawbacks of doing the court beat is that sometimes what you see down there pushes in front of nicer memories, becoming a reference point to start from even if you’re not consciously dwelling on the details of any one trial. Some cases just lodge there. There’s not a lot you can do about it. The trial of the founder of Radio Dublin (one of, if not the oldest pirate in Dublin) stuck more than most.
Eamonn “Captain” Cooke was a larger than life figure the Dublin radio scene as far back as the mid 1960s. He ran the station out of his house in Inchicore and weathered garda raids and defections. The one thing the station couldn’t survive was the Captain’s incarceration for the sexual assault of several underage girls.
One of the first big trials I covered was his second trial after he had been released on a legal technicality. Two of the four women involved in the first trial had to go through the evidence for a second time. Over four tedious weeks in the Winter of 2007 the trial stuttered to a conclusion, forced to delay for weeks due to the claims of ill health from the man the local children called the “Cookie Monster”.
We were told how he brought children round to the house to abuse them. The sheer arrogance of the man was absolutely staggering. To this day he says the allegations are spiteful smears on his good name…despite being twice convicted.
These days you will still hear people talking nostalgically about “Captain” Cooke. You will even find articles like this one knocking about on-line, calling Cooke “a caring man…who loves children”. There seems to be an attitude in certain quarters that the music was all that was important. It didn’t really matter that the man in who’s house the station broadcasted from liked them well before puberty.
It’s a little like saying Hitler was a nice bloke as long as you didn’t bring up the politics!
Eamonn Cooke was convicted for being a predatory paedophile who groomed children as young as 7 for abuse. The fact that he could be charming or good company outside that doesn’t make it any better. Once again, I’m not saying that the DJs who worked in Radio Dublin acted improperly but the rumours were around for years. I had heard stories about Eamonn Cooke’s fondness for underage skirt long before he was arrested. He’s not a nice man and should have been brought to justice years sooner. The incidents mentioned in court happened in the mid 1970s. Maybe we’re just not very good at shopping people who like abusing children in this country.
If you’re reading this and you worked in Radio Dublin with Cooke and have a problem with what I’m saying here please say so. I sat through all that trial and as I said the details have stuck with me, two years later. But on certain message boards online he’s talked about as a pirate hero with an unfortunate weakness. That I don’t understand.