WKLR should never have existed and it should never have attracted the talent it did. At least that was according to the radio experts of the time. You need to start a radio station in city or major town not in a small town in rural West Cork where most of your audience will be sheep. The idea from for WKLR actually came when a young man found himself working a temporary job in a large blue chip company where he had nothing to do at night. Living in digs in a house owned by another entrpreunerial character there was no tv to watch so he scoured the radio band for something local and could only tune into the biggest pirate station in Cork city some 20 miles away. The more he listened to that the more he wondered why West Cork with its own very different way of life did’nt have any station of its own. Curiosity and the niggling urge to start something new led him to the discovery that there had indeed been a local station called Radio Bandon and better still its old AM transmitter was still around. When he finally tracked down its owners they agreed to hand it over but with a warning. Radio Bandon only came on air once a year for the annual summer festival and the last time it had broadcast was the last for a very good reason. One day in the middle of one its more popular programmes where the DJ repeatedly gave out the phone number there was a phone call from Cork Airport. You need to close down that station and cease broasdcasting immediately the official from Cork airport insisted. O but we can’t do that in the middle of our annual festival came the reply. Well if you don’t shut down immediately your going to have a Jumbo Jet landing in South Main Street Bandon because it’s locked onto your homing beacon. Needless to say Radio Bandon Management made the right decision and choose the greater good and that was the end of Radio Bandon. But for a restless entrpreneure fresh out start your own business class and the cover of a good job in the local electronics multi-national it was all the evidence needed to plough full steam ahead with the dream of creating a sustainable local radio station.
It was an exciting prospect for a small town in those days and this outsider appeared to be more of an expert than he was. Why because if you live in a small town anyone from out of town can be an expert. So this plucky ‘expert’ quickly gathered a committee of likely collaborators, a local HAM radio operator for all things related to transmitters, the social secretary of Bandon rugby club (Peter Crowley) for connections in all the right places and others with time and imagination to spare. All went well until he turned to his team mates and said who will put money in with me. Of course he didn’t actually have any money but confidently expected to borrow his share. Actually parting with or raising hard cash wasn’t what those early pioneers had in mind but one had a PO box address and the rugby club man was used to putting small ads into the local paper, The Southern Star. So the idea was born, let’s put a small ad in the Southern Stat seeking investors. But would the local paper which in those days was usually the arch enemy of local radio actually accept the ad and print it. As luck/providence would have it the ad that changed everything appeared in the next week’s issue. “West Cork Community Radio, a unique investment opportunity” the small ad boldly proclaimed and so the story of what became known as WKLR West Cork Local Radio began in earnest, along with the story of many colourful on air charcters like Roger Gregg, Paul Sheehan, John Greene, Paul Broderick, Brian Crowley, Tim Coughlan, Jimmy Hayes, Richie Conroy, Con McCarthy, Fr John O’Donovan, Catherine Keating and to many others to record in this short account. But even in a short recollection like this it would be unfair not to mention memorable off air characters like Joan O Roarke, Eugene O’Sullivan and numerous characters in that great organization that was born out WKLR many years later, WKLR Supporters Club. People like Joe McCarthy, John Joe McCarthy, the bold Willie Welton RIP, George (RIP) and Philly Chambers, and the man in the suit.