The 1916 Easter Rising also marks the world's first radio broadcast... albeit under sniper fire!

This week's Documentary on Newstalk, producer Patricia Baker tells the story of one of the world's first broadcasts which occurred during the 1916 Easter Rising

Broadcast Date: Monday 28th March: Bank Holiday Easter Monday: 3:30pm

On Easter Tuesday the 25th of April 1916 strange radio signals began to emanate from Dublin. The signals told the story of the declaration of the Irish Republic the day earlier. The unique thing about these radio signals was that they were not aimed at one particular receiver, as was the norm with wireless transmissions in the early part of the 20th Century, but that the signals were sent to whoever could hear them: a broadcast in its truest sense. This signal constituted Ireland’s first ever broadcast. And this is the story of the ultimate pirate radio station.

Using a combination of interviews with historians, eye-witness reports and re-enactments the documentary tells the story of one of the most interesting pirate radio stations in the world. Men died, plans were disrupted, radio engineers survived sniper fire, and the studios were burned to ash in an attempt to use this new medium in a way it had never been used before, as a tool of mass communication.

They took the Ford and I took the high road they were drowned and I came safe - Colm O’Lochlainn – eye-witness report.

These were very modern men, young men, dealing with modern technology, using it to create our own history. Every generation tries to use the communication technology that is there and I guess that the point is, you can bring it up to the Arab Spring and any revolution in history that has tried to use communication and this is all part of that. - Helen O’Carroll, Curator, Kerry County Museum

It all backfired. That is how it became a broadcast otherwise it would have been a transmission; a transmission down to a fixed point in Cahersiveen with the message going across to America. But because they had nowhere to transmit to, unknown to themselves at the time, they went out willy nilly on the airwaves, so it actually became a broadcast. So that is how it was the first broadcast in Ireland. - Pat Herbert, Hurdy Gurdy Radio Museum, Howth

Blimey (Johnny O’Connor) was engaged on the job of climbing up the wireless mast to fix some wires and he was being sniped at all the time, but he fixed it.  How he had the pluck to carry on and how he was not riddled beats me.  I learned from Fergus Kelly that he could send out messages but the instrument was unable to receive. He could not send them very far but perhaps ships could pick them up and relay them. - An eyewitness account from Liam Tannam.

I wanted to retain for myself the privilege of transmitting this first communiqué of the Rising broadcasting to the World the proclamation of the Irish Republic, I felt very proud, I was twenty years old then. - Eyewitness report of Fergus O’Kelly

This is the first I have ever heard of wartime pirate radio in Ireland.  Absolute chaos breaking out around and all they wanted was a couple of listeners to pick up the message and get the word through. They did not know if it would work, 36 hours under gun fire on a roof, it's a lot of bravery. These guys were not trained soldiers, they were just doing their part, young fellows. - Paul Kavanagh

BROADCAST DETAILS:  Broadcasting A Rising is part of the Reflecting The Rising Documentary Series on Newstalk.

BROADCAST TIMES: Broadcasting A Rising will be broadcast on Newstalk 106-108FM on, Monday 28th March at 3:30 pm.

LISTEN LIVE ONLINE: Broadcasting A Rising can also be listened to online at:

PODCAST: Podcast available at: after the broadcast.

CREDITS: Broadcasting A Rising was produced, presented and edited by Patricia Baker. Editing and final mix by Gerry Horan, Contact Studio. Broadcasting A Rising was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, with the  Television License Fee 

Eye Witness Reports and Fergus O’Kelly Diary read by the following actors:

Rachel Dowling: David Harlihy: Sam McGovern: Jacinta Sheerin

Actors Archive Material: 

Audio Archive Material:  They Remember 1916, Colm O’Loclainn and Liam Daly, courtesy of the RTE Libraries and Archives. 

Eye Witness Reports: Courtesy of Bureau of Military History 1913-1921 collection at Military Archives. This is a joint initiative of Military Archives and the National Archives. 

Fergus O’Kelly Diary:  Extract courtesy of the O’Kelly family