Radio Tara, a joint venture between RTÉ and Radio Luxembourg, began transmission in September, 1989 as Atlantic 252. Although the transmitter was in Ireland, the station was widely available in Britain and beyond. Atlantic 252 continued to operate until December 2001.
Atlantic 252 was a long wave radio station broadcasting to Ireland and Britain on 252 kHz(1190 metres) from its 1988 purpose built transmission site Clarkstown radio transmitter, which provided service to Atlantic 252 from 1989 until 2002. The station’s studios were located just 12 km (7 mi) away in Mornington House, Summerhill Road, Trim, County Meath. Atlantic 252 also had sales offices and studios at 74, Newman Street in London. In 2002 the station’s former frequency and transmitter were used for the failed TeamTalk 252 project.
The frequency was re-subsumed by RTÉ in 2002 to provide a version of RTÉ Radio 1 to theexpatriate community in Britain from the Clarkstown radio transmitter.
The concept of Atlantic 252 can be traced back as far as August 1986, when Irish state broadcaster RTÉ announced it was to use their allocated longwave channel for a new pop music station. They teamed up with RTL Group/Radio Luxembourg to form Radio Tara – the trading name of Atlantic 252, which being long wave, enabled reception in Britain and Ireland. This was following Chris Cary’s test transmissions from Clogher Head, County Louth in the mid 1980s with 254 kHz Longwave as “Radio Exidy”
In 1987 RTÉ commenced building a giant 3-sided 248 metre broadcast mast in Clarkstown, County Meath, using a specially built pair of both air and water cooled 300 kilowatt solid-state transmitters (which could be combined to give double power) built by Varian Associates, Texas, despite protests from local residents. Studios were set up in Mornington House, in the nearby town of Trim. The station cost £6m to set up. Just over 47m people were in the station’s broadcast area.
At 8am on 1 September 1989, Gary King announced on Atlantic 252, “Mine is the first voice you will ever hear on Atlantic 252.” This was followed by a specially produced pre-recorded introduction tape that introduced everybody employed by the radio station on its launch day, from engineers, administration, management like Travis Baxter and John Catlett, and the station’s personality music presenter lineup including ex-Laser 558 presenter Charlie Wolf, MaryEllen O’Brien, Andrew Turner, Nicky Schiller, Henry Owens, Al Dunne, Tony West and Jeff Graham. An appearance was even made by Rosalyn Reilly – who was to remain the station’s cleaning lady for its entire twelve year history. The first record ever played on Atlantic 252’s test transmission was “Ain’t Nobody” by Rufus and Chaka Khan (’89 Remix); the station’s official “first record ever played” was “Sowing The Seeds of Love” by Tears for Fears shortly after 08:00 local time on 1 September 1989. The second record played was “Monkey” by George Michael.
Although the transmitter was in the Republic of Ireland, the signal’s reach meant that it was often considered to be a “UK” national station – the signal had even been received in Brazil at night-time, with other reception reports from such locations as Berlin, Finland, Ibiza, andMoscow. The Scottish musician Mylo has claimed it was the only station with listenable reception on the Isle of Skye. At launch there were no UK-wide commercial stations (the first being “Classic FM” in 1992), and the lack of a UK broadcast licence attracted the attention of theIBA. Although the transmitters were theoretically capable of being combined to operate at 600 kilowatts output power, International agreements limited the station’s power to a maximum daytime output of 500 kW, or 100 kW at night.