RTÉ posts thousands of early radio recordings

The opening of the Cork radio station 6CK in 1927, a 1947 recording of Maud Gonne recalling evictions and a look at Christmas in Amiens Street, Dublin in 1949 are among over 5,300 RTÉ radio recordings from the 1927 to the 1970s now available online.

The collection, available at RTÉ Archives’ Acetate Disc Collection on rte.ie, gives a rare insight into the voices, sounds, topics, and processes involved in the creation of early radio broadcasting at RTÉ.

RTÉ Cork in the present day

Over the last three years, the archives has been creating digital files from thousands of fragile acetate discs which contained the original recordings.

The recordings are now preserved for the long term thanks to the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Archiving Scheme, which has now been incorporated into the recently established Coimisiúin na Meán.

The acetate disc is the earliest sound recording format held by RTÉ Archives. These discs were used in the production, recording and broadcast of programmes for Radio Éireann.

Unfortunately, recordings on acetate discs do not sustain repeated playing. The content on the discs would become inaudible after being played multiple times and the discs are considered a vulnerable format.

The acetate disc of Maud Gonne’s interview

With funding from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (now Comisiúin na Meán), RTÉ Archives, who are responsible for collecting, preserving, and making accessible the creative and documentary output of the national broadcaster, has completed the creation of digital files for this collection and is now making these files available to be listened to by the public.

Among the collection are full programmes and news broadcasts. There are also sound effects, inserts, performances, interviews, and reports, all created for use in the production of radio programmes.

Commenting on the publishing of the Acetate Collection, Bríd Dooley, Head of RTÉ Archives said: “We are delighted to open up this hugely evocative collection from the earliest decades of broadcast recording technology.

“It will take audiences back to the mores, sounds and voices from 1927 onwards as the new Irish State was emerging, many decades before television itself came along.

“It provides a unique insight our audiences can now enjoy and will be a source of important discovery for researchers, programme makers, historians and educators alike.”

She added, “We are very grateful to Comisiúin na Meán for its support of the very specialist preservation and cataloguing development work involved under the Archive Funding Scheme, and to our partners at the Irish Traditional Music Archive who, together with our team of archive specialists, developed the catalogue and the online publication.

“At the beginning of this project we had the labels and recordings, whereas now we have a rich and searchable resource. We will continue to enhance the collection as we learn more about these recordings.”

Opening of the Cork radio station 6CK (1927)

The earliest recording from the collection features the opening of the Cork radio station 6CK on the 26 April 1927.

“In opening the Cork station tonight, I hope to bring before the world a new and largely unexplored vein of Irish talent,” said Minister for Posts and Telegraphs J.J. Walsh at the time.

LISTEN HERE: RTÉ Archives | Collections | Opening Of Cork Radio Station (rte.ie)

Maud Gonne Recalls Evictions (1947)

Among the Irish and international figures featured in the recordings is the nationalist and political activist, Maud Gonne. Recorded in 1947, she recalls witnessing evictions in her youth and taking part in the Land War.

Maud Gonne

She said, “I didn’t want to go to balls and parties anymore for I would have had to dance and eat with the evictors.”

Provincial News Round Up (1957)

A local news report from with an international element that features Hungarian refugees who left their country following the Hungarian Uprising was crushed by Soviet forces in 1956. The refugees were housed at a former army camp in Knockalisheen in County Clare. The report here is from Provincial News Round Up in October 1957.

Sean McBride jokes about the merits of radio (Wexford Festival 1952)

The merits of radio come up in a light-hearted debate at the 1952 Wexford Festival “on the benefits to mankind of some technologies”. Up for discussion and comparison are the benefits of radio, the internal combustion engine, and the gramophone.

Seán MacBride

Seán MacBride jokes that they are “disastrous” for mankind. Another participant says that radio is “an invention of the devil” that has “reduced people to a moronic state.”

Christmas in Amiens Street, Dublin (1949)

One of a number of recordings made for the programme Christmas Preparations.

Presenter Norris Davidson describes Amiens Street Station Christmas decorations, and interviews Mr Farrelly, Station Master, about Christmas at the station.

As well as keeping these audio-visual records RTÉ Archives are looking to make more content available on an increasing number of platforms and devices. RTÉ Archives provide content for radio and television programmes, both internally and for our content partners.

Their website features content from across RTÉ’s collections with the aim of bringing new content every day from RTÉ Archives.

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