Back in the golden days of pirate radio in the 70s & 80s, the people of limerick were truly blessed.
By switching on to Radio Lumni, you heard the best local radio programme, in some folk’s opinion, that there ever has been.
Around 7.30 am, you would hear the soft tones of John The Man Frawley welcoming listeners to his station. John had the most incredible friendly intimate voice and in no time at all would soothe you and make you feel that you had a friend in your house.
He would relate all the local gossip and happenings about town, whom he’d met on his travels and what they had said. It must have taken him an hour to walk up William St.
Each day he would read out the news from the day’s papers plus the horoscopes to keep you informed as to what was going in the world.
A godsend for people unfortunate enough to be confined to the house and cut off from the outside world as he brought all the news to them in his own inimitable way. You would feel that you were not alone. John was their lifeline.
Around 8am he would start his daily task of getting his meeces (the children) off to school, by roaring, ‘get up out of it’ to them. On would come crystal gayle singing- ‘here i go once again with my suitcase in my hand’.
What was the weather doing? No satellites for John the man, a quick look out of the window and a guess at what was in store for us that day. Was sammy sunshine or ronnie rain on the way? Very sophisticated!!
His transport consisted of an old banger called the galloping maggot, (god knows where he got the name from) which had to be replaced often as it was always giving up the ghost!!
John had several features to his programme but one that was unique was his bit of fun with the listeners whereby he invited them to phone in to guess the title of the next song that he planned to play. The calls were numerous and he would tell them if they were warm, getting warmer or cold etc, in their guesses. Incredibly, when you consider all the possibilities that the listeners had to choose from, within about six tries someone had usually cracked it!!
But the show really excelled when the double act started with the appearance of walter stanley. Walter, a bar manager in Gus O’Driscoll’s in Corbally, was a real live wire. Full of energy, he was quick and witty and the two-way repartee with John was electric and hilarious.
They created between them the illusion that they were broadcasting from an RTE or BBC type studio when Walter would roar out, ‘yoohoo John, up there in studio four, I see you’ and say he was giving him a wave when all the time they were hunched together in a little room.
‘Any sca?’, was always walter’s enquiry when he wanted to know if John knew about any scandal that he, Walter, wasn’t aware of.
‘I heard you were seen last night, John, in a certain chemist shop’ was Walter’s way of saying that John had been spotted having a few pints in a certain licensed premises.
The listeners hung on every word they said, never knowing what they would come out with next.
John started his days in showbiz as a singer with the monarchs showband and his fine recording of Pearly Shells is still played locally. (I had the pleasure of doing so myself recently).
He immortalized Noel O’Connor, the butcher in Wickham Street, by christening him – the happy butcher- a name that still sticks.
At the end of John’s programme he would announce that he was going walking about to, hopefully, get a few shillings from his advertisers to pay his bills.
The station had to close when an official broadcasting licence was given to someone else in Limerick but the legend of John the man frawley and Walter Stanley, (who both sadly were cut down in middle age), will live on in fond affection forever within the hearts of lovers of true local radio.
They were simply the best!! Thanks for the memories!!
Richard Ahern says
What a beautiful piece of writing. You captured it all so well. I loved John Frawley & although I met him only once I counted him as a good friend. One day my young son Brian & I visited John Frawley’s radio station & I still recall Brian’s face that day (he was about 8 years of age) when he saw the man behind the voice. I wish you had written more as there are plenty of instances to choose from. Thank you. Richard
Joe Taylor says
Hi Richard – if you’d like to submit a piece about that visit? I’d be happy to publish it.