Sybil Fennell – in conversation with RadioToday

If ever the time was right for the Irish radio industry to recognise the achievements of the dominant super pirate husband and wife teams like Nova and Sunshine then it is now!

Sybil Fennell is undoubtedly the best news presenter ever to grace the airwaves of a stagnant Republic in the 80s. She naturally understood the skill of creating theatre of the mind radio.

Nobody cared that “compiled from the wires of the press association” actually meant stealing the news from RTE and others! Just as nobody cared that “the weather forecast for the bay area” actually meant dodge the coke cans and used condoms on a local beach!

Sybil created a dream, she made news sound sexy and aspiring news presenters all wanted to be Sybil Fennell.

When you said to your parents you were going to work for a pirate radio station in Dublin was was their reaction?

In 1980 I was at university in Dublin, but always with an eye on a career in something broadcast related.  A friend of a friend took me on a tour of Dublin’s radio stations. We drove in a loop past ARD, Radio Dublin and possibly Big D before climbing up into the hills to reach Radio Leinster and dropping back down to the coast at Dun Laoghaire and Southside Radio. 

I like to describe Southside as a ‘boutique’ radio station, although technically it was broadcasting from a rather shabby portakabin in the car park of the Victor Hotel.  From memory we shared a mains plug with the hotel’s toaster.  Toast for the guests or radio for the Southside of Dublin – but never both.

I can’t quite remember how I came to join the station – it certainly wasn’t for the money – but it was there I first went on-air.  Other bright young voices on-air with me at the time included Brian Dobson and Scott Williams.

Once Nova came on air that autumn, it seemed a natural progression to go and knock on the door of 19 Herbert Street – which is exactly what I did.

There was no ‘Broadcasting Act’ so technically all the stations existed in a legal void.  Plus, at that age I was afraid of nothing – and Dublin was just waking as if from a deep slumber and embracing all sorts of wonderful music and ideas.  Radio Nova fitted perfectly into a city that had already given birth to U2, Thin Lizzy and the Virgin Prunes. We had the Dandelion Market, the beaches at Brittas and Johhny Fox’s in the mountains to amuse us,  we had live music at Simmonscourt  and Slane Castle and we were reading Roddy Doyle.

Did I mention that it was a friend of my mother’s who first took me on that tour of the stations?  So, you see it can’t have come as that much of a shock to my parents when I signed up to read news.  Although I don’t for a moment think they expected me to make it a full-time career – nor could any of us have foreseen the highs and lows that would follow when I first sat behind a microphone on Andy Ruane’s Southside Radio.

But that’s why life is so brilliant – you have no idea what the next adventure will be.

Radio Nova was an amazing success and for a generation Sybil Fennell was Radio Nova, are you proud of your achievements and also heading up the newsroom?

I’m assuming that you’ve written this question tongue in cheek! The whole evolution of the newsroom at Radio Nova was quite a natural process. 

Radio Nova’s existence attracted the most amazing amount of talent – the station ‘went viral’ in the days before anyone knew what the phrase meant.

We were totally spoilt for choice with on-air talent. 

It’s no secret that we were never able to successfully subscribe to the wire services of the day – and the news was partly compiled part from monitoring what other stations were doing and partly by phoning around to confirm/source stories.  Wasn’t the portable Uher a wonderful invention!

I felt a generation gap the other day when I was explaining to a class of pupils what a ‘chinagraph pencil’ was and how you spliced tape together to edit audio (this was during an introductory lesson to using Audacity.  They can’t get their heads around the idea that audio has ever been anything but digital).

We did employ some really good journalists to write local stories and our magazine programmes.  Although I haven’t kept in touch with Linda Conway and Jenny McIvor since the Nova days, they were two such journalists.   

As Radio Nova became more established people would contact us with news stories and tip-offs and the whole process of news generation became much easier.

Within a short period of time we had accumulated an enviable array of on-air talent.  I think Mike Edgar was the first newsreader on the station. Terry Riley (who emailed me out of the blue not so many months ago) was there in the very early days, and it wasn’t long before Bob Gallico’s rich tones were added to our talent bank.  There were so many others who cut their teeth in Nova’s newsroom – and remain on-air to this day.

Am I proud of what we achieved as a team?  Very.

Am I proud that so many of those of us who started our careers in the newsroom at Radio Nova remain to this day in radio, television or print media?  Immensely.

Was it love at first sight between you and Chris and how did the romance start?

Wow… That’s a personal question.  Considering.

My introduction to Radio Nova came when I phoned to see if they were looking for newsreaders.  It was Brian Mackenzie who took the call and arranged for me to come in to 19 Herbert Street to record a demo. So it was Brian who introduced me to both Nova and to Chris Cary.

When I got to the studios I had with me a script which I had carefully crafted.  It ran to about 3 minutes and I was going to read it.  All the way through.  Without interruption. 

As I went into the recording booth at Bay City Studios, out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of someone lying under the mixing desk.  I paid no attention. 

I can’t have been more than a minute into my script, when a head popped up from the beneath the desk and someone started banging on the window of the booth. 

‘Sod it’ I thought ‘If I ignore him he’ll just go away’. 

But he didn’t.  He flipped the talkback switch to say ‘Hi. That’s fine.  That’s all we need’. 

I glared at him. I ignored him.  I read on.  To the end. He seemed a little un-nerved by this.

And that’s how our relationship went for the first few months –  I considered Chris too forward and brash by half.  He thought me somewhat arrogant.  We were both right!

We continued this hedgehog–style friendship until one evening I was involved in a charity auction at the Berkeley Court Hotel.  One of the lots was to bid to take me out to dinner.  Chris was the highest bidder.  We had dinner, and from there our relationship began.

When the NUJ strikes happened were your loyalties stretched between Chris and your Nova news team and how did you deal with the situation?

The NUJ strike didn’t just ‘happen’ it was carefully orchestrated.  From memory I wasn’t working at Radio Nova at the time – I was hosting a magazine programme on LBC in London.

I have no argument with the NUJ as a union – never have had – my argument was how every possible tactic was being employed to force Radio Nova off-air. 

The strike was a deliberate move to bring pressure to bear on Chris and to bring about the closure of Radio Nova – as was the jamming.

RTE was not a happy bunny – their stations were hemorrhaging listeners not just to Radio Nova, although we were the most popular of the stations, but to a dial filled with radio stations delivering what the Dublin audience wanted. 

You could tune up and down the dial and choose from country (TTTR) to easy listening/classical (Radio Leinster) to the AOR (adult orientated rock) of Radio Nova – and in between you had rock/pop/indie stations to meet all tastes. 

The Dublin radio audience always knew what they wanted – and for the most part it wasn’t RTE delivering it.    

I made my voice heard because I wanted to support Nova and I wanted to support Chris.  I couldn’t bear to watch the deliberate destruction of what we had all worked to achieve. 

I didn’t regret my stance then, and I don’t know.  I stood up for what I believed in – and that was Nova and Chris Cary.

Was it crazy living with a maverick like Chris Cary, or were you really in control of everything?

Seriously? I can’t believe you’re writing this question with a straight face.

No, I wasn’t ‘in control of everything’ whatever that implies.

Yes, it was crazy.  Imagine that you step onto a ride in a theme park, a rollercoaster. A proper stomach-churning-eye-closing ride.  And you never get off.  Now you’ve got life with Chris.

Chris Cary was very much always in charge of his life, his fate and his destiny.  He very rarely listened to others – which when he was right, was absolutely fine.  But he also made some absolutely horrendous decisions from which there was no going back.

Life with Chris could so often be fantastic, you rattled along at breakneck speed lurching from one challenge and adventure to another. He was generous, gregarious and charismatic.

But whilst he was great in a crisis, he couldn’t deal with the detail of life.  He would explode for the most trivial of reasons.

Whilst our relationship was box-fresh, life was idyllic – we would travel, laugh and love.

You can’t be that close to someone without invisible threads being woven between you that fill those silent moments when you don’t need to talk to know what the other person is thinking.  We never lost that.  I would trust him with my life – and vice versa.

But over the years the circumstances, the situations and Chris’ health changed – and that altered the nature of our relationship.

All that said, we made it (by the skin of our teeth) to our 25th anniversary.   Sadly, we celebrated that day on our own in a hospital room on a hill-top in Santa Cruz, Tenerife.  Chris was so ill by that stage that although I sat cross-legged at the end of the bed and reminded him of how we’d now spent the last quarter of a century together I have no idea if he was aware of what I was saying.  Doctors tell me that hearing is the last sense to go so I’m going to believe that he heard everything I said.

Do you still stay in touch with anyone from the original Radio Nova?

When the great Irish radio experiment that was Radio Nova ended, we disbanded and went our separate ways.  Then, over time, we naturally gravitated towards each other again.

A lot of it is thanks to social media – how easy is it to pick up the threads from thirty years ago?   I’m not normally star-struck, but I was hugely impressed to meet Sir Tim Berners-Lee.  Had he not made the decisions that he did and offered us freedom of access to the world wide web there are many things that would be very different.

So, in answer to your question – do I keep in touch?  Yes.

Bob Gallico remained a close friend throughout his life and came to stay with us in Surrey not long before he died.  He was doing a grand ‘farewell tour’ of England at the time.

Kathy Quinn, our beautiful talented American friend, remains on-air with Fox TV to this day and when she’s in London we meet and remember how it was ‘back in the day’.

As I mentioned earlier, an email from Terry Riley appeared in my Inbox just a few short months ago.

Tony Allan remained a fixture in our lives, and came to stay with us just a few months before he died.

I tried recently, but failed, to meet up with Mike Edgar and a couple of others.  Next time I’m in Dublin it will happen.  Plus, given Facebook/email/Instagram etc. there’s no excuse not to be in touch.

Joe King (who for the last 25 years has run the successful broadcast equipment supply and installation company BTS) is also in touch regularly.

Howard Hughes is another contact – he did a brief stint with us before he headed for Capital Radio via Radio City and Tony McKenzie pops up on Facebook threads periodically.

So many of those of us who worked together in Nova in the ‘80s still enjoy a broadcast related job that it’s easy to track us down – whether in the UK/Ireland/Europe/USA or Australia and New Zealand. 

What I’d really like is a grand reunion of the real Radio Nova team.  Now there’s a thought…

But let’s also remember those who were such an integral part of our team and are no longer here. 

Ladies and Gentlemen – be upstanding and charge your glasses please for Brian Edgar, Tony Allan, Bob Gallico and Roland Burke.

You were very vocal against the current classic rock stations using the Nova name.  Have you mellowed in time or do you believe the Nova name should be remembered fondly as the driving force of commercial radio in Ireland?

So much of success is down to luck and being in the right place at the right time – hard work and talent sometimes just aren’t enough.  You need that extra ingredient that makes you special.

That’s how it was with Radio Nova in the 1980s.

Chris Cary got lucky when he launched the station – it was exactly what Dublin wanted, at exactly the right time.  No marketing or advertising guru could have the read the market that well.  Chris was really good at what he did – but he needed that extra bit of magic to carry him over the line.

So it was for all of us for worked for the station – both on-air and behind the scenes.  The best recruitment/talent agency could not have delivered as strong a team as the one that lived behind the doors of 19 Herbert Street and later Nova Park in Rathfarnham. 

Radio Nova was us and we were Radio Nova.  We loved it.  We lived it.

At the time we had no idea, from the inside looking out, how big an impact the station had made.  To us, this was how radio would always be/was meant to be.  We knew nothing else.

When the station closed, that was it.  The great Irish radio experiment was over. 

Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio (and all the other pioneering stations that paved the way for the licensed broadcast stations we have today) were consigned to the pages of radio history and inducted into some great imaginary ‘Radio Station Hall of Fame’.  Their stories became the material of text books, articles and audio stories.  To be retold time and again.  Look – 30 years later and I’m still writing about it. 

Chris didn’t come up with the name Radio Nova.  It wasn’t uniquely his. That’s not the issue.

My challenge has always been that you can’t simply take the place that Radio Nova held on the dial by grabbing the name – as if you are rubbing a magic lantern to release a genie who pops out and recreates the success story of the 1980s.

Go get your own name, and make your own place in amongst the pages of the Big Book of Radio.  Be brave, be original.  You’re not Nova, nor Sunshine nor Q102.  That was then, this is now. The current situation with Top Gear is a case in point.

I also feel strongly that you can’t continue to ‘have’ Radio Nova without acknowledging Chris’ contribution to radio in Ireland.  If nothing else, induct him posthumously into the PPI Hall of Fame.  I want to give our sons something positive about their Father to celebrate.

Sybil Fennell has gone on to become a national broadcaster in the UK and enjoy a very successful career in broadcasting.  Is radio still in your blood?

Your words not mine – but they are nice words so I’m not going to argue with them … You are too kind….

Radio is very much still in my blood.  I think of it like the process of osmosis – and I can’t send back what has been absorbed.  I hope it doesn’t end here either. 

Radio is simple, powerful and honest.  And I love it. 

No hiding under rocks here – you’re as good as your last link/broadcast story.

In Dublin I worked with Radio Nova, and Energy 103.  For a brief spell there was Buzz FM in Birmingham and then there have been LBC and Classic FM in London – very different stations with a commonality of talent and a desire to deliver the best to very different audiences. 

I have no idea what lies ahead, but I both curious and excited to discover.

What is life like after Chris and do you miss the adventure and living on the edge?

Of course I miss Chris, and the life that was.  In some ways (financially) I’ve lived my life back to front – silly amounts of money during my 20s and early 30s and then a far more frugal life beyond that. I used to drive to work at LBC (in Gough Square off Fleet Street: a square that measures about 6’ x 6’) in Chris’ Rolls Royce.  I was too small almost to see over the steering wheel. It was ridiculous.

This was an intoxicating lifestyle – from the all-night sessions in the Mirabeau where you’d go in for dinner at 8 and stumble out after breakfast the following morning, to leaving the Leeson Street clubs in broad daylight with the birds singing overhead as you made your way home to bed after a night of cheap wine and loud music.  To bowling up to the departure desks at Dublin airport on a Friday evening and asking for ‘the next standby flight you’ve got’.  Sometimes it was New York, sometimes Malta.  Always an adventure.

Those are not the strands on which a long and healthy life are woven.  Nor are they the stories you tell your children as they grow up.  You tone it down. A lot.

It was a lifestyle that was unsustainable.  Something had to give. 

There was a time to walk away, to slow down and enjoy the family – and that’s what Chris didn’t take.

I don’t think he had a wish to die young, although he did.  It wasn’t that. 

It was just that he didn’t want to /couldn’t live a ‘normal’ life. He had to juggle three or four projects at once.   

He packed more into his time than most us do in a life measured in far more decades.

Life after Chris is a lot more stable.  We have two boys – one of whom has grown up under the madcap regime that we’ll call the ‘Chris years’ and one who never knew his Father as the man that he really was.  I have been the better Mother to our younger son, and I know that he has lived a far more normal stable family life.  Our older son has travelled more widely, lived in something ridiculous like 15 homes in four countries in his lifetime – and survived.  I am immensely proud of both. 

I only ever heard Chris voice one regret: and that was that he wouldn’t live to see our youngest son grow up.  As in so many situations, Chris was right. 

The boys remember all the best bits about their Father.  Time is great like that – after a while mostly only the good memories survive.

Do you think Irish radio is as dull as ditch water – or do you believe the spirit of the original Nova is still alive in Dublin?

I don’t for a moment think Irish radio is dull. 

However, I’m not sure that I entirely understand the direction that it’s taken at the moment….

Here’s the story.  I was in Dublin a few weeks ago.  I’d been out for dinner, got home, went to bed, switched off the light and turned on the radio.  Within a minute I was bolt upright scrabbling for the light switch.  In the background two men were screaming abuse at each other – every swear word imaginable.  They were so threatening and aggressive.  It was all some complicated story about drugs and the effect of drugs.  Remember, I’ve stumbled upon the conversation halfway through so I’ve no idea what’s going on.  I thought I’d found some private two-way radio or walkie-talkie channel.  But, no  – apparently this is standard late-night talk radio in Dublin.  I don’t think this is quite what’s meant by the concept of a ‘Shock Jock’.  Not that I think the host of the show I heard got a word in edgeways.

Actually, I don’t get the chance to listen to a lot of radio when I’m in Dublin – but I know there are many of the original Nova team on Irish radio and television today and they’re keeping the Nova spirit alive.

But radio has moved on; there’s also a huge new talent pool on-air in Dublin.

Tony McKenzie always speaks so highly of you and Chris, do you remember the Nova/Energy 103 days with fondness of is it all a blur?

The Nova / Energy 103 days were wonderful, madcap, free, experimental, exciting and invigorating times.  Tony was a key player in both stations, and a good friend.

I remember that entire period with great fondness.

I know Tony has gone on to have a long and successful broadcasting career – but I haven’t been in touch with him for some time so it’s good to see his name again.

Strangely, nothing about the Nova and Energy 103 days is a blur.  You’d think it would be after all these years:  but I can remember most of what went down with great clarity. 

I don’t think any of us will ever forget.

It didn’t feel like years were elapsing – it just felt like one elastic time-period, in which no one aged or changed.  We were just always ‘on-air’ (unless Chris and Paul Cotter had transmitter or aerial issues to deal with)

Was there huge rivalry between Nova, Sunshine and Q102 – or did most of you get on well?

I don’t know when Q102 went to air, but it was late in the game so they weren’t a player in the early years of ‘classic’ Nova and Sunshine.

You can’t exist in a free and competitive market without competition;  that’s the way the radio market was and is.  You want to do better than the competition and are delighted when you do.  That’s all.  There was no horrendous rivalry.  Each station had a healthy respect for the other.  Chris and Robbie Dale were friends long before Nova and Sunshine existed – and continued so long after. The only thing I will say in Chris’ defense is that Robbie seems to feel that Chris deliberately chose 88 FM for Nova as Sunshine was at that end of the dial using 531 AM.  Not true.  I’ll find chapter and verse of the argument if you want it…..

In fact, in 2008… Actually, that’s another long story which I’ll come back to another time.

What is next for you? And, what is a typical day like in the life of Sybil Fennell?

Did I mention that I’m writing a book about our lives together?  I’ve drawn a line through the summer holidays of 2016 as ‘draft time’ – an eight-week period in which to pull together the strands from 1981 onwards.

I never thought anyone would be interested in the story.  But, as our boys have grown up they have begun to ask me to write it down.  Originally it was just going to be a series of notes to them about particular events. 

But there were so so many different adventures, projects, places and people to include that it became unmanageable.

Then the words ‘book’ and ‘memoir’ crept into the conversation. 

I still had and have my reservations. Life hasn’t been all been worth shouting about.  There are dark times as well as light.

I want to protect the boys from some of it; but actually they’ve been the driving force encouraging me to put pen to paper.

So… That’s what I’m doing.  The sitting room is a wall of Post-It-Notes, schedules, and storyboards.  It’s begun – and now I feel excited. 

Finally you asked me what a typical day is like?

After years of working in radio/satellite/computers I switched to a teaching career.  Some years ago I went back to university and took my PGCE. 

My subject is IT & Computing – with a particular leaning towards audio, animation and film.  I teach pupils from the ages of 7 to 13 years – and I love it.

My typical day starts around 5:30 when the radio wakes me.  It’s tuned to LBC.  I lie there listening to Steve Allen for about half an hour before I actually get up (Steve was on air at LBC when I got there in 1984 – and is still there.  Now that’s something to celebrate). 

I try to start the day with a healthy breakfast, and some yoga (which I love, although I do yoga very badly). 

I’m in school by 7:15. Luckily I work very close to home, so there’s no huge commute.  Lessons/paperwork and general school ‘stuff’ (of which there is more and more each year) takes me to about 8 o’clock.  It’s a long school day – first lesson @ 8:40 and last for senior pupils finishes @ 5:45 pm. 

Once I get home, I catch up on email traffic, cook dinner, socialize with whichever one of the boys is around (if they are!). By the time I’ve planned lessons for the following day, taken a quick walk and watched a snippet of television (I record nearly everything I want to watch – and rarely watch programmes live) the day is almost done. I try to read or follow an online course (I’m constantly trying to incorporate CPD by pushing myself to learn more online – there are the most amazing courses available ) for another 30 minutes.  I go for a short walk to shake out the cobwebs.  Then it’s bed before 10:30 – and I fall into a deep sleep listening to Classic FM.

Thursdays’ I work from home – I’ve got a second job that keeps me occupied with research and other interesting stuff one day a week.

Weekends are family, exercise, theatre (too expensive to be a regular event) or cinema (we have a fantastic local cinema with huge sofas and seemingly bottomless glasses of wine). 

Sometimes I get to do something completely different – like this Sunday afternoon when I’m answering these questions!

I didn’t mean to write this much.  I sat down to go through each question briefly and once the words hit the page it became more of a conversation with you. 

So goodness knows what will happen with the book.

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  1. Robbie Robinson says

    I enjoyed reading this Q & A. No question! Sybel Fennell is a gifted writer, a fascinating version of time with Chris Cary in and out of Radio Nova. The deep love Sybel has, will endure.

  2. John Dalton says

    Hi Sybil,
    I enjoyed reading this too. I’ve met you a few times in Herbert st as a young lad. Nova was great. Chris was himself.
    Good luck in the future with your life and family.
    Will watch for the book a few radio pics would be nice.
    Did you ever read the book Radio,radio?
    Take care.

    1. Sybil says

      Dear John – thanks for such kind words.
      There will indeed be stacks of photos when the book is published.
      I read, and enjoyed, Peter Mulrayn’s book – I think we all got a name check as it appeared immediately after the Nova years.
      You’re right too – Chris was himself!
      Best wishes to you and your family

  3. Martin Markey on Facebook says

    Sybil Fennel and Bob Gallico great radio days…

  4. Shane says

    Without doubt the best female voice on radio back in the day. Great Q&A – Sybil has a real talent for writing too!

  5. John O'Hara says

    Lovely memories. Thanks Sybil for saying all the right things about Chris and the others who made the fun happen. I have some funny memories for your memoirs – happy to share then with you. John

    1. Sybil says

      Hello stranger.
      I undertsand your life’s all about berths, booms and bowlines these days?
      Your timing is brilliant – I break up for the summer holidays very soon, and have tasked myself to write, write write all summer long.
      Yes please, I would so welcome your input.

      1. Sybil Fennell says

        If John O’Hara, or anyone in touch with him, reads this pls would you let him know that I would love to add those memories to the book – but I have no idea how to get in touch. He can reach me at Thank you in advance. Sybil

  6. Kathy Quinn says

    Sybil…what a class act!

    1. Sybil Fennell says

      I learnt from the best!
      Much love to all in Kansas.
      One day I shall visit.
      Bearing animal print gifts…..

  7. peter says

    such an interesting interview. Thank you so much for giving us Radio Nova 88FM. The soundtrack to my youth.

  8. Peter Madison says

    Still, in 2016 ~ hardly a day goes by without me remembering Radio Nova.
    I hear ‘tricks’ we invented being repeated as if new on almost all music programmes.
    For those of us who were part of it all, today’s stations are our legacy and, wow, I look forward SO MUCH to reading that book!
    Peter Madison “The Teenage Pensioner” (age 39 and still broke)

  9. Barry says

    Great station .. great for music .. the news so much a part of the day to day content .. and yes a great news reader. ….. we need another REAL Radio Nova 2 to show radio owners and radio group’s how quality radio is done…. easy option remove the executive job titles .. they are either a pd ..head of music .. head of news or head of sales… and keep sales people away from.the studio…

  10. Ruth Hogg says

    Hello Sybil, I cannot wait to read the book!! I shared a lot of that “Nova” time and indeed the whole Irish Pirate Radio thing, via Anoraks Uk. It was Chris who gave birth to the name. I travelled a lot in Ireland and visited ,I don’t know how many stations. It was a fantastic part of my life. But the visit I will never forget is when you and Chris drove up outside our house near Blackpool in that very Rolls that you speak of!! How proud we all were to have you both visit us.
    Best wishes and good luck for the future. Ruth Hogg( formerly Johnston). XX

    1. Sybil says

      Ruth…. Goodness gracious me, how super to hear from you. I have spent the last few weeks reorganizing thousands of photos from days gone by – including several taken inside/outside your Kiosk! Plus your daughter (correct me on this) features in several others. Remember your Loop Frame Antenna? I do. Keep in touch. I have copies of Anoraks UK as part of the archive of material that is there for inclusion.

  11. Ruth Hogg says

    Hi Sybil, wonderful to hear direct from you!! Yes I remember the visit you and Chris made to our Kiosk! And it was my two daughters that were there too. Of course I had a son ( Lewis) in January 1985, on the 12th, was that not the day your son was born too if I recall correctly? Loads of water has tumbled under my bridge since those days but radio and particularly pirate radio is still in my life although I’m not the massive anorak that I once was!!! I have 3 grandchildren now! Really looking forward to your book, I hope to purchase a signed copy!!! Much love to you and your family.
    Ruth Hogg Xx

  12. Ruth Hogg says

    PS. The loop antenna is a bit redundant these days as there is very little on medium wave to listen to in these parts nowadays!! XX

  13. Eddie Bohan says

    Sybil and Chris were at the heart of a true broadcasting revolution that has still ripples out today. It was not so much a station but a national awakening, the like of which we will never see again. Whether it was clutterfree, cash giveaways, quality FM TXs or even Sybil in that wonderful chair reading the news on Nova TV, Chris’s work was unique, thought provoking and a joy to listen to and perhaps that was Radio Nova’s greatest legacy, it was a joy to listen to. Looking forward to the warts and all book.

  14. Dermot lee says

    Great to read about Sybil there must be a station in Dublin that would give her a weekly roundup news programme? to hear “this is Sybil for….again would be great

  15. Samantha Rawson says

    Great to reminisce. Sybil was the star of Nova news. Sunshine sparkled with the velvet voice of Cathy Creegan. Both brilliant broadcasters.

  16. Paul says

    Hi Sybil great to hear your doing well, last time I heard you you were on rte radio 1 just wanted to know what happened to all the energy 103 jingles and some of the nova jingles ,I have all the bill Mitchell vice overs and its great as I collect them just wondering is there a place where you have them uploaded or would you upload them as well as the music jingles all the dry voice ones too like ,while the others are talking ,we keep on rocking ,there are just so many I would love to hear again or maybe Mr.o hara would have some ,great times that I would love to here again,
    Best wishes paul.

  17. Ruth Hogg says

    Hello once again Sybil, this time I am bringing some very sad news, I’m telling you personally because of all the memories we share. It is to let you know that Barrie Johnston, my former husband and friend and of course Co Founder of Anoraks UK passed away at his home in Yorkshire on Tuesday 20th of September. Although we were no longer together, I pay tribute to all the work he put in on behalf of Pirate Radio not just in Ireland, although that was a great era, but all Pirate Radio stations, offshore and land based. Barrie Johnston RIP.

    1. Sybil Fennell says

      I was very sad to learn of Barrie’s death. What yousupplied through Anoraks UK was to prove to be a great record of the heyday of radio in the UK/Ireland. All credit to you all. Barrie is missed – and I have this endearing memory of him scotting up and down your open plan stairs at speed using his arms to propel himself. Did I make this up/invent this? Sorry Ruth – you were a great team – and I understand why this makes you sad.

    2. Eddie Bohan says

      As a broadcast historian Barrie and Ruth along with the DX Archive were great sources for Irish radio history. Barrie’s loss is a gap that no one can fill. If there are any archives there is now a repository for them in Dublin at the Irish Pirate Radio Archive in Dublin City University. My condolences to all Barrie’s family and friends.

  18. Ruth Hogg says

    Yes very sad, and your memories are correct. Many happy times. Thank you for being part of it all. I need to chat to you, e-mail me please. XX

  19. Steven says

    Thank you so much Sybil for taking the time to share so much of your memories with us. I am not much of a reader but would love to read your book, or better still how about your book on audio cd / mp3 read by the author…. wow that’d be a great way to bring another smile to your fans…. I and so many others who gave up on radio and havent listened to any radio since 1988, tend to listen to audio books…. please at least consider this, thank you 🙂


    1. Sybil Fennell says

      Hello Steven,
      I hadn’t even thought about the audiobook concept – but you’re absolutely right it is an obvious alternative, which given the background of what the story is about makes total sense!
      I can’t see any reason why this too shouldn’t happen

  20. Lawrence John says

    Hi Sybil,
    great interview and wonderful to hear your reflections on the greatest era in Irish broadcasting. It was a magical time, nothing has matched it since and never will. Being on Nova with Chris, you and the rest of the team was truly amazing.
    I’ve had some great times since then, working on Riviera 104, KISS FM Monaghan, with Tom Hardy and a few of the old Nova team, then running from the same site, my own super Pirate ENERGY 106. But those Nova days were the best days of my life for sure.
    I remember Chris calling me on a number of occasions during my nightly midnight to six show asking for a certain record to be played.
    It was always good to know the boss was listening, but also a little nerve wracking, what if I made a mistake or screwed up ?
    I was really saddened to hear of Chris’ passing, also Roland, Bob, and Tony, all great talents and wonderful human beings.
    Kind regards
    Lawrence John

    1. Sybil says

      Too many by far Lawrence…. Raise a glass to what we achieved! ,,, We can all always remember that we were part of what where truly the salad days of Irish broadcasting

    2. Richard Gavin says

      Lawrence, I have a recording of a great promo for your nova all night show which featured the Gardai!
      Great show and a great station

  21. Andy Toms says

    Hi Sybil, My memories of yourself and Chris came from when i worked at hi-tech, i was sad to hear that Chris had passed away (i found out because i was looking you both up to see where life had taken you) i always enjoyed listening to Chris’s recollections of his time in radio before i met you both, I also recall babysitting Nicholas at the fabulous Camberley house so it has to be about 22 years ago, I wish you all the very best with the book and thank you for the memories you both helped create

  22. Sybil says

    Andy… I remember you well. Nick will be 29 in January so count ye well the years! So lovely to hear from you

  23. Penny Smith says

    Hi Sybil,
    I remember well the Southside days sharing the toaster plug and all the drama of the place. I loved it there and following months of ‘helping’ (not sure Andrew saw it as that) was so excited to be allowed to get the traffic news for Scott (? – afternoons) and Peter (? – morning show). I even reached the dizzy heights of eventually reading the traffic news! I am still in touch with Johnny Moss (Lewis) who is now working on local radio in Kent as well as on Caroline. Trust all is well with you – it certainly doesn’t seem like 30+ years ago…crazy days…
    Penny Portente (Smith)

  24. Richard Flynn says

    Oh wow sweet memories. I was a journalist in Navan phoning in a story to the Evening Press newspaper when the phone lines (luckily not mine) crashed. The News Editor told me all the phone lines in Dublin and Leinster had crashed. I said yes I know it’s because Radio Nova have just played their three records back to back for their £5000 competition and everyone is trying to get through to win it. I made double money for that tip and the other story I was phoning in. The Nova story was front page news. The jingle “Broadcasting from Dublin on 819 and 828 Medium Wave, 88 and 102.9 FM in stereo” will also be emblazoned in my mind. And of course “It’s 11 o’clock I’m Sybil Fennell……….”

  25. Tony Prince says

    I have a lot of photos for Sybill which she and Chris took in Porta Banus where they lived for a year.
    Can you please ask her to contact me (
    Tony Prince.

  26. KATHLEEN CARY says

    what happened to Chris’s children, Louise, Alex and Kristy and did they find all the money he left them after is death. Still a mystery to many people who knew the family very well. I believe Louise and Alex were taking Sybil his girlfriend to court.

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