Remember Atlantic 252? The story of the station that was the sound of the 90s

The radio station was loved across Manchester and beyond

John Millar, with Atlantic 252 DJs Dickie Bow and Beverley Hills at HQ in Ireland radio station (Image: Daily Record)

For a while no car ride was complete without hearing it.

Atlantic 252 – on longwave – was a 90s Manchester radio stalwart, even though it was based in Ireland.

The commercial station ran from 1988 up until its last broadcast in 2002 from its transmission site at Clarkstown, County Meath.

Broadcasts from the station could be heard as far away as Finland, Ibiza and even Moscow- but the station had close ties to Manchester – from local radio presenters to the early days of Take That – as well as a loyal local fanbase.

At the peak of its popularity in 1993, the station had six million listeners.

The longwave frequency meant it was picked up by a lot of drivers in older cars without FM – but it quickly gained a reputation for playing the same records a lot. Extreme’s More Than Words and anything by Mike and Mechanics were particular favourites.

Many successful artists, including Take That, did radio tours with Atlantic 252 before they hit it big.

The Calypso Twins on a radio tour with Atlantic 252 to promote their first single (Image: Dublin Live)

In 2010, North Wales Live reported how a group of young men dressed in somewhat questionable outfits had taken to an impromptu stage in a Llangefni car park almost 20 years before.

Visiting the town as part of an Atlantic 252 roadshow, Take That would soon become superstars, selling more than 25 million records during the 1990s and launching a hugely successful comeback ten years later.

Take That’s Gary Barlow with Fariha Ali, an Atlantic 252 competition winner, in March 1998 (Image: Daily Record)

Mail photographer Richard Birch remembers being sent to photograph the fresh-faced young band.

At the time, he said: “Most people hadn’t got a clue who they were. Atlantic 252 was one of the only stations you could get around here, but nobody had ever heard of Take That, who arrived in a black Transit van.”

Gary Barlow with puppy Rocky, March 1998, won by Fariha Ali, as part of an Atlantic 252 radio competition (Image: Daily Record)

Legendary radio DJ Simon ‘Nicksy’ Nicks was another local link – building a fanbase on Atlantic 252 before moving to Manchester’s airwaves.

He got his big break there in 1992, after cutting his teeth in hospital radio.

And after leaving Atlantic he worked at some of the biggest radio stations across the north for 25 years, until he was diagnosed with cancer in 2017.

He was a well-known breakfast show DJ at Galaxy Radio and Key 103 and was also one of the presenters of the annual Manchester Pride event.

John Millar, Daily Record Journalist, with Radio Atlantic 252 DJ’s Dickie Bow and Beverley Hills, at 252’s HQ in Ireland (Image: Daily Record)

By the late 90s Atlantic was struggling to compete with local stations in a crowded commercial radio space and losing listeners.

Relaunches – first as an indie station, then as an urban music station – failed to bring back listeners, and by 2001 it had been sold.

John Millar with Radio Atlantic 252 DJ’s Dickie Bow and Beverley Hills, at 252’s HQ, Ireland (Image: Daily Record)

After 12 years, Enda Caldwell presented the station’s last broadcast in December 2001. It limped on with automated programming for another few days, before ceasing transmission for good in early 2002.

© Manchester Evening News, January 22, 2022. For your own personal use only. © 2022 M.E.N. Media

QSL card from Atlantic 252 – 1990 – 254 kHz. Image: www.bruender.de

Digital audio © Radio Heritage Foundation, Chris Mackerell Collection

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