Skip to main content

“This is the real Radio Tay.”

These were the first words from Gerry Quinn when Radio Tay launched in Dundee in October 1980 to bring local voices to the airwaves.

The first record he played was The Road and the Miles to Dundee by Andy Stewart.

The studio was constructed in the former TC Keay factory in North Isla Street.

The presenters at its inception included Graham Stuart, Tony Donald, Norma Gamble, Kenny Page and Dick Donnelly, who was the voice of football.

Radio Tay was the third commercial radio station in Scotland.

Presenters from the station became household names, including Mark Goodier who took over the Breakfast Beat from Gerry Quinn in January 1981.

None was more recognisable than a certain Arthur Ballingall from Buckhaven.

Ally Bally’s broadcasting career started in hospital radio in Kirkcaldy and he was a part-time weekend presenter when Radio Tay went on air.

Ally Bally became the biggest name on air

He joined the station full-time as a sales executive in May 1981 after giving up his job with B&Q to pursue a career behind the microphone.

Ally told me: “I had a good job as regional manager for B&Q, a nice house in Leven and a good salary when I jumped ship in May 1981.

“I was paid £12,000 a year and had a company car.

“I went to Radio Tay for £4,000 a year.

“The first thing I did was go out and paint a for-sale sign and stuck it in the garden and bought a cheap house in Forfar and started all over again.

“It was the unknown that was tremendously exciting.

“Commercial radio had arrived in Dundee and I wanted to be part of it.

“I would always have wondered what might have been if I didn’t move on.”

Ally stepped in for Mark Goodier when the Breakfast Show host went on holiday.

Goodier eventually left his breakfast slot in August 1981.


Ally landed the show.

The rest is history.

He decided to make it more family-orientated, which doubled listening figures in six months and then trebled them.

He got the kids listening to the show before school with competitions and games.

KT Tunstall was among Ally’s listeners

It was fun and joyous with Ally at breakfast.

Everyone listened.

Just ask KT Tunstall.

Ally attended the Ritz Club in London in 2009 where Dame Shirley Bassey launched a new album that included a track written by the Fife singer.

“Dame Shirley asked me what my favourite song on the album was,” said Ally.

“I picked Nice Men, which was written by KT Tunstall.

“Dame Shirley said she loved that one too but had never met KT.

“I introduced them and Dame Shirley asked her: ‘So you know each other?’

“KT smiled and told her she used to listen to my breakfast show every morning on the school bus from St Andrews to Dundee High School.

“I just thought, oh well, it worked!”

The snow would help boost listening figures

The success was reward for hard work engaging the local community.

For 13 years Ally helmed Radio Tay’s breakfast show, which became the place where parents would find out if a school was closed during bad weather.

“Councils would rely on us to get the message across to parents,” said Ally.

“I used to do a snow dance because I knew the audience figures would be sky-high!

“We were also the only radio station with a direct link to police headquarters.

“They pressed a button and spoke to the presenter when anything happened.

The Tay Talk In on Sunday drew more listeners than every radio station in Scotland combined and we got the show going national.” Ally Bally

“We could warn motorists to avoid the area.”

It was all about engagement.

Tay Action helped organise a club for the deaf, a clean-up of Broughty Ferry beach and a number of other projects for the elderly and for young people.

Caring for Kids raised thousands for disadvantaged children and young people.

The Radio Tay Roadshow was a huge success.

Ally took the show out of the studio, which had never been done before.

In July 1988 he also branched into the nightclub business by running Bally’s in Arbroath, which attracted A-list stars such as Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan.

Ally won the Sony Award for the UK’s best local radio presenter.

Tay Talk In was one of the biggest successes

Later in his career, Ally presented the mid-morning show and hosted the Tay Talk In.

“The Tay Talk In is the one show that most people ask me about,” said Ally.

“Some of the subjects we discussed were amazing and I never knew what they wanted to speak about when they came through.

“One Sunday a woman came on.

“She said she wanted to speak about drug dealers killing her daughter.

“I asked when did it happen – last night, she replied.

“That someone could come on and trust me to tell their story was very powerful.

“There were lots of calls like that.

“The Tay Talk In on Sunday drew more listeners than every radio station in Scotland combined and we got the show going national.

“First ministers were lining up to come on and face the public.”

Ally said the success of Radio Tay was a team effort.

Many careers have been launched from the studio in North Isla Street, including Eddie Mair, James Cook, Martha Fairlie and Saul Sievwright.

When the Spice Girls arrived at Radio Tay

A-list celebrities were always happy to appear on the airwaves, like Dolly Parton, Cliff Richard, Doris Day, Rod Stewart and the Spice Girls.

Posh, Scary, Baby, Ginger and Sporty Spice were interviewed in the studio by John Darroch to promote their debut single – before they were famous.

John went on holiday and when he drove back from the airport the Spice Girls were at No 1 with Wannabe and already at the cusp of mega-stardom.

Radio Tay became part of Bauer Media Group.

Nothing lasts forever.

Ally left the station in 2020.

More programmes started being broadcast from the central belt, before Tay FM and Tay 2 joined the Greatest Hits Radio network.

The Radio Tay building has since closed and been put up for sale.

“I’ve always been an advocate of local radio,” said Ally.

“Local radio works.

“That’s what we have lost in Dundee.

“It’s so sad and I think the area has lost something.

“Hopefully some day it will come back again.

“But maybe that’s progress?”

End of an era when Radio Tay left Dundee

Ally said the people he worked with during the years were brilliant with special mention for the late Kenny Page, whose talent he described as “unbelievable”.

“The station won a lot of awards and it’s a shame that’s been lost,” he said.

“It was a very successful station because it was local.

“We did so much with the community.

“Caring for Kids gave everyone a great sense of achievement.

“We did everything and anything to get people to pledge.

“We took a car across the Tay from Perth to Broughty Ferry to raise money and were plugging the holes with our wet socks while broadcasting.

“Every day was different.

“How do I remember my time there?

“It was just fun.”


Source: Graeme Strachan – The Courier