Fife’s first radio station - how it all began

Fife’s first radio station was recently bought by a Scottish publishing group.

Photo shows from left: Norman Quirk, college principal Tom Burness, Dunfermline District Council leader Margaret Miller, John Murray, chairman John Purvis and finance director Ian Condie with George Mackintosh in front. Pic: John Murray.

But many might not realise that the original idea for Kingdom FM was formulated at a meeting in the former Parkway Hotel in Kirkcaldy (now the Beveridge Park Hotel) in Abbotshall Road in early 1996.

The meeting was between John Murray, who was well-known for operating mobile discos in the area as well as being chairman of Victoria Radio Network at the time, and his old radio boss George Macintosh.

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The original idea for Kingdom FM was formulated by John Murray and his former radio boss George Macintosh (right). Pic: John Murray.

John explained: “Like most business ventures, it started formally with a coffee in the Parkway Hotel on February 7, 1996 meeting up with my old radio boss George Mackintosh. The predecessor to Ofcom, the Radio Authority, had offered an FM radio licence for Fife announced in late 1995 and after some phone calls, we agreed to meet and become the first two directors in the new company, Kingdom FM Ltd.

The first sales team at Kingdom FM with Linda McCabbe, Carol Johnstone, Yvonne Milne and sales boss Jim Hamilton. Pic: John Murray.

“Oddly enough on the same day I was offered a position to join a rival bidder called Radio Tay run by the late Danny Burke. Danny had been a pirate DJ, founder of VRN hospital radio in 1971 and a director at Radio Tay. “George was a seasoned journalist moving from press to Radio Clyde newsroom before becoming head of programmes at Radio Tay in Dundee.

“It was here that we met when I hosted Music For Dreaming and Million Sellers programmes for him at a time the station closed down at 7pm, unthinkable today. He knew me from the years of winning national hospital radio awards, being chairman of Victoria Radio Network (for Kirkcaldy’s three hospitals) and my work on Radio Forth, Radio Borders and Max AM where at one time I had seven shows a week.”

John said that he and George decided on the name for the new Fife radio station straight away.

“We decided on the name immediately, secured an office in Coal Road Cupar as I was working from Elmwood College at the time then built up a board of directors beginning with John Purvis MEP who would become chairman of the new company.

The first Kingdom FM roadshow at Pittenweem. From left: John Murray and NE Fife MP Menzies Campbell. Pic: John Murray.

“The task was immense and in the coming months we hosted presentations, secured investors, letters of support and the first radio roadshow at Pittenweem Festival which I hosted with DJ Bob Jones, musical guest Bruce Davies and opened by NE Fife MP Menzies Campbell.”

John said the first mention of Kingdom FM in the local press was back in the late 1990s.

“First mention in print was on February 7, 1997 when I was quoted in Fife Free Press saying ‘I want this to be known as the Fifer’s station’,” he said.

“Decision Day was April 2, 1998 and the board celebrated at Glenrothes College radio studio. Apart from the immense budgets of the BBC, we had a task to overcome loyal listeners in the north of the county with Radio Tay and the dominance of Radio Forth with a head start since 1975.”

The Kingdom FM team. Pic: John Murray.

As well as launching the new Fife radio station, John also wanted to start a charity to help youngsters in the Kingdom. It was called Kingdom Kids.

“Early on I wanted to form a children’s charity for Fife residents so Kingdom Kids became a reality of which I still chair today,” he said.

“Just this week we donated £3000 to the Victoria Hospital children’s ward for their treasure chest. Securing premises was next and after searching the county, we settled for Haig House in Markinch as we were keen not to be in any of the major Fife towns.

“Our first employee was Kevin Brady, head of programmes, from Q96, a sales team was next and then radio presenters. New broadcasters like Dave Connor, Stuart Webster and Mike Richardson were joined by seasoned professional Kenny Page.

“Local news was important to us and in charge was Chris Hodge who recruited people like Gordon Chree (now STV) and future Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson.”

John added: “The impact was immediate and by the time George Mackintosh died in August 2000, Kingdom FM was No1 in Fife.”

Kingdom FM was acquired by DC Thomson in a deal which was announced last week.