In the 1950s and 60’s, there were only 3 radio stations broadcasting part-time in the Leeward Islands. The first was Radio Montserrat now ZJB. Then there was ZIZ in St. Kitts both operated by the local government on those islands.
Then there was Radio Antigua which eventually became 620 radio ABS owned and operated by the government of Antigua and Barbuda and managed by Ephraim John and Mickey Matthew.
In those days because of free secondary education introduced by V.C. Bird (Snr) the Chief Minister and later Premier of Antigua and Barbuda and his government, Antiguans were listening and writing to radio stations all over the world. Stations including WIBS – the Windward Islands Broadcasting Service on the short wave band from Grenada. WLAC with John Arr from Nashville Tennessee, USA with all the latest soul music. The afternoon request programme “Caribbean Matinee” in English from a Spanish radio station WAPA in Puerto Rico. The “Platypus Club” from a short wave radio station in New York WRUL.
Antiguans were writing so much to a radio station in St. Thomas USVI called WSTA that they created a special request programme called “Antigua Antics” solely for listeners in Antigua. But what made it so pronounced that there was an “aching void” for a commercial radio station in Antigua- was the day on the BBC one Sunday afternoon when Victor Sylvester who hosted a request programme with his Ballroom Orchestra – mentioned that there was a small island in the Caribbean named Antigua that he was getting a tremendous amount of letters from. Antiguans with their secondary education were making their presence felt all over the world and international pen pals were the order of the day.
The idea of a commercial radio station for Antigua was the brainchild of the fourth son of Vere Cornwall Bird (Snr) the founding father of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda – Ivor Grenville Theophilius Bird, and in the 1960s with the encouragement of his late friend Milton Samuel, who became Antigua & Barbuda’s Ambassador to the U.K and the founder of the Bank of Antigua, wrote a letter of application to the Cabinet of Antigua requesting permission to operate a commercial radio station on Antigua – the request was denied by the Cabinet.
But Ivor Bird pursued his dream to one day bring a modern-day broadcasting facility to the island.
His father and Cabinet must have been tired of these requests that one-day V.C Bird (Snr) must have been able to convince his Cabinet members to give the O.K for such a venture – after all, Ivor did not have the finance – this must have been a dose of “Shut-up”.
But with the help of his brothers Vere and Lester who were then studying law at the Grays Inn in London and later when the funds could not be obtained – then V.C. Bird (Snr) decided to put his land lease together and take Ivor to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce at the corner of High Street and Corn Alley in St. John’s the funds became a reality – but there was no building to house the brand new equipment, a 10,000-watt transmitter to operate on 1100 Am and studio equipment from the Harris company in Illinois, USA.
It was Ivor’s friend, the late Reginald Merchant, better known as “Harrigan the Great” that took Ivor Bird to his friend Keith Edwards – a wholesale merchant in the Ovals area in St. John’s. Keith Edwards not only provided his building at the corner of Hawkins Street and Temple Street but Mr Edwards, at his own expense, refurbished his property exactly to Ivor Bird’s specification to house the new ZDK Radio Station.
On the 30th November 1970, ZDK came on the air broadcasting on the 1100 spot on the AM dial serving the Eastern Caribbean with 10,000 watts and the link between the studios in St. John’s and the transmitter site was an FM transmitter with 10 watts on 99.0 FM. So for the very first-time listeners in St. John’s Antigua could hear a radio station operating on both the AM & FM dial.
For more than 20 years Keith Edwards rented the company – Grenville Radio Ltd his building to operate ZDK at EC$200.00 per month. We are eternally grateful to Mr Edwards for his generosity to the company.
The initial directors of Grenville Radio Ltd were:-
- Lydia Bird
- Vere Bird (Jnr)
- Lester B. Bird
- Roswald Bird
- Ivor Bird (Founder and Managing Director)
The Rt. Hon. Dr. V.C. Bird (Snr) refused appointment as a Director because he was then the Premier of Antigua and Barbuda and he saw it as a conflict of interest, However, he continued to be a welcomed adviser and a financial provider in turbulent times of trouble.
Lester Bryant Bird who later became Antigua and Barbuda’s second Prime Minister, succeeding his father was responsible for naming the company Grenville Radio Ltd. After all, Grenville was the middle name of Ivor G. T.Bird, the Founder and Managing Director of the company.
In the year 1993, Radio Station ZDK moved into its own 3 storey building at the corner of Bird Road and All Saints Road in St. John’s on lands provided by Lady Lydia Bird who inherited those lands from her father – Montaque Bryant (1880-1977).
This property was affectionately known as “Bryant Pasture” and that is the reason why the ZDK building is solely dedicated to the loving memory of the late Montaque Bryant.
Sun FM – a 5.000 watt FM radio station and the sister station to ZDK came on stream on 1 st May 1995 on a frequency of 100.1 FM.
Over its 35 years of existence, ZDK Radio has been known as:-
- The Big 11
- The Big Bad “Z”
- Magic Radio’
- Bacchanal 1100
ZDK is today known as – ZDK Liberty Radio International – broadcasting on 97.1 FM from its transmitter at the highest peak on Antigua, Boggy Peak and on the world wide web.