Wow thanks all - even if I can't get free to view to work this forum certainly does ! I'm impressed and grateful in equal measure so please bear with me if I reply to all collectively rather than individually.
OK, have just phoned Sky to be told - disingenously - that they have never heard of a Freesat viewing card. We all have so what planet do they live on ? Best advice was to Google the net for freeview instructions : I did that earlier, am still confused hence my post to this forum...back to square one. I do understand that different territorial arrangements apply beteween the UK, NI and the Republic - regardless I have heard that 'unlock' codes and cards exist (illegally) on the net - (not expecting comments on that one guys.) Practiclly tho I've seen a vid on Youtube where allegedly a set top box has been converted to a PC : I'm not even going to think about atempting that but...could I access FTA channels on the internet and hook my laptop up to the TV and watch in that way ? No, not the plethora of FTA sex and foreign language channels but RTE etc ? I already watch More4 Catchup on my laptop (plus Netflix, I've also tried Putlocker but the constant buffering is boring) and via my set top box am still able to receive BBC 1, 2 and 3.
Thanks for the advice but I'm loathe to buy another receiver. My position/expectation is that soon we'll all be paid to watch commercial TV/streamed vids anyway as per the nascent Ryanair business model. After all the value to Mr Zuckerberg of every new Facebook punter is already circa $3.73 per user each quarter (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jan/28/how-much-are-you-worth-to-facebook).
For the record I was on a good (unpublished) deal - 20 euros per month. I cancelled due to the above principle and because for me at least terrestrial channels are no longer worth watching relative to digital alternatives.
Finally #chinamug thanks for your pointers : I can't access Other Channels now that my sub has lapsed. I've scoured the Sky menu but the only remaining active interface is Services - and it doesn't seem to be an option there. I'll investigate the option of getting an old Sky box further but yes the Holy Grail remains how to manually tune in...