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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Irish showband era is gone but not forgotten as the legends live on

Twelve months ago we told readers about an exciting new website which explored the cult of the Irish showbands, now largely forgotten, but so much a part of Ireland's music scene up to the 1970s.

The website,, is run by Gerry Gallagher and his wife Kim Newport, themselves a part of the showband scene of the late ’60s and early ’70s (the Kim Newport Band played all over Ireland).

Since our profile of the website, thousands of you have been to visit it, but more importantly, a handful of you have added to it, providing Gerry with more photographs, more stories, more band names and line-ups and today the website is almost 50 per cent bigger than it was.
Gerry has added two new sections to the website. The first contains articles written about showbands and the showband era in Irish newspapers. The Weekender features here, as does its sister papers the Western People and Irish Examiner.

Some of the articles are actually from the era, others reflect on it with a nostalgic air, recalling the big bands and venues of the day.

The other section is even more interesting. Over the years Gerry has received large collections of photographs from individuals with an interest in showbands.

Billy Swan, Joe Dodd, Dick Lynott, Shorty O'Kane, Liam O'Reilly, Mike Niblett, Teddie Palmer, Kathleen Smith and Western People Entertainment Editor David Dwane have all contributed collections ranging from 27 to 172 photographs.

Kathleen Smith's collection is probably the most impressive.
Kathleen met Big Tom when she was fifteen years old, and for the next ten years, she remained a huge fan of the Castleblaney legend.

During that time, she collected every photo she could get her hands on and has been kind enough to contribute them to our website so they can be shared with the rest of the world.
"We need to say a very special thanks to several members of our community that have made their collections of band handouts and photos available for display," said Gerry.

"Although many of these images are also incorporated under the appropriate heading in the main galleries, they are presented by contributors for your enjoyment."

Gerry also extended another invitation to those who want to join this elite group.
"If you have a collection that you would like to donate, we require only that you have at least twenty images to qualify for your own collection, and they must be representative of a variety of bands
"We also want to assure you that all photographs are now clearly identified with the contributor's name clearly printed on the image itself.

"So, if you only have a couple of handouts, were will clearly label them and join the rest of the website's visitors in thanking you sincerely for helping make this a better archive and the most comprehensive collection anywhere."

Another new part of the Irish showbands website is the forum, where you can recall your own showband memories and dancehall days and share in the memories of other contributors.
A quick glance through the forum reveals some stories which will no doubt jog the memory of many.

"The first dances I ever went to were in the summer of 1971 in Pontoon Ballroom, a few miles from Foxford," one member recalled. "I remember seeing Chips there and the Plattermen.
“I also remember that the song Tom Tom Turnaround was a big hit at the time and a great number for the slow dancing!”

A lot of Irish men and women who moved to the UK in the ’60s and ’70s recalled the dancehalls and showband scene in Ireland with great fondness too.

“One of my fondest memories are of a regular Sunday night dance in St Clare’s Hall, Glenavy,” said one Irish man, now living in the UK. “We all had a surprise that night. Unknown to anyone The Dubliners made a surprise appearance. ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ was high in the charts and there they were singing it live in front of us. They only stayed for a couple of songs and were on their way.

“I never did get another chance to see them live again.”

Another recalls: “Embassy Ballroom Castleblaney every Sunday night where love stories began. Young famers lined the back wall in there black wellies on a summer’s evening to catch the last few songs of the night. Met my first love in the Embassy (not one of the famers I might add) - happy days.”

As well as general nostalgia for that era, the contributors also shared memories of their favourite bands and singers. “Two bands really were my favourites, Nevada were the good news band, who always had some great singers and who always enjoyed themselves both on and off the stage. Tina, though, for me, was their best singer who always had time to chat to her fans, everyone loved her!

“New Blues played country and pop, had two brillant young singers in Keith Beattie and Carole Wallace plus some great musicians. They were a very versatile band who had a loyal following. Keith had a hit with 'Spanish Disco', while Carole had a hit with her debut single 'You Never Can Tell' in 1977. She had a great voice probably better suited to country rather than pop. Offstage she was a very friendly lady.”

One contribution summed up the attraction for many people of the website: “I found your site by accident and love it. Looking at the pictures (handouts) was like looking at an old family album. I'm in some of them and I saw so many old friends and faces that I hadn't seen in years and some I had forgotten about. I'll be back to visit many times and will send some photos I've got for inclusion on the site.”






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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006