Doc Carroll was a true showman who loved the great stage of
By: Michael Commins
Without a doubt, Doc Carroll would have been pleased with his
“send-off” in Athlone. Old friends came from many parts of the country to pay
their respects and remember one of the iconic figures of the showband era. In
many ways, Doc was the “eternal teenager”. There was a vitality about him that
came straight from the golden days of the showband era. He loved the stage and
was never shy about the limelight. That was his way of life and he there was no
need to apologise to anyone about it. Straight from the Andy Creighton Academy!
The bigger the stage, the more he was at home. He loved music and he loved
making dancers happy.
The 1960s was the era of
the first Irish “stars” and Doc and the Royal Blues were synonymous with that
scene. Young singers and musicians were catapulted to national fame. Spotlight
magazine was the “”bible” of the showband era, bringing all the latest news from
bands around the country. It was a decade which saw the arrival of Larry Gogan
on the scene, the birth of the Late Late Show with Gay Byrne front-lining the
show that he was to make his own over the next few decades.
Butch Moore of the
Capitol Showband won Ireland’s first National Song Contest with Walking the
Streets in the Rain. Dickie Rock of the Miami, Sean Dunphy from the Hoedowners
and Pat McGuigan, another showband band, followed in his footsteps.
Tubbercurry solicitor Eddie Masterson was keeping “court” in Barry’s Hotel.
Eddie knew them all, loved the world of showbiz, and the colourful characters
from around the country. Brendan O’Brien of the Dixies recalled on the tribute
to Doc on Mid-West Radio last week that the Belvedere Hotel in Dublin was the
mecca for the bands meeting after gigs.
“It was unbelievable in
the early 1960s, Doc and Shay and all the Royal Blues, Larry and all the Mighty
Avons, Joe Dolan and the Drifters, Joe Mac and the rest of us in the Dixies, and
so many more. The crack was great, we were young then and working hard. We made
lifelong friends in that era,” said Brendan.
Special days indeed and
days when the name of Doc Carroll rolled across the country, across the Irish
Sea to the dancehalls in England, and yonder to the shores of Amerikay. It was
so encouraging and uplifting for Mary and his family that so many friends had
come to Athlone to show their support and stand beside them as Doc took his
final bow from the stage of this world.
Colleagues from the
heyday of the showband era, others who worked with Doc in the 1970s, 80s and
90s, and some of the followers, had made their way to Athlone, loyal to the end.
And young Donna and Joseph McCaul from Athlone, recent winners of You’re A Star,
to whom Doc gave the first big break on the scene, were there too They sung
Amazing Grace during the Mass. And it was fitting too. Doc was an intensely
religious man for many years, always forthright about his strongly held views,
standing firm for what he believed to be right and true.
Though many years away
from Mayo, it is fair to say that Mayo never left him. When the summer came
round and the football got into full swing, Doc was penning songs about the red
and green. His songwriting ability came to the forefront in the last fifteen
years or so and he composed several numbers with a Mayo theme. The “Rockin’ Doc”
was laid to rest in Coosan Cemetery on a lovely afternoon in May. There was a
healthy scattering of Mayo accents, mixing gently with those from the Midlands
and other parts of the country … Doc would have been mighty pleased with that.
Looking back, 1966 is
now almost four decades ago but, for Doc Carroll, Old Man Trouble and that
number I hit song might just as well have been a few weeks ago. He was a showman
to the end, still a star, still a name that brought happy and proud memories to
a generation of people from his home province and further afield. And for such
sweet memories, Doc, we humbly say “Amen”.
Stephen’s tribute to Doc
Your programme on Mid-West Radio dedicated to the late Doc Carroll was a lovely
tribute to a wonderful and talented man. Many years ago in Tooreen Hall, we, the
Rhythm Stars, played a two band session with the famous Royal Blues They were
the big attraction on the night. The ballroom was packed and, as far as I can
remember, Doc sang Old Man Trouble six times. Doc Carroll was a real gentleman
and a true professional. He was a friend to me and all of us and a credit to the
To his lovely wife, Mary, and her family, and to his former colleagues in the
Royal Blues, Don Flanagan, Frank and Vincent Gill, Shay O’Hara, Bobby Smith,
Brendan Arnold and Brian Carr, I extend my deepest sympathy on behalf of all the
members of the Rhythm Stars.
May the good God in
Heaven grant rest and peace to his gentle soul.
Castlerea, Co. Roscommon.
Parke’s Joe Coleman serenades his native village
The small village of Parke has at last been serenaded in song. “Parke in the
County Mayo” is one of four songs on the new CD released last week by Joe
Coleman who resides a few miles form Pontoon.
“Yes, I found a wee piece of heaven, It’s our own lovely Parke in Mayo,” says
Joe as he sings the praises of the Parke countryside. Many will be glad to know
that he has included “First Rose of Spring” on the CD as the song has been
hugely popular on Mid-West and other radio stations over the past few months.
The other songs are “Missing You” and Achill’s Lovely Shores.
“So many people were asking me if they could get a copy of ‘First Rose of
Spring” that I decided to write some other songs and put four of them together
on a CD. I am pleased with the way things have turned out and with the reaction
to the songs,” said Joe during the week. All four have been composed by Joe
himself and they were recorded over in Ollie Walsh’s Studio in Westport. The
4-track is now available in Downtown Records, Castlebar and Westport, Henry
McGlade’s Record Shop opposite Dunne’s Stores, and Lyons’ Late ‘n Early near the
Welcome Inn Hotel in Castlebar.
Mick Breen dies in Manchester
The death took place in Manchester last week of Mick Breen, a well known
musician on the local circuit. A native of the Kinnegad area, Mick was a
longtime member of the Bamba Blarney Showband. Together with Paddy Fearey from
Offaly, and a number of other musicians and singers, including Johnny Loughrey,
Mick and the band were favourites at a host of popular
venues in former times such as St. Brendan’s Club, the Blarney Club, the Holy
Name Club and many others.
Pat Lyons, a native of Brickens, rang me from Manchester last week to relay the
news about the death of Mick Breen. “He was very well known among the Irish in
the Manchester region and will be sadly missed by a his family and many
friends,” said Pat.
Pius Forde from Bohaunes, Kiltimagh, said Mick was a highly accomplished
accordion player. “Mick was very proud of his Midlands roots. He was very well
known at the Irish Centre in Cheetham Hill and he would come in on many a
Wednesday to entertain some of the elderly Irish at the Centre.”
He is survived by his wife Tess, three sons and two daughters, family relations
and a host of friends he made through the music business.
Swinford to feature on Mid-West Late Show
Plans to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Sisters of
Mercy in Swinford are now well advanced and will be held in the town on the 10th
and 11th June.
On next Sunday night’s Late Show on Mid-West Radio, Sr. Ethna O’Grady and
Sr. Rosarie Cryan will reflect on the impact the Sisters had on Swinford and its
environs in different times. Sr. Ethna hails from Killasser and is currently a
family therapist in Ballaghaderreen. She has served in various parts of the
world including America and Peru. Sr. Rosarie, a native of Ballymote, spent many
years in Swinford Secondary School and is now in Ballysadare.
The Garda Band will play in the Parish Church on Friday 10th June from 8 p.m. to
10 p.m. and this will be followed by some light refreshments in the Gateway
Hotel. Mass will be celebrated in Swinford Church on Saturday 11th at 8 p.m. and
later, the special commemoration reception will be held in Julian’s of Midfield.
Sr. Ethna and Sr. Rosarie will join Sunday night’s Late Show from 10.30 p.m. to
12 midnight and will also select some favourite songs and music for this part of
Enthusiasts enjoy shortwave day at Elphin Windmill
The Elphin Windmill was the setting on Saturday and Sunday, 7th and 8th May, for
another “link point” on the annual two days shortwave venture organised by the
Denby and Dale Amateur Radio Society on Yorkshire.
The event in Elphin was again coordinated by members of the Midlands Amateur
Radio Society whose members come from all over the Midlands and West.
I had a call from Bernie Carty in Elphin on Saturday to say that the event was
“up and running” and he put me on to Fergus Millar from Carrick-on-Shannon, an
ardent amateur radio shortwave enthusiast.
Fergus confirmed that conditions were somewhat “weird” which was probably due to
the atmospheric pressure conditions associated with the closeness of an area of
high pressure off the North West.
Still, they were “working” the station and making some good contacts, mainly in
England on this occasion. After Fergus told me they were operating mainly in the
40m band and on 7051 (LSB), I tuned in my shortwave receiver to that frequency
and picked up a number of the “contacts” as they exchanged signal strengths and
other data which is part and parcel of the hobby. Well done to all associated
with this annual venture in Elphin and elsewhere.
Mid-West concert night
All is in order for the big Mid-West Radio concert in the T.F. Royal Theatre in
Castlebar tonight, Tuesday, 17th May. The show is expected to be sold out in
On the bill are Declan Nerney, Conal Gallen, The Conquerors, Mike Denver, La
Bamba, Jimmy Buckley, Michael English, Patrick Feeney, Louise Morrissey and John
McNickle. One or two more may have been added to the bill by the time this
appears in print.
Billy made many friendships during years with the Irish Army
News of the recent death of Billy McHugh in Dublin was received with much
sadness by family and friends in his native Kiltimagh. Billy (53) was a Sergeant
with the Irish Army and had been based at McKee Barracks Coy for many years
where he worked in administration.
One of a family of seven born to the late Bill and Rose McHugh, Aiden Street,
Kiltimagh, he was also predeceased by his sister Mary (Goggins), Claremorris.
Billy married Ann Byrne from Dublin and they resided at The Oaks, Belgard, where
they raised a family of eight children, four daughters and four sons.
Billy was a proud army man and served with distinction for over 30 years.
He did four tours of duty with the “Peace Mission” operation in Lebanon and
while there he visited Jerusalem and parts of the Holy Land.
This was an area of the world that held a special fascination for him and his
deep faith was inspired by visits to the most holy places in the land of the
Bible. He had a great love for his faith and religion and had a fond regard for
He was especially popular with his colleagues and commanded the utmost respect
among all levels in the Army. He loved the Army life and made numerous
friendships with comrades from around the country.
Billy was a regular visitor to his hometown of Kiltimagh where he always loved
to meet his friends. He was still a member of the Kiltimagh-Bohola Gun Club and
also took an interest in clay-pigeon shooting. Indeed, just a few months before
he died, I had correspondence from Billy in relation to a “clay shoot” at Tommy
King’s in Cuiltybo.
A quiet evening’s fishing at Annaghill was something very special for Billy on
his trips down West. In more recent times, he enjoyed staying in touch with his
native region by tuning in to some favourite Mid-West radio shows
on the internet. He remained ever loyal to his Mayo roots all his life but also
had a special fondness for Dublin and its people.
Billy was devoted to Ann and their family and he cherished the security of a
happy and contented home. The extended family were also close to his heart and
he was a special favourite in the McHugh family circle.
At St. Bricken’s Army Hospital, his remains lay in state until removal to St.
Mark’s Church, Springfield, accompanied by both army and garda escorts.
Family members, relations and friends from Mayo joined the large gatherings at
the funeral ceremonies in Dublin.
Requiem Mass was celebrated by Fr. Frank Herron of Springfield Parish Church,
assisted by Monsignor John Crowley (Army) and Fr. Donal Roache (St. Mark’s
College, Springfield) with burial in Bohernabreena Cemetery. The Army Number One
Band renders suitable hymns and he was laid to rest with full military honours.
Amongst the army personnel who attended were Major General Dermot Earley,
Lieutenant Colonel Gilleran (Marshal), and Captain Tom McGrath (Liaison
Officer). Many comrades recalled with affection Billy’s kindness to them over
Billy is deeply regretted by his wife Ann and family, Judith, Amanda, John,
Billy, Melody, Shane, Rosanna and David, sons-in-law, grandchildren, brothers
Sean (Dublin), Owen (Kiltimagh) and Terry (Dublin), sisters Annette (New York)
and Gabrielle (Ballina), mother-in-law, father-in-law, nephews, nieces,
relatives, comrades and many friends.
* Belmullet singer Michael S. Togher has just issued a new two track single. The
influence of Big Tom can be seen here again as Michael has chosen two songs
recorded by Big Tom in former times. The Sunset Years of Life was written by
Johnny McCauley and “Before I Met You” is a popular country standard, also
recorded by Charley Pride and many more down through the years.
* Ann Fahy from Ballybane in Galway writes to say that two
former showband musicians also died in the same week as Doc Carroll. They were
Johnny Gallagher, a member of the original Keynotes which were Margo’s first
band, and Patsy McGonigle, a member of the Melody Aces from Tyrone for some
years. May they rest in peace.
* Nice to meet up with Seamus Browne and Michael Flanagan in Athlone
recently. They are natives of Tiernaur, Newport and Crossmolina respectively and
both have lived in Athlone for many years. A special mention for Assumpta Walsh
from Kiltimagh and for Joan and Mary Gill with whom we shared some fond memories
in Athlone in recent days.
* Had a nice postcard during the week from Claremorris man Jarlath Sweeney who
was enjoying a trip to Rome. Jarlath is now a major player on the motoring
publications circuit and writes extensively about many aspects of the motoring
and haulage trade.
* Kevin Prendergast played his first gig in the new Hannon’s Hotel on the
Athlone Road, Roscommon on Monday night (Race Night). He was backed by the
Forest Ramblers from Glenamaddy. The new hotel is owned by Martin Hannon,
formerly from Gurteen, Sligo and the manager is John Tarpey from Kilcun,