The Shamrock Is Around The Corner!

by Jimmy Higgins

Jimmy Higgins lives in Galway where he works as a presenter with Galway Bay FM

"I've been around the block playing trumpet with The Paramount, The International, The Millionaires (front right above), The Raindrops and The Big Time"                      Jimmy Higgins

In the early days, conditions on the roads were rather basic;  in fact, at times they could be pretty rough.   Just cast your mind back forty years- circa 1960/’61 and try to  visualise a showband travelling to a gig in a van, seven guys and all the gear.  Now, if you are fortunate enough to have a roof rack, you would put some of the gear, the drums maybe, on the rack.  This of course, would make the van top-heavy and dangerous as regards handling corners, etc.  If, however, as in most cases you did not have a roof rack, then you would be forced to put some of the gear inside with the musicians, so you might have a drum on your lap or a trumpet case under your legs!  Not so bad if you are only going a few miles, but what if you are heading for Donegal, Dublin, Kerry or Wexford - 150/180 miles!  I would say the novelty would soon wear off after about twenty miles or so.

At first, The Paramount Showband  only played within a radius of say, fifty or sixty miles of Tuam, mainly around Counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon before  gradually moving out to places like Scarrif in Co Clare, Nenagh in Co Tipperary, Macroom in Co. Cork, Adamstown in Wexford, Dublin and the North - the six counties.

 I will never forget our first trip to the ‘Big Smoke’ - Dublin or to be more precise, to the Top Hat in Dun Laoghaire.  Well, like all bright country lads, we headed straight for O’Connell Street - The Pillar - sure didn’t we all know our way from there?  Yeah, to Croke Park or Barry’s Hotel maybe, but the Top Hat in Dun Laoghaire, well now that might be a ‘bitteen’ harder!  But hold on!  someone has a bright idea - “Let’s find the bus to Dun Laoghaire” - yea, and we’ll follow it all the way, and we did;  and when the bus stopped, we stopped; and when the bus started; we started and so it went - stop, start, stop, start - all the twenty odd bus stops between O’Connell Street and Dun Laoghaire with all the traffic going berserk behind us.  Jesus! they must have been raging with them stupid ‘culchies’ in that bleedin’ red and black Morris showband van.   We didn’t care and we got there in time for the big gig - up Galway! 

A similar incident occurred with some colleagues when on a trip to London they did the same trick - following the bus to, Ealing or some such ‘foreign’ outpost.   Only this time, the driver of the bus copped on to what was happening and when they reached Ealing, he jumped out of the cab and said “Ye’re here lads, The Shamrock is just 'round the corner on the left ”.  He was Irish of course. 

On another occasion in London when again, we were not sure of the correct route to the venue, one of us would get a taxi and the rest would follow in the van.   There was also a story about a band that toured London by tube - underground that is.   Each of the boys would carry a piece of equipment, a drum or a speaker or whatever onto the train.  I would love to have seen the lads trying to keep the door open with a speaker while they were waiting for the others to come down the escalator with the drums, Can you imagine the sweat ,the panic, mayhem !  …and the comments from the 'bowler hats brigade' “Alright mate, hurry up  then”  Oh ! how ye? are ye going to the dance tonight? There’s a great crowd in town, it should be a great dance tonight!!

Another long journey I remember was in 1966 when  we went to Scotland for a weekend.  We played in Stranraer on Friday and in Glasgow on Saturday and after the Glasgow gig we drove back to Stranraer, stayed there to get the early ferry back to Larne and then high-tail it from there to where we were playing on Sunday night,  Killarney? On the way back on the ferry we met Prince Vince and the Kings . They were playing in Tramore.  Now, Larne is about 12 or 15 miles north of Belfast and the lads were saying that they were not sure of the road. Our roadie said “Oh, I know the road well,  follow me and we will get ye into Belfast and sure  ye'll know the way from there”.  Sure enough, we took off and we were ‘belting’ along and saw a sign for Belfast, which said “Belfast 12 miles”.  The next sign we saw showed “Belfast 16 miles”.  We had taken a wrong road and were heading north.  We pulled into a lay-by to turn around but as we did, didn’t The Kings ‘tear’ past us and they ‘bootin’ it trying to catch up to us, because weren’t we showing them the right road to Belfast’.  Anyway, we got as far as Dublin, rushed into the digs to grab some clean shirts and proceeded on our journey to  Killarney. The Kings passed us on the Naas Road and they going berserk because they were convinced we put them the wrong way for the ‘craic’ – just to set them up but it was a genuine mistake.  Anyway, we reached Killarney at around quarter to nine and your man started giving out to us “what kept ye”? but at least he did allow us to have a bite to eat. Imagine travelling from Glasgow where we finished around 2 o’clock and were on stage the following night at 10 pm in Killarney. So, ‘trains and boats and planes’ or whatever, were the order of the day.

 © Jimmy Higgins 2004

  © Irish Showbands Archive 2004

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