It was to be expected that with the upsurge in pop music in the early 1960.s, and also the fact that the big Showbands ie. Royal, Capitol, Clippers, Quigley etc. were playing the local venues, that this was beginning to influence some young up and coming local musicians. So at the end of the 1950,s, a group of local lads decided to give it a go! Liam O, Neill, Ronnie Patterson, George Horaner, Brendan Duffy ,  Hughie Doherty, Lexie Mc Connell and Kevin Walsh decided to form The Vampires Showband. They were a good popular musical outfit, that played all over Donegal, on what was probably a semi-pro basis and were managed by the late Seamus Hannigan. However the rise in the competitive Showband industry finally beckoned and it was decided to project a more professional image which involved full time work and more bookings, thus causing changes to personnel,as many of the lads had “the trusted day job” so a name change was an essential part of the new image and “The Marines Showband” hit the dancing scene locally , nationally and soon to be internationally.

       Hughie Doherty, who was guitarist with both bands remembers when they first got their new Marine Style band suits,”The caps were too big and the suits were a bad fit” but on stage they looked very smart, This idea was the brainchild of Seamus Hannigan, Paddy Murray and Phonsie Keeney, who all ran the band at the time and got their idea from the smart and slick look of the popular Cadets Showband from Dublin.

 Slick they looked and slick also was their popular musical repertoire, Dixieland, Pop tunes of the era , Country and Western, Blues , Irish Ballads, all went down well wit any audience that had the pleasure to hear this fine lively Showband . Their first line up was  Davy Laird (R.I.P.) Pat Dusky, Lexie Mc Connell, Fergus Cleary, Tony O, Donnell, Alfie Scott, Brendan Duffy and Hughie Doherty. With more dates being taken on again personnel changes were effected and the Marines line up mid 60,s was ,Colm Callaghan (Drums), George Hetherington from Derry(Bass/Vocals), Frank Mc Groary, who joined from Jack Ruanes band , Ballina (Sax/ Clarinet), Pat Dusky (A multi instrumentalist in every sense) as Vovalist , The late Davy Laird from Convoy(Trumpet/Vocals), who later played with the popular Knoxville Showband, Ann Duncan (Female Vocalist) from Co. Derry and Hughie Doherty (Guitar /Vocals),

This fine combimation played support to visiting artists such as The Searchers, Victor Sylvester, Julie Christie, and on one of their many visits to play at American forces bases in West Germany they backed they backed the famous guitarist Carl Perkins , and also played on the actual stage where Elvis Presley perfomed when he was a GI stationed there.The Marines, like many other Showbands also appeared on RTE,S Showband Show, and rate playing at a holiday centre in Court Town Harbour as one of their favourite venues. They made many trips to Germany as Hughie relates” You could be sitting in th Cinema in Letterkenny any night midweek , when suddenly Seamus Hannigan would tap you on the shoulder and ask if your passport was in order , as you were booked to travel to Germany in a few days time”, Such was the hectic life in a Showband, that on one such long trip to the continent , the Wagon incurred numerous punctures causing them to miss important ferry connections but they still arrived in Frankfurt to fulfil their bookings, The Americans would rather listen to a programme of Beatles Pop Tunes, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues and Irish Ballads , rather than their own Country and Western material, and the Marines certainly didn’t dissapoint them. At one dance in a US base at Lancaster Gate, London, a live recorded reel to reel tape was made of their show , and this treasured possession still exists as a momento of their fine musical ability to
entertain a live Audience.  After almost 2 years with the band Hughie Doherty returned to Louton to play in a multi- national 4 piece band called Dannys Clan!. The Marines made a change in bringing in the excellent Derry trombonist John Trotter who also doubled on keyboards , enhancing the sound of the band , During this period, they visited the USA , probably as a result of their connections with the US Bases in Europe.

      The Marines decided to go their separate ways in the late 1960,s and musicians found their ways into other bands , Still around are Liam O, Neill, George Horaner , Ronnie Patterson,  Brendan Duffy , and Lexie Mc Connell from the original Vampires. Of the Marines Showband, sadly Davy Laird and Colm Callaghan ar no longer with us , but Pat Dusky resides in the Greater Manchester Area, Hugh Doherty , in Letterkenny, Frank Mc Groary in Buncrana, Ann Duncan somewhere in Co. Tyrone George Hetherington, and John Trotter still in Derry and Fergus Cleary doing stirling work for local charities still resides in Convoy.

      So ends another chapter in the great Showband Saga, but one which I personally remember fondly as I danced many times to the music of the great musicians that plaed firstly in the Vampires and later in the excellent Marines Showband from Letterkenny Greatful thanks to Hughie Doheryy and Liam O, Neil for their help and I have been aske to mention the late Joe Deehan , “He could fix anything electrical”. He certainly was kept busy with the local musicians who fondly remember him. Rest in Peace Joe , You were a genius.

John Baird

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