The Michael Galbraith Band
were the relief Band in the
Borderland Ballroom Muff, Co. Donegal.
L-R, Michael Doherty, John Merrick, Mary E Kearney, Michael
Galbraith, George Mc Cafferty and Barry Kearney
The Michael Galbraith Orchestra, (Carndonagh)
Anyone who danced in Muff,s Borderland Ballroom in the late 50,s and all through he 1960,s, certainly got good value for their money. Not only did the hear the top Showbands and visiting artists performing in the famous venue , but they also had the priveledge of dancing to one of the best musical resident bands ever to play a dancehall, led by Carndonagh,s Michael Galbraith.
The band had its origins firmly steeped in the Carndonagh
Brass Band and the Donagh dance band , where most of the band members
began their musical careers. Michael put his first band together in 1953,
and they were all part time musicians , Michael himself worked in the office
of the Carndonagh Motor Co. The line up was Michael Galbraith ( Trom. /
Accordion/ Bandleader), John Merrick (Trumpet/ Vocals), Patrick Diver (Tenor
/ Alto Saxes and Clarinet), George Mc Cafferty (Drums), James Smith
(Double Bass) and Tom Mc Dermott (Piano) later to be replaced by Mary Eithne
Kearney. This band started playing at dances in the Colgan Hall where Michael,s
sister Margaret also sang with the band at the start. As their popularity
and reputation grew around their native county and also Counties Derry
and Tyrone , it came as no surprise that they becam resident band in the
popular Borderland ballroom when it opened in the mid 50,s. As John
Merrick recalls ,” We played a lot of Dixieland jazz but also some of the
pop hits of the time and of all the bands we played relief to , I rated
the Clippers , Capitol and Freshmen as the best on the circuit and Eric
Delaney, s Big band as the best visiting band I ever heard “
Michael Galbraith died Mon, April 5th 2004
May his Soul Rest in Peace.
In the eight years that they played in the Borderland, some changes took place in the band. James Smith and Patrick Diver left to join a newly formed Derry band , the Golden Skyliners, but that oufit never got “off the ground”. They were replaced by Barry Kearney on Bass and Michael Doherty on Tenor Sax./Clarinet. Buncranna drummer “Ginger “ Doherty also played for a while in the band. A well groomed outfit the wore green jackets, black slacks , white shirts with black bow ties and they had the distinction of playing to one of the largest crowds ever to fill the Borderland on a Sunday night. In the mid 60,s , they ceased playing as the Michael Galbraith Orchestra and reformed as The Swinging Viscounts , based in Carndonagh. Michael never played with the band and managed them for a time, but he continued to entertain as a solo artist playing a Transicord , mostly in Mc Grorys of Culdaff. In the early 70,s together with Cara Byrne and Tommy Crumlish , he fomed the Michael Galbraith Trio and continued on entertaining us in that professional way which he was so well known and respected for eight years.
Today , John Merrick is still playing trumpet with the West
Coast Big Band in Galway at the young age of 74. In 1995 he won the prestigious
Valerie Scott trophy for Entertainer of the Year on RTE,s Live at
Three programme. Cara Byrne , Barry Kearney and Ginger Doherty are still
with us , hail and hearty. Sadly Michael Galbraith , a man who gave us
that great music especially to Borderland dancers , passed away in April
2004. He will never be forgotten and may his soul Rest in Peace. My greatful
thanks to John Merrick, Cara Byrne and Michael,s widow Noeleen for their
invaluable help in the preparation of this article.
From John Bairds collection
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