The Clipper Carlton


Clippers on stage
Mention the name Clipper Carlton to anyone associated with Showbands or dancing in these islands
and they will immediately tell you (as if you didn’t know!) that they were the band that started it all
By 1953, the Clipper Carlton, from Strabane in Northern Ireland, had begun to deviate from
the usual big band sounds of thetime, by moving around the stage, rather than sitting at their
bandstands, and incorporating various routines into their set.
The Clipper Carlton were playing a gig somewhere up North and they were doing it the old way
at the start of the night, sitting down like an orchestra behind their music stands.
And then, almost on a whim, to a man those Quinns and their colleagues
stood up and kicked away their chairs and belted it out standing up and gyrating and rocking.
And that was where the road started.
By 1955, the Clipper Carlton had decked themselves out in shiny suits and were imitating everyone
from Nat King Cole to Elvis Presley, with various comedy routines thrown in,
and were packing out dance halls across Ireland.,

From Aiden Logue's ( Terry Logues son) Collection.


From Aiden Logue's ( Terry Logues son) Collection.

 This famous Strabane Showband was formed out of the break up of the Hugh Toorish band , and included in its ranks, Hugh Tourish (Piano), Hugo Quinn (Trumpet),Art O'Hagan (Bass), his brother Fergus on Vocals,
Terry Logue ( Sax/ Clarinet), and Ballindrait man Mickey O'Hanlon (Drums).
They were firstly known as the Carlton, but then decided to add the word Clipper, a name that was derived from the famous flying boats that used Lough Erne and was designed by Hugo Quinn, who was a signwriter.
Victor Craig a Post Office employee and Ireland Cricket International took over the reins as manager and quickly set about cultivating the image that was to be the role model for many other Showbands to follow.
He brought in Dominic Shearer on Vocals and Letterkenny, s Victor Fleming on trombone /piano and he also arranged the music for the band. As well as being a brilliant musician, Fleming was also North West Billiards champion and a member of the CYMS Club in Letterkenny, who honored him with a special tribute last year.


From Aiden Logue's ( Terry Logues son) Collection.
The word “Showband” was actually attributed to the Clipper Carlton’s ability to “put on a show” on stage, and their Duke Box Saturday Night routine where they impersonated many of the top stars had to be seen to be believed. They had many “firsts” to their credit being the first band to appoint a road manager, Maxie Muldoon and Victor Craig also issued their own stamps that were stuck on the back of envelopes containing all Clipper correspondence.


From Aiden Logue's ( Terry Logues son) Collection.


They toured extensively at home and abroad and wet to the USA in 1958,
the first of their many visits.
 They were playing at venues all over Ireland touring England, Scotland and the United States.
The band attracted 6,300 to the St. Nicholas (boxing) Arena New York in 1958.
In today’s equivalent it is reckoned that in 1955 they were earning
\approximately £7,000 sterling per night.


From Aiden Logue's ( Terry Logues son) Collection.
Clipper Carlton Showband eight talented showmen, dressed in white linen suits with tanned faces, hair sleeked back, looking like something out of the movies,  went through a wide range of popular songs and music of the day. Suddenly the performance that everyone came to see – ‘Juke Box Saturday Night’. Amazingly Art and Fergie O’Hagan become Laurel and Hardy; Don Shearer is Elvis; Mickey O’Hanlon, Charlie Chaplin. Trumpeteer Hugo Quinn plays “O Mein Papa” - you could hear a pin drop. Again Mickey O’Hanlon takes the lead, going through a fantastic drum solo, throwing his sticks high into the air.
The Clipper Carlton from Strabane are still regarded as Ireland’s first showband. In 1954 they cast aside the  music-stands that up till then had been standard and took to their feet playing and entertaining, breaking down the barriers between stage and dancers.


From Aiden Logue's ( Terry Logues son) Collection.
In the mid-fifties 8 young men got together in Strabane and called themselves "The Clipper Carlton
The Clipper Carlton gave birth to the showband era,
The Clipper Carlton lit the fuse that led to the showband explosion of the sixties.
They travelled all over Ireland, to England and America too,
creating hysteria similar to that witnessed by the pop stars and rock groups of today.
The Juke Box Saturday Night spot  was the highlight of all Clipper performances
Young bands starting out went to see the Clipper Carlton perform
so that they might learn something.
They also taught those who followed that there was more to this business than music.
There was money to be made .
There orignal name was The Merry Macs


From Aiden Logue's ( Terry Logues son) Collection.
 Thanks to astute manager, Vic Craig, a Post Office official from Strabane, The Clippers were the first to secure a percentage of the door takings - the first to go on the road with a custom-built bus - the first to hand out publicity photos - the first to fly out and extensively tour the States. Ok, there were other bands in the north-west at the time – but the Clippers left them all behind with their flamboyant suits, movie-star image and entertaining stage routines. The Clippers were equally as big a draw in Cork as they were in Belfast, often attracting 3000 patrons at a time. Previously known as Hugo Quinn and the Carltons they merged this with a name from a famous Pan American flying seaplane ‘The Yankee Clipper’ which transversed the Atlantic, landing at Foynes/Shannon.


From Aiden Logue's ( Terry Logues son) Collection.


                Hugo Quinn,   (Trumpet)            Art O'Hagan (Bass)

 
           Terry Logue (Tenor Sax)                  Victor Fleming  (Trombone)
From Aiden Logue's ( Terry Logues son) Collection.
Terry Logue,Fergus O'Hagan, Hugo Quinn, Victor Fleming, Hugh Toorish, Dominic Shearer, Mickey O'Hanlon,
and Art O'Hagan
           Clippers on stage in london late 50,s
                            Mickey O, Hanlon "Clowning" as usual,
"Juke Box Saturday Night" was what really made the Clippers different.
         All dancing would stop and the crowd would gather around the stage as
                   Art and Fergie played Sonny & Cher or Laurel & Hardy;
Don Shearer became Elvis Presley; Mickey imitated Charlie Chaplin
while throwing his sticks in the air or Fergie, with Banjo and wig,
became Balladeer Margaret Barry!


  The Clipper Carlton  1958.
Don Shearer, Guitar; Hugo Quinn, Trumpet; Victor Fleming, Trombone;
Terry Logue, Tenor Sax; Mike O’Hanlon, Drums; Art O’Hagan, Bass and vocals;
Hugh Toorish, Piano; Fergus O’Hagan and Victor Craig, Manager.


 

All through their illustrious trend setting musical career many fine musicians played in the Clippers,
Barney Skillen, Billy Mc Fadden, George Galway, and towards the end, Merv Allen
and well known Airchords frontman , Pat Lynch sang with the band.

In the mid 1960,s the first break up came when 4 members left to
form the Santa Fe Showband under the management of Maurice Cassidy.
The Santa Fe only lasted a short time and the Clippers got back together again in 1966 for another go,
They were a huge success as before but sadly decided to go
their separate ways again and after another comeback this time with
Terry Logue as manager, it was decided to finally call it a day,
But the old magic was rekindled with a successful re-union tour in the 1980,s.
Their last manager was Joe Mc Cadden, and Guitarist Terry Duffy
replaced Vic Fleming who only completed a couple of dates on the tour.

Sadly Hugh Tourish, Hugo Quinn, Terry Louge,  Victor Fleming
and more recently Vic Craig and Dom. Shearer have all passed away,
leaving the O’Hagan Brothers , Mickey O, Hanlon and Barney Skillen
as original members of this famous Showband.
The Letterkenny connection is still there however as
Hugo Quinn’s sister Patsy is married to well known Letterkenny soccer star Liam Blake.
John Baird

The Clipper Carlton
The line-up included Hugh Tourish (Piano)Hugo Quinn,(Trumpet) the O'Hagan brothers,
Art (Bass) and Vocalist Fergus), Terry Logue (Sax) and Clarinet and Drummer Mickey O'Hanlon.
Victor Fleming,(Trombonist/Piano) Don Shearer,(Vocalist )and Guitarist Barney Skillen




 

 Pat Lynch and the Clipper Carlton Showband . 1964-1965
Paddy Courtney (Drums), Billy Brady (Lead Guitar), Jimmy Moore, (Organ)
Neil Mc Mahon (Sax). Pat Lynch (Vocals).
Art O, Hagan  (Bass), Hugo Quinn (Trumpet) and Fergie O,Hagan  (M.C.and Vocals)
They were managed by George O. Reilly
and made their debut in The Fiesta , Ballroom , Letterkenny, in Sept. 1964.
Photo Credit it to Eddie Kelly , Longford


 Butch Moore                                 Barney Skillen


           Hugo&Art as Sonny &Cher 
The Clippers in 1966
Back Victor Fleming,Terry Logue,Hugo Quinn,
Art O'Hagan Dominic Shearer
Center Mickey O'Hanlon,Fergus O'Hagan
Front Barney Skillen

Billy McFadden of the Clipper Carlton Showband played  Irish dance tunes, one of which,
as I remember, was the Harvest Home hornpipe.
I had never heard Irish music played on guitar before and it nearly blew my mind.


Victor Craig
                     Managed The Clipper Carlton, the greatest Irish Showband of all.
                  and still keeps a keen interest in all the surviving members of the band.
   Strabane?s Clipper Carlton are generally accepted as the outfit that first put the ?show? into Irish showbands.
   Formed in the late 1940s, at a time when dance-bands sat down, wore tuxedos, and played from sheet music on
 music stands, it wasn?t long before this exciting band decided to don lightweight tailor-made suits and visibly enjoy
 the music they played from memory. Within months they were packing thousands of dancers into halls throughout
   Ireland. Clipper Carlton remained at the pinnacle of Irish show business for close to 15 years, in the process
                 encouraging hundreds of young musicians to form showbands of their own.                                    R.I.P.June 28th 2005


Domnic Shearer , former lead vocalist with
The Clipper Carlton, Strabane and The Santa Fe Showband
died  August 31st 2005 in Belfast, following
an illness which he fought bravely to the end


Mickey O"Hanlon, Drummer of the Renowned Clipper Carlton, Strabane
died (7th Sep 2009) In Letterkenny Hospital.
A real " character" on an off stage.
Mickey  through his Showband days provided countless dancers and fans with endless fun,
Showmanship , and most important , a brilliant drummer and sax player.
God rest you Mickey , we will all miss you and our sympathy goes out to all your family and friends.
May your Soul, Rest in Peace."
John Baird

Terry Logue, Hugo Quinn, Victor Fleming,
and Hugh Tourish have passed away (RIP)
 

But time was speedily catching up with the band and, in 1965, they split up. They tried several revivals in the 70s and again in the 80s. When the Clippers split in ‘65, Vic Craig took over managing the Palladrome Ballroom, Strabane, while still continuing to work in the Post Office until his eventual retirement.
In 1987, following the death of founder Hugo Quinn, all went their separate ways, leaving behind happy memories for the boys and girls they entertained and the romances they helped create. Some members tried to form an offshoot band ‘The Santa Fe’ but the old magic was gone. Hugo Quinn, once asked how much money they made, said, that at their peak - on a day off - they could, without a thought, take a taxi from Strabane to Dublin, fly to Paris, spend a night on the town, and fly back the following day. This at a time when the average weekly wage was £3. The Clippers were definitely the forerunners of the ‘60s showband boom.
 

From the files of John Bairds collection
bairdart@iol.ie
 

 
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