This picture was taken in the Boom Boom Room in Belfast.
L to R. Brian McGandy (Sax) Dick Barton (Guitar) Ivan McBride (Sax)
He also played with The Trenniers and The Overlanders
Pat McGeegan (Vocals) Liffy O'Brien (Guitar) Cecil Kettyles (Keyboard)
Alfie Merrigan (Drums) Sadly Brian, Pat and Cecil are deceased.
This Picture
From Ivan McBride's collection

The SKYROCKETS  Showband, (Enniskillen)
  When Pat Mc Geegan  ,( father of World Boxing Champion Barry ) represented Ireland in  the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest, in the Royal Albert Hall , London, he came a creditable. 4th place, the minute he came offstage he was congratulated by Cecil Kettyles, bandleader of he Skyrockets Showband. Pat was a member of the well known showband which started out as the Cecil Kettyles Orchestra, in the 1950,s. When the orchestra finished Cecil spent some time playing piano with the Dave Dixon band from Clones , Co. Monaghan and in 1957 he decided to form the Skyrockets Showband.

    Their fist line up was , the Mc Gandy twins Brian and Leo on   Alto Sax and Trumpet respectively, Paddy Mc D ermott (Sax) , Dermot Doherty (Trombone), Peter Watson (Drums),

Frankie Fox (Bass), Henry Mc Cullough (Guitar) and Cecil Kettyles (Organ). Major changes occurred when 4 members left to form the Gents Showband, and in came Ivan Mc Bride, Gary Mc Gowan,Dessie Mc Keown, and  Dick Barton. Pat Mc Geegan , who had played in  Dave Dixon, s band, The Big Four and the Victors , and later a female vocalist , Bridget Mc Anearney , stage name Penny Starr joined the band. A good pop sounding band with the brilliant Mc Geegan (Mc Guigan) on vocals his Eurovision recording “The Chance of a Livetime” was a classic., they toured extensively at home and in the UK and Scotland.. As “roadie “ Gordon Benson explains: “ We travelled all over Ireland and among our favourite venues were The Fiesta , Letterkenny and the Astoria, Bundoran. We also played support to some great characters one of them being ,”Paddy  the Pecker Dunne”, He got a lift home with us on one occasion and had “the cheek” to drink a a very well known band members carry out ” laughs Gordon.  They also played in may marquees and local carnivals, and on one occasion when playing out in Co. Mayo, the lads went for the usual “ ham and tomato supper” before the dance only to find that while they were eating this “well documented” feast, the tent had collapsed and all their equipment was under it!

      That was part of the rigours of showband life on the road but there was the glamour times as well Penny made her recording debut with “After the Dance / Noreen Bawn, as as well as “ “Chance of a Lifetime”, Pat Mc Geegan also recorded “Hawaiin Wedding Song “ and “The last Word in Lonesome is Me”.

 Sadly , Leo Mc Gandy, Pat Mc Geegan ,Dessie Mc Keown and Cecil Kettyles have passed away but the band is remembered in an excellent book “Born to be a Skyrocket ”, written by Cecil ,s daughter Noreen Kettyles with the proceeds going to The Cecil Kettyles Foundation, a worthy charity..

John Baird


Back L: to R: Brian Mc Gandy (R.I.P.) Garry Magowan, Cecil kettyles (R.I.P.)Ivan McBride.
Front L: to R: Dessy McKeown (R.I.P.)  Leo McGandy, Dick Barton

The Skyrockets were amongst the first of the Showbands and they performed throughout Ireland
with musicians like the McGandy twins, Gary McGowan, Peter Watson
and Cecil Kettyles very much to the fore.
The Skyrockets began as the Cecil Kettyles Orchestra in Enniskillen in the 1950s.
Like many top showbands at the time, their programme consisted mainly
of punchy brass arrangements of chart hits, soul, Motown, Beatles, rock ?n? roll and big ballads.
Vocalist Pat McGeegan from Clones represented Ireland in the
1968 Eurovision Song Contest in the Royal Albert Hall, London,
with ?Chance Of A Lifetime?. He was placed fourth.
Ivan McBride

Comedian Roy Walker
was once the lead singer with the band

Skyrockets Showband
Cecil Kettyles Orchestra became the Skyrockets Showband.
In the late 60’s Pat McGuigan (Father of boxer Barry McGuigan)  using the stage name McGeegan
 joined the band as lead vocalist who proved lucky for the Skyrockets
 as he took them to the Eurovision song contest in 1968.
 The song “Chance of a Lifetime” achieved fourth place in the Royal Albert Hall
He later sang to another huge audience on the night of Barry’s victory
when he led an emotional rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ before the fight.
He also sang with the  Big Four Showband
They released a number of singles including “After the Dance” and “Noreen Bawn.”
 The latter sung by Penny Star, went to Number two in the Irish Charts.

Back Leo McGandy,Cecil Kettyles,Frank O'Neill,Gary McGowan,and Brian McGandy
Front  Ivan McBride,Dick Barton,Liffy O'Brien

L to R. Pat McGeegan (deceased). Cecil Kettyles (deceased). Ger Cornally.
Liffey O'Brien. Ivan McBride. Dick Barton.
Brian McGandy (deceased).
This photo in front of theBallroom at Butlins was taken by Gordon Benson (rodie).
That's me, Dick Barton, Paddy McGeegan 
and Alfie Merrigan Drums.
The guy kneeling and the Guy standing on the left were some fellows we met up with,I don't know who they were.        Regards....................Ivan.
There were television and radio appearances both at home and abroad,
 with the Skyrockets going on to play with Joe Loss,
 Eddie Calvert and Humphrey Littleton.

Pat McGeegan died in 1987 Cecil Kettyles  (Died 20th June, 2000 click photo for Obituary
Gordon Benson (roadie)
 Dick Barton, Ger Cornally , Brian McGandy

Clockwise From Top Liffy O'Brien, Alfie Merrigan,  Ivan McBride,
Cecil Kettyles,Brian McGandy,Frank O'Neill, Dick Barton

Penny's proper name is Bridie McAnena (I'm not sure of the spelling). She was originally with
The Grafton Showband from her home town of Cookstown. She then joined The Millionaires and used the name Penny Trent. When she joined the Skyrockets we ran a  competition and asked the public to suggest a name and out of many hundred replies the name selected was from a young fellow from Macroom who suggested Penny Starr. We all liked the name so that was it. Penny recorded Noreen Bawn and After the dance. The proceeds of these records she donated to the Polio foundation. Penny could sing any type of song and she rarely had to alter the key from the original. I would honestly say that  Penny was the best singer I ever heard. ...................
Ivan McBride.

Dessie was lead singer with the Skyrockets from '63 until '65/66.
He left to resume his career as a Telecom Technician
and solo performer which he was brilliant at.
An excellent singer and a very talented guitarist.
Unfortunately Dessie died in 1985 at the early age of 45
and despite all the music he produced only one CD collection is in existence.
This was produced by his brother Alec, a very accomplished musician and producer.
I knew Dessie from we were children and we played in quite a few bands together.
He was a wonderful fellow, a great friend and I shall always miss him.

Ivan McBride.

The McGandy Twins.
Brian played Alto and Baritone Sax and Clarinet. Leo played Trumpet.
Both sang and performed comedy on stage.
They were two of the original members and first joined when the band was called
The Cecil Kettyles Orchestra back around 1953/54.
They continued playing with Cecil until Cecil's death in June 2000.
They performed together at many Jazz Festivals etc.
Sadly Brian passed away a few years ago leaving Leo who continued with several Jazz Bands.
Both Brian and Leo were, not only great musicians but were very funny fellows.
Their antics on stage were legendry.
In 1997 I was back in Ireland I went to hear them and I do believe the were better than ever.

Ivan McBride.

L to R. Cecil Kettyles.Doc Doherty. LeoMcGandy.Henry McCullagh. 
Paddy McDermott.Brian McGandy. Peter Watson. Matty Fox vocals.
L to R kneeling. Dermott (Doc) Doherty, Trombone. 
Cecil Kettyles Organ. Peter Watson Drums.
Standing L.  R.   Brian McGandy Clarinet Sax.
Paddy McDermott Tenor Sax.Leo McGandy Trumpet. Gerry Black Vocals.Henry McCullagh Guitar.


Henry McCullough's first musical venture as a guitarist was  with
 The Skyrockets
Ivan McBride,  Sax player with The Skyrockets  now resides in Tasmania  Ivan and his Sax's

From the files of John Baird's collection

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