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Milano's - Bangor

Milano's Ballroom Dancehall Bangor                               Ballroom Dancing

Milano's Ballroom Dancehall

Savoy Hotel - Bangor

Built 1932 the building was an imposing landmark located at the corner of the Donaghadee Road and the Hamilton Road. It now provides 56 self containedBallroom Dancing apartments for older people. It is now one of 33 independent living schemes owned and managed by Clanmil Housing throughout Northern Ireland. We will all remember Denis Wright at the Door! 

The Savoy Hotel
Caproni's - Bangor

Caproni's BangorCaproni's BangorBallroom Dancing

Caproni Bangor
Queens Court Hotel - Bangor 

Queens Court Hotel
The Electric Honeypot - Bangor Electric Honey Pot - BangorElectric Honey Pot - BangorElectric Honey Pot -

Cloud Nine - CO-OP Hall - BangorCloud Nine ardsbangorBallroom Dancing

Cloud 9 Bangor
The Duckpond - Bangor

The Duckpond Bangor

Duckpond Bangor
Queens Hall - Newtownards  Queens Hall NewtownardsQueens Hall Newtownards
Andrews Memorial Hall - ComberThe Falcons ardsbangor.comAndrews Memorial Hall Comber
Young Farmers Hall - Newtownards

Victoria Avenue, Newtownards, Founded in 1931 - Sadly No Oldie Picture's Yet.UTA Bus Ards Bangor Transport

Young Farmers Hall - Newtownards

Mount Royal - Donaghadee

Mount Royal Donaghadee


Maritime Hotel - Belfast

Belfast Maritime ardsbangor.comMaritime Blues

Maritime Hotel

Plaza - Belfast

Plaza Belfast

Plaza Belfast
Floral Hall - Belfast

Purchased in 1912 by the Belfast Corporation, the Cavehill and Whitewell Tramway features Belfast Zoo and Floral Hall. Opened in 1930 as a concert and dance venue, Floral Hall was a successful building, becoming Belfast's largest and most popular concert venue, seating up to 1000 people at a time. The building has an unusual Art Deco yet modern style of architecture, featuring thing metal windows, smooth walls, and a circular porch. It is one of only a handful of buildings surviving from the early 20th century in the city. However, since the troubles, concerts ended in the hall, and it eventually shut down and became a storage facility for the zoo.

Floral Hall Ballroom Belfast
Flamingo - Ballymena
The Flamingo Ballroom was a magnet for chart-topping stars such as Pink Floyd, Tom Jones and Dusty Springfield following its opening by Sammy Barr in December 1959. That run ended 21 years later, and the Ballroom was then used as a recreational facility by the town's Wellington Street Presbyterian Church. Sammy Barr, the son of the owner of the Flamingo Ballroom, confirmed acts like the Stones and the Small Faces, would have been invited to enjoy a "hot dog and a milkshake" by his late father after their shows.



Flamingo Ballroom Ballymena

Arcadia - Portrush

Arcadia Portrush

Arcadia Portrush

Marquee - Belfast

Marquee Belfast

Photo Required
The Astor - Belfast

College Court  Belfast

Photo Required

Betty Staff's - Belfast

Betty Staffs BelfastBetty Staffs Belfast

Photo Required
Cecil Clarke's
In 1958 Cecil and Eileen  Clarke established a dance school in Belfast in Donegall St.
Cecil Clarke's Belfast
The Deerpark Hotel - AntrimThe Deerpark Antrim
Kelly's - Golf Links Hotel - Portrush

Kellys Portrush

Kelly's Portrush
The Carousel - BelfastZIG Zag Belfast    Photo Required
Coachman BangorThe Coachman
The Ulster Hall - Belfast - Built in 1859 and opened in 1862.

The Mad Lads Belfast

The Ulster Hall Belfast
Romano’s - Belfast

This is the site of Romano’s, in Queen Street, closed in 1969/70. It became the “Model Shop” and then “Leisureworld” before being demolished about 9/10 years ago.

Romano's Site Belfast


The Showbands Era:

This is a very interesting short story about meeting Glenn Miller

Before the war I was working in the Albion clothes factory as a designer, the factory was making boy’s suits and coats - but before the war civilian production ceased and we began to make army uniforms, that was approx 1938 — 1939. I then left and went to work for the American Red Cross.

The Pickie Hotel in Bangor was requisitioned by the American Army for the American Red Cross. I was the manager of the Bangor American Red Cross, all the furniture was put in storage and the Americans brought their own bunk beds etc. The American troops stationed around N.I. came to spend their leave in the Red Cross in Bangor. They had all kinds of recreation on offer - dances, bicycles, snooker etc. The canteen was open from 8am to 2am in the morning.

Just before D Day, Eisenhower and Montgomery came to Bangor to visit the American troops. They visited the Red Cross in Bangor and went out into the bay to visit the American ships. Lady Bangor brought Montgomery’s mother to the Red Cross in a pony and trap, the Americans were fascinated by her because she was a beautiful old lady in a very long black skirt.

Rationing was in place - but I used to get Spam, Doughnuts and Coco Cola. Marshall Mackey was an American, married to one of the Mackie’s from Mackie’s foundry.

I saw Glen Millar both in the Plaza in Belfast but was taken by the director’s of the Red Cross to Langford Lodge where there was a large air force base , the 8th Air force were based there for a while, I never heard from any of them again after they left England, so I think they were all lost. A friend heard that the boat they were on was blown up before they left Southampton.

I saw Glen Miller and also had dinner with him. There were big bowls of fruit on every table and half the guests had the fruit eaten before the first course came because of the rationing.

I’ve been aboard the Texas and the Nevada — the huge war ships which were there before D Day.

I’ll never forget seeing the evacuees coming off the train in Comber, they were filthy , their faces were black and their clothes ripped. They were sleeping anywhere they could, they arrived with nothing, all their belongings were lost in the Blitz.

Pickie Hotel Bangor

Between 1957 and 1972, more than 500 Showbands were active in Ireland, working up to five nights a week, playing in ballrooms, dance halls and marquees, to crowds sometimes in excess of 1500. Names fondly remembered by those of us who have reached our half-century include The Freshmen from Ballymena, The Clipper Carlton from Strabane, Dave Glover’s Showband based in Newtownabbey, The Melody Aces from Newtownstewart, and Gay McIntyre’s Showband and the Johnny Quigley Allstars, both from Derry. However, for every top band, there were a dozen others who were working just as hard, travelling just as far, for less money and recognition.

In almost every small town and some villages in the 1960s local clubs ran their own Carnival of Dancing. One of the largest was the CODA in Belfast’s Falls Road. A six-pole tent was hired, a dance-floor installed, and some of the best showbands in the country would be booked to play in the marquee for up to three weeks.

The standard of musicianship in Northern Irish bands was invariably high. They dressed well, included the latest chart hits in their programmes, and appeared slick and well rehearsed. Two of the busiest promoters, Jim Aiken and Bill Carvill, organised gigs in Northern Ireland featuring southern bands, and Northern Irish bands were invariably well respected by their cross border counterparts.

The Venues:

Though a few barns masqueraded as ballrooms, dance venues throughout Northern Ireland were generally well appointed, with excellent maple dance-floors, ladies’ and gents’ facilities, and a mineral bar. Alcohol was not served in the ballrooms.

Notable Belfast venues included The Boom Boom Rooms in Arthur Square, The Orpheus in York Street, Romano’s in Queen Street, The Orchid in King Street, The Astor in College Court, The Gala in Victoria Street, The Fiesta in Hamilton Street, The Plaza in Chichester Street and Maxim’s in Fountain Street.

Other popular venues outside Belfast were The Floral Hall (Newtownabbey), The Flamingo (Ballymena), The Savoy (Bangor), Caproni’s (Bangor), The Locarno (Portaferry), The Embassy (Londonderry), Kelly's [Portrush], The Strand (Portstewart), The Pallidrome (Strabane), The Arcadia (Portrush) and The Star (Omagh).

The Bands:

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.

The Dave Glover Showband first appeared at the opening of The Arcadia Ballroom in Portrush, 1953. Their popularity increased dramatically, and they left the Arcadia in the early 1960s to concentrate on nightly appearances throughout Ireland. The Dave Glover Showband made more than 100 television appearances and over 400 radio broadcasts in their career.

The Melody Aces from Newtownstewart played mostly strict ballroom tempo music, mixed with a little country, dixieland and rock ‘n’ roll. Fronted by country singer Shay Hutchinson, they started as the resident band at The Star Ballroom, Omagh.

Gay McIntyre started his showband in Derry in the late 1950s. Included in the line-up were his brother Joe, trombonist Johnny Anderson, drummer Tommy McMenamin, and trumpeter and arranger Roy Adinall. Gay McIntyre’s Showband travelled throughout Ireland, and were regarded by dancers and musicians alike as being one of Ireland’s top five dance-bands.

More than most bands, The Freshmen from Ballymena epitomised the divide between urban and rural Ireland, drawing their biggest crowds in cities like Belfast, Derry, Cork, Galway and Waterford. Fronted by Billy Brown and Derek Dean, they wrote and performed their own original material, and were noted for their brilliant vocal harmonies.

The Platters, later The Plattermen, from Omagh were renowned for their brass arrangements and their exciting versions of American soul numbers, although they also covered current chart hits and country songs. Brian Coll and bassist Rob Strong were featured vocalists.

Johnny Quigleys Allstars from Derry were sometimes a big band with thumping brass arrangements, and sometimes a pop band, moving easily from rock ‘n’ roll to waltzes, chart hits to Latin-American and dixieland. This was accompanied by a change from ordinary band-suits, into yellow blazers and brown slacks during the interval.

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.

Gene and The Gents, also based in Enniskillen, were formed by members of The Skyrockets and fronted by South African singer, Gene Chetty. Their guitarist, Henry McCullough, later became a member of Paul McCartney's band Wings.

Derrick and The Sounds from Omagh were a young, vibrant pop band. Their singles proved extremely popular on national radio, and still stand the test of time today. The Sounds made television appearances in Ireland and Britain, and also toured Canada and Germany.

The Witnesses were formed by six past members of  Dave Glover’s Showband. Probably because they did not include old time waltzes or country music in their programme, preferring to play jazz, big band music, rock ‘n’ roll and chart hits, The Witnesses made a bigger impact outside of Northern Ireland than at home. They may, however, be particularly memorable for their comedy hit, ‘Donald Where’s Your Trousers?’ featuring Harry Mitchell.

Other successful Northern Ireland Showbands include The Banshees, Broadway, College Boys, Jimmy Compton, Encores, Exiles, Federals, Grenadiers, Gypsies, Harlequins, Manhattan, Martells, Matadors, Melotones, Monarchs, Presidents, Regency, Senators, Silhouettes and Strands, all in Belfast, The Barristers (later The Bankers), Derry City Showband, Emperors, Esquire Allstars, Kingston, Magnificent Seven, Tahiti and Woodchoppers, in Derry, The Cossacks, Fontana, Newmen, Green Angels, Hurricanes and Walter Lewis, in Ballymena, The Oceans  and Fred Hanna’s Laganmen in Newtownabbey, The Hilton and Epic in Newry, Hughie Trainor’s Globetrotters and The Zodiacs in Armagh, The Delta Allstars in Coleraine, Jimmy Johnstone in Lisburn, The Polka Dots and Santa Fe in Omagh, The Majestic in Keady, The Satellites in Dunmurry, The Gaylords in Ballinderry, The Sterling in Lurgan, The Young Earls in Portadown and The Grafton in Cookstown.

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