St. Patrick’s Day will always hold special memories for Paddy McDermott (84) and Peter Watson (90) of their showband days.

Impartial Reporter: Peter Watson and Paddy McDermott reminiscing Peter Watson and Paddy McDermott reminiscing (Image: Tim Flaherty)

65 years ago, on March 17, 1959, they played the Royal Albert Hall in London as part of the Skyrockets, one of Ireland’s legendary showbands who were formed in Enniskillen.

The Skyrockets composed of Cecil Kettyles, Peter Watson, Brian McGandy, Leo McGandy, Frankie Fox, Dermot Doherty and Paddy McDermott were a successful showband.Impartial Reporter: The SkyrocketsThe Skyrockets (Image: Paddy McDermott)

In 1964, they left the band and formed Gene and the Gents who played their first gig on St. Patrick’s Night, 1964 in the Swanpark Ballroom in Monaghan.

Mr. McDermott recalled the Royal Albert Hall performance and said: “ We did a three-month tour of every part of the UK and on March 17, 1959, on my 19th birthday, we played the Royal Albert Hall.”

The significance was somewhat lost on the young men, Mr McDermott said: “I’ve been in it since [as an audience member], and at the time it was no big deal.”

Laughing, he quipped: “I wouldn’t get back into it now.

Some of the Skyrockets musicians left and formed Gene and the Gents composed of lead singer Gene Chetty, Peter Watson (drums), Paddy McDermott (sax), Dermot Doherty (trombone), Peter Watson (drums), Henry McCullough (lead guitar), Tony Gallagher (rhythm guitar) Barry Scully (bass guitar).

Impartial Reporter: Gene and the GentsGene and the Gents (Image: Paddy McDermott)

The Gents is full of fond memories for both men where they played all over Ireland and lived the life of musicians.

“The Gents from the word go, were doing very well, after two months we did four or five nights a week, “The adrenaline was pumping when the band was going well, said an animated Mr. McDermott.

Later, they hired Joe Maguire as a road manager to help manage their busy schedule.

Later members of the band left including Henry McCullough who went on to spread his wings elsewhere.

“Henry McCullough was one of the best guitar players anywhere, he wanted a change and went to London and was headhunted by Paul McCartney. We hated to see him going but we were namedropping him then", explained Mr. McDermott.

He laughed as he recalled telling people that Mr. McCullough had joined “some Liverpool band”.

Mr. McCullough was believed to be the only Irish musician to play at the iconic Woodstock Festival in 1969.

Impartial Reporter: Peter Watson and Paddy McDermottPeter Watson and Paddy McDermott (Image: Tim Flaherty)

The best ambassador for showbands is Phillip Darcy according to Mr. McDermott who noted that an exhibition is currently ongoing at Enniskillen Castle.

Both bands are still fondly remembered by fans despite the years t One fan interaction still makes Mr. McDemott smile: “About five or six years ago, a man rang me, he had met his wife at Bundoran at one of our gigs and to woo her, they followed the band. He wanted to book us for their 50th wedding anniversary, I got up and introduced Gene and the Gents, it was a total surprise to her and we performed Elvis’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love' ."