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All About the Clipper Carlton (1949-1970) & (1985-1987)

Photo Gallery - Band Lineups - Discography - Audio samples - Where Are They Now?

The Story

The first reference we can find to Hugh Toorish and the Carlton comes from 1926. In the early 1930's the band was known as the Carlton Orchestra under the direction of Hugh Toorish. We have found a listing of the original line-up in 1926 which included: Hugh Toorish (piano), D. Molloy (violin), P. Dunleavy (sax), J. Maker (sax), and P. McDevitt (jazz and effects - that might be drums, we don't know). Throughout the 1930's the band played all the important dance dates around their home town of Strabane.     

By the 1940's the band was traveling further afield and were known as the Carlton Dance Band or Dance Orchestra. At that time, all "orchestras," including the Clippers, sat behind music stands and read their music, playing the dance hits of the day and a wide range of musical styles. The only "frontmen" were the bandleaders and although their was usually a featured vocalist, often other members of the band would sing based on each musician's singing style.   

We have read that one night in late 1949, the band held a contest to find a new name and the "Clipper Carlton's" were born. However, the first advert we can find using that name was in December 1950, so it is possible that the date is wrong. One way or another, the band would eventually cite 1950 as the year they officially started. At the same time, there was another Carlton Dance Band based in Drogheda which may have prompted the name change. That band would eventually become known as the Flying Carlton. Strangely enough the Clipper in the Hugh Toorish band's name referred to the Clipper air planes used in the 30's and 40's for cross-Atlantic flights.  

The new name didn't catch on immediately as for several years the band would still be advertised in many ballrooms as the Carlton Orchestra. In January 1952, the started including a "cabaret show featuring Ireland's Al Jolson." During this period the band was slowly broadening their horizons playing gigs in faraway places like Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal. It should also be remembered that dancers back then ran from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. and bands had to try all manner of gimmick to make their way through 5 hours of entertaining crowds.   

In 1952 Victor Craig took over the band's management and things started to change. The original members were: Hugo Quinn (RIP-trumpet), Hugh Toorish (RIP-keyboards-piano in those days), Terry Logue (RIP-sax/clarinet), Mick O'Hanlon (RIP-drums), Art O'Hagan (bass), and Fergus O'Hagan (RIP-vocals). Victor Fleming (RIP-trombone) joined the band in 1954 and the lineup was set.

We have been told that it was in 1954 that the band also stood up, breaking tradition with the other orchestras and dance bands across Ireland. Relying on memory to play the hits, they moved around the stage and took to wearing snappy suits rather than tuxedos, which was the norm at the time.  Dominic "Dom" Shearer joined the band as lead singer in 1956 along with Billy McFadden on guitar and their fame continued to spread far and wide. In the mid-fifties, they started touring England during Ireland's "off season" - Lent. In September, 1958, the band made their first trip to the United States. They would head to the States again in 1960.

Throughout the fifties and into the early 1960's, the Clippers were one of the biggest acts in Ireland, but they were a mature band compared to many of their rivals like the Royal and Dixies. The rise of the showband genre was taken over by younger, more charismatic performers like Dickie Rock and Brendan Bowyer.

In March, 1962, after forty years in the entertainment business, founder Hugh Toorish retired from the bandstand and went back to playing organ in his hometown of Strabane. Given the massive influx of young and upcoming showbands in the early 1960's his age, and the entire band\s age, was becoming an issue.    

In mid-1962, the band introduced a special feature to their act called "Jukebox Saturday Night" in which members of the band dressed up, impersonating the stars of the day. They were one of the first to include a "show" in their act, but it was the late Dave Glover, another Northern band, who claims to have actually coined the term, "Showband." The Royal also have a fair claim to that as well.

In the early 1960's there was a real feeling across the Irish dance scene that the "good old days" were fading fast. Columnists lamented the massive influx of young, "not-so-talented" showbands that were flooding the ballrooms as the country went dance crazy and any lad who could hold a guitar was a star.

The place of the Clippers in all this was reflected perfectly by the writer for the Evening Herald in the Tempo column who wrote, "It seems you must take the good with the bad in all walks of life. Without jogging the memory to any undue extent, I think the Clipper Carlton were the first on the road. If only their successors had attained the same level of perfection as that reached by Hugh Toorish and his boys, I am fully confident this country could have relaxed in what would have been the greatest ever era of show business."

Then by 1964, just as the showband era was beginning to peak, the Clippers were seen as "yesterday's news."

In early 1964, the band split in two with Hugo Quinn and the O'Hagan brothers continuing on as the Clippers while Mick O'Hanlon, Dom Shearer and Victor Fleming formed the Santa Fe Showband with George Galway, and Barney Skillen (guitar). Victor Craig left the scene and Maurice Cassidy took over the management of the Santa Fe.

In the meantime, the Clipper Carlton continued on with a new lineup which included Art, Fergus and Hugo along with newcomers Pat Lynch - soon to be of the Airchords (vocals) - Paddy Courtney (drums), Billy Brady (guitar), Jimmy Moore, (keyboards), and Neil Mc Mahon (sax). George O'Reilly took over the management following Victor's temporary retirement. To many, they split was the end of an era and mourned by their legions of fans. Pat Lynch would not stay long as in March 1965, he left to join the Airchords.

For a couple of years, both bands floundered, neither able to come anywhere near the popularity of the original band. Then in June, 1966, Cassidy suggested the band reform with the original lineup. The idea paid off and for three years, the Clippers enjoyed a rebirth with many of the dancers that had grown up with them in the 1950's.

In November, 1968, the band announced it was branching out into cabaret. Said Art O'Hanlon at the time, "we found that the dancers were more interested in our cabaret spot than dancing, so now we have decided to do a complete night's cabaret in larger hotels and other suitable venues across the country where people can sit down and have a drink and enjoy the show." We are not sure how well this change went down went punters but at the time, but it was seen by pundits as the band trying to find a a way to take advantage of their "middle-aged" status with dance goers. There was no denying that the Clippers were getting old.   

Rumours abounded in mid 1969 that the band was ready to break up, but an article in the September 12th issue of Spotlight reported that Merv Allen had been signed as the band's new lead vocalist. In 1968, like the Royal and other bands, the Clippers were drawn to Las Vegas. The band continued to play through the end of the decade, although without the major drawing power of their early years.

In August, 1970, an advert appeared in Spotlight advertising vocalist Merv Allen (Ireland's top yodeling star), along with Scotty Coburn. By the end of 1970, the ride was over and the band broke up again. Maurice Cassidy ran the Stardust Club in Derry and eventually managed Tony Kenny and the Sands. The rest of the band packed it in, returning to civilian life.

In early 1972, the New Clippers were put together by founding member Terry Logue. According to an article in Spotlight, the band featured Terry's 17 year old son, Terence, on sax and the band's oldest member was keyboard player Billy Hamilton at 22. Also mentioned in the article is Maurice Hamilton (trombone) and Cecil Jack (guitar). We are not sure how long this incarnation of the band lasted.

The final chapter in the history of the Clipper Carlton started in 1985. Coming out of retirement, the band planned to play a summer season that turned into two years. The only "original member" not on stage was Victor Fleming, who was replaced by Terry Duffy. Their "Jukebox Saturday Night" was rekindled with a new name, "There's No Business Like Show Business." Unfortunately, it all came crashing down with the death of Hugo Quinn in 1987. 

Terry Logue, Hugo Quinn, Victor Fleming, and Hugh Toorish have all passed away. Fergie O'Hagan sadly passed away on February 24, 2007. Mick O'Hanlon passed away 7th September, 2009, leaving only one member of the original Clippers surviving today, Art O'Hagan.              

Photo Gallery

Click on thumbnails for full images

Carlton - 1926 To USA - 1957 Clipper Carlton (RF) Clipper Carlton - 1960's Clipper Carlton (RF)
Clipper Carltons (PB) Clipper Carltons Clipper Carlton Showband (JD) Clipper Carlton - 1969 (KS) Clipper Carlton (JB)
Clipper Carlton Ad - 1968 (BJ) Clipper Carlton (JB) Fergus O'Hagan of the Clipper Carlton-1966 (LR) Clipper Carlton (BK) Santa Fe Showband (PB)
Clipper Carlton - 1966 New Clippers - 1972 (JR)

Clipper Carlton

Clipper Carlton - 1968 Clipper Carlton - 1968
Clipper Carlton - 1968 Clipper Carlton (RF) Clipper Carlton - 1967 Clipper Carlton (RF) Clipper Carlton (RF)
Clipper Carlton (RF) Clipper Carlton (RF) Clipper Carlton (RF) Clipper Carlton (RF) Clipper Carlton (RF)
   
Clipper Carlton (RF) Clipper Carlton (RF) Clipper Carlton (RF) Coming Soon Coming Soon
Year MC/Vocals Gtr/Vocal Guitar Bass Drums Keyboards Sax Trumpet Trombone
1926 W. Quigley
(MC)
E, Quigley
(MC)
    P. McDevitt
(drums)
Hugh
Toorish
P. (sax) Dunleavy D. Molloy
(violin)
J. Maker
(sax)
1949 Fergus
O'Hagan
    Art
O'Hagan
Mick
O'Hanlon
Hugh
Toorish
Terry
Logue
Hugo
Quinn
 
1954 Fergus
O'Hagan
    Art
O'Hagan
Mick
O'Hanlon
Hugh
Toorish
Terry
Logue
Hugo
Quinn
Victor
Fleming
July
1956
Fergus
O'Hagan
    Art
O'Hagan
Mick
O'Hanlon
Hugh
Toorish
Terry
Logue
Hugo
Quinn
Victor
Fleming
Late
1956
Fergus
O'Hagan
Dom (Gtr)
Shearer
  Art
O'Hagan
Mick
O'Hanlon
Hugh
Toorish
Terry
Logue
Hugo
Quinn
Victor
Fleming
June
1960
Fergus
O'Hagan
Dom (Gtr)
Shearer
  Art
O'Hagan
Mick
O'Hanlon
Hugh
Toorish
Terry
Logue
Hugo
Quinn
Victor
Fleming
Feb
1962
Fergus
O'Hagan
Dom (Gtr)
Shearer
  Art
O'Hagan
Mick
O'Hanlon
Hugh
Toorish
Terry
Logue
Hugo
Quinn
Victor
Fleming
Mar
1962
Fergus
O'Hagan
Dom
Shearer
Billy
McFadden
Art
O'Hagan
Mick
O'Hanlon
Jimmy
Moore
Terry
Logue
Hugo
Quinn
 
1964 Fergus
O'Hagan
Pat
Lynch
Billy
Brady
Art
O'Hagan
Paddy
Courtney
Jimmy
Moore
Neil
McMahon
Hugo
Quinn
 
Mar
1965
Fergus
O'Hagan
Unknown Billy
Brady
Art
O'Hagan
Paddy
Courtney
Jimmy
Moore
Neil
McMahon
Hugo
Quinn
 
1966 Fergus
O'Hagan
Dom
Shearer
Barney
Skillen
Art
O'Hagan
Mick
O'Hanlon
  Terry
Logue
Hugo
Quinn
Victor
Fleming
1968 Fergus
O'Hagan
Jim
Gunner?
Barney
Skillen
Art
O'Hagan
Mick
O'Hanlon
Hugh
Tourish?
Terry
Logue
Hugo
Quinn
Terry
Duffy
1969 Fergus
O'Hagan
Merv
Allen
Barney
Skillen
Art
O'Hagan
Mick
O'Hanlon
Hugh
Tourish?
Terry
Logue
Hugo
Quinn
Terry
Duffy
1985 Fergus
O'Hagan
Dom
Shearer
Barney
Skillen
Art
O'Hagan
Mick
O'Hanlon
Hugh
Tourish?
Terry
Logue
Hugo
Quinn
Terry
Duffy

Discography (partial list):

Dear Little Shamrock / Dear Old Donegal
King Records - KING 1054 - 1967
A Little Bit of Me Dies / The March Hare
Tribune Records - TRS.115 - 1968
Can A Bluebird Fly / Out of My Mind
Emerald Records - MD 1117 - 1969

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?

Fergus O'Hagan: RIP Up until his death, Fergie was living in Craigavon, telling stories about his days with the Clipper Carlton. Our thanks to Ian O'Hagan for the update on Fergie and our condolences to his friends and family. .
Hugh Toorish: RIP Hugh sadly passed away on November 30th, 1972. He was in his late 70's. Hugh started life as
a church organist in Strabane and formed his Carlton Dance Band in the 1930's. Eventually, the Carlton became the
Clipper Carlton and Hugh was a founder member. He retied from the band in 1962 and went back to being the
church organist in Mellmont until retiring shortly before his death.  
 
Art O'Hagan: The last remaining original member of the Clippers. Terry McCafferty wrote to us in October, 2009 to tell us that Art is alive and well and still living in Strabane. He enjoys the odd sing song at the local golf club and met with Mick O'Hanlon just a couple of weeks before he died and they spent time together reminiscing about the good old days. In January, 2014, Tommy Canning wrote us to say Art still alive.
Mick O'Hanlon: RIP Mick sadly passed away 7th September, 2009. Our thanks to Terry McCafferty for the info and our sincere sympathies to his family and friends.
Terry Logue: RIP   Terry sadly passed away.
Hugo Quinn: RIP Hugo sadly passed away in 1987.
Victor Fleming: RIP  Victor sadly passed away.
Barney Skillen: Barney went on to join pop band Flint and we received an email in 2006 from Jim Ferran telling us he was living in Anderstown, Belfast.If you have any info on his current whereabouts, please let us know.
Dominic Shearer:  RIP  Dom sadly passed away.
Merv Allen:  RIP  Elaine Allen, informed us that her Dad, Merv  sadly passed away 11th May, 2010 at age 72. We are not sure what bands, if any, Merv sang with after his short stint with the Clippers in 1969-70.
Neil McMahon: If you have any info on his current whereabouts, please let us know.
Paddy Courtney: If you have any info on his current whereabouts, please let us know.
Billy Brady: If you have any info on his current whereabouts, please let us know.
Jimmy Moore: If you have any info on his current whereabouts, please let us know.
Terry Duffy - RIP: In January, 2014 Tommy Canning sent us an email to say that sadly Terry passed away in 2013 after suffering bronchial problems. We have found a date of death as August 28th, 2013 on rip.ie. Our thanks to Tommy for letting us know and our sincere sympathies to his family and friends.

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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006