June 29, 2000
Well known and respected musician Cecil
Kettyles of 12 Derrygore Terrace, Enniskillen, died peacefully on 20th June,
2000. He was 73 years old.
Cecil had been in declining health over a
six month period, and his death occurred at the Erne Hospital surrounded by
his loving family.
Born on 8th December, 1926 at Wellington Place,
Enniskillen, Cecil was the only child of a dedicated mother Nora Kettyles.
He talked fondly of a happy childhood surrounded by his cousins and
He attended the Christian Brothers School, Enniskillen and
left at the age of 14 years to become a mechanic, serving his apprenticeship
with the Ulster Transport Association in Belfast, Derry and Enniskillen.
This was a job he talked of fondly which he said taught him discipline, and
high standards of performance.
Cecil discovered his gift and passion
for music relatively late in life, in his teens, when he went to the former
Regal Cinema to see “A Song to Remember.” The film had such an impact on him
that he immediately enrolled for music lessons with Mona Maguire in Belmore
Street. As his talent developed further he then took regular lessons with
the renowned Professor Jones in Belfast.
He invested in a Steinway
Baby Grand Piano at the age of 20 years which remained in the front room of
his mother’s house at Paget Square. By this time, he had joined the Tommy
Boyd Band. World War II had just ended.
An accomplished keyboard/piano
player and band leader, Cecil went on to set up the Melotones with John
Fleming, Leo Tapster and Jim Flanagan, playing small halls all over
In 1953 he founded and launched the Cecil Kettyles
Orchestra, and the following year was invited to open the then newly
completed Astoria Ballroom in Bundoran. The Orchestra went on to play the
entire summer season in what was the most luxurious dance hall in Ireland at
the time. Cecil and his group were soon playing in towns and cities all over
He married June Goan in February, 1957, and settled at 12
Derrygore Terrace, where they lived for the past 43 years.
In the late
50’s musical tastes changed and the Orchestra became the Skyrockets Showband.
Opportunities knocked again and again for the Skyrockets, touring with names
like Bridie Gallagher, and Frank Carson. This culminated with a concert in
the Royal Albert Hall in 1959 in front of an audience of 5,000, and playing
venues throughout Ireland.
In the late 60’s Pat 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.
Cecil then took the Skyrockets on a hectic two year tour of the British
Isles, Germany and Spain, releasing 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. 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. Cecil and the Skyrockets also appeared with
the Great Ruby Murray in Enniskillen Townhall.
It was at the peak of
his career that Cecil was involved in a major car accident on his 42nd
birthday in 1968. The extent of his injuries forced him to spend almost
eight weeks in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, as well as a lengthy
stay in the local Erne Hospital.
Despite his serious injuries and
prognosis he made a miraculous recovery teaching himself to walk, write and
play the keyboards again. His incredible determination and will-power never
faltered. At this critical stage in his life he took up what was to become
one of his favourite social pastimes, golfing, which no doubt assisted his
Within a year of his accident, Cecil was on the road
touring again with Bridie Gallagher in Bundoran. In the early 70’s he set up
the Cecil Kay Sound playing in Skerries, Dublin, the Atlantic Apart Hotel in
Bundoran and local venues. He cut a record for his fans in the late
seventies covering his wife June’s favourite song “Honey” on the A Side and
“Telestar” on the B side.
Cecil continued his wide and varied musical
career, both North and South of the Border throughout the 1980s attracting a
wide following and playing music to suit all ages and tastes, with the CK
Sound, and the Melotones. He had a great love of classical music,
particularly Chopin and Jazz music.
In recent years, he concentrated
on playing mostly local venues, as well as charitable and community events
for local senior citizens groups, and others. He led a full and active life
up until two months prior to his death, continuing to give enjoyment to many
through his gifted musical talent. Typical of Cecil, his last performance
was as an in-patient in Belvoir Park Hospital, on 17th May, 2000, when he
was receiving treatment for his illness.
Outside his impressive
musical career, Cecil was undoubtedly a popular local character and
attracted many special friends who were a great source of comfort and
support throughout his short illness. He will also be remembered fondly for
his unique philosophies on life, his witty sense of humour, his love of
people and animals and his conversation.
He was a member of
Enniskillen Golf Club and enjoyed many outings and social evenings with his
golfing friends. He also frequented Blacklion Golf Club.
He had an
extremely close and loving relationship with his dear wife June and his
children and will be remembered most for friendship, love, kindness and
modesty, despite all his achievements.
Cecil is survived by his wife
June, daughters Laura, Carolyn and Noreen and sons, Ray and David, his
grandchildren Aileen, Jamie, Lee, Laura, Aran and Megan. He also leaves his
brothers and sisters-in-law Sheila, Joe, Ann, Pepe, Richard, Gerry and
Maura, and his cat, Gizzy.
The funeral service took place in St.
Michael’s Church, Enniskillen conducted beautifully by Father Brendan
Gallagher. Family members participated in the service and several of his
friends were involved in musical pieces inside and outside the church.
Funeral arrangements were made by Enda Love, Braeside Park, Enniskillen.