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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 neighbours.

    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 Fermanagh.

    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 the Country.

    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 full recovery.

    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.

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