27 September-The Royal Showband

The Royal Showband was founded in Waterford City, Ireland in 1957. Showbands were a popular form of entertainment in Ireland from the mid 1950’s to the late 1970’s. The showband, which played dance music together with pop, rock and roll and country music of the time, usually consisted of six or seven members. They played in large venues all over Ireland and some bands toured with success in Britain, the United States and Canada. Though a band called the Clipper Carlton is regarded as the first of the Irish showbands, the Royal Showband became one of the most successful bands of the era.

The Royal Showband was founded by a group of young musicians which included Brendan Bowyer, Tom Dunphy, Michael Coppinger, Jim Conlan, Charlie Mathews and Gerry Cullen. The band was managed by T J Byrne from Carlow. As the band members all had day jobs they could only perform at the weekend and did not turn professional until 1959. During the following decade the band, with Brendan Bowyer as the lead singer, became the most popular band in Ireland.

The Royal showband had a brief change of name to the Waterford Showband in 1960. The change occurred because two members of the British royal family were in attendance when the band made an appearance at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. By 1962 Brendan Bowyer and the Royal Showband were so successful that The Beatles were the supporting act for them at the Liverpool Empire Theatre. On the poster advertising the concert The Beatles were called ‘Liverpool’s own beat group’. The Royal Showband band toured extensively in Great Britain and the US and had several number one hits, the most popular of which was ‘The Hucklebuck’ in 1965.

In 1966 the Royal Showband played at a venue in Las Vegas, Nevada for a four week period. This led to the band performing in Las Vegas for up to six months each year during the following years. In 1970 Brendan Bowyer and Tom Dunphy left to form a new band called the ‘Big 8’. The Royal Showband gave its final performance on July 29th 1971 at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas.

The Royal Showband, which became one of the most successful bands of the era, was launched in Waterford City, Ireland in the year 1957 On This Day.

Waterford photo

Waterford City, Quays

Photo by Hotelsireland


25 September-Oak Park Carlow

Oak Park demesne is situated about 3km north of Carlow town, Ireland. Once the home of the Cooke family, Oak Park Estate was purchased by Henry Bruen in 1775. Bruen had made a fortune in the army commissariat in America where he was responsible for the supply of food and forage, for the troops. Bruen also purchased other land around Oak Park. By 1841 a survey showed the Bruen estates extended to over 8,000 hectares in Carlow.

Oak Park was home to the Bruen family from 1775 until 1957. The last Bruen to live in Oak Park, also Henry, died in 1954. His wife had left him several years earlier to live in Galway with Milo Petrovic-Njegos, a Montenegrin Prince. She was left nothing in his will. His daughter, and only child, Patricia who was born in 1914 had married Mervyn Boyse of Wexford. Bruen did not approve of the marriage. As a result he left her a weekly income of £6 for life. He left the remainder of his estate to his cousin in England. Patricia contested the will in the High Court. However it was agreed to sell the estate in 1957 and divide the proceeds equally. Patricia later lived at Ballybrack in Dublin.

The estate was purchased by Brownes Hill Estates for £50,555. However due to objections from local farmers the estate was purchased by the Land Commission in 1960. The Land Commission divided three hundred hectares of the estate among farmers. The Sawmills and surrounding lands (c. 2 hectares) were purchased by Mr Tom Lennon. The Lennon family operated the Sawmills until recent years. The remainder of the estate and Oak Park House became a research centre for the Agricultural Institute (Teagasc). The Agricultural Institute was established with the assistance of funds from the Marshall Plan through which Ireland received over $146 million. Today Oak Park is the national headquarters of Teagasc where a Plaque in the reception area records the impact of the Marshall Plan on Ireland.

In 2006 Teagasc gave over 120 acres of woodland near the Oak Park lake to Carlow local authorities. This has been developed as an amenity with boarded walkways stretching for several kilometres through the forest. It is a popular recreational attraction for both locals and tourists.

Oak Park demesne in Carlow, Ireland was auctioned in the year 1957 On This Day.

Oak Park photo

Flowers in Oak Park

Photo by andrew_j_w

Oak Park photo

Farm safety walk at Oak park

Photo by The Labour Party

16 February-LeVar Burton, Roots

LeVar Burton is an award-winning American actor who was born in Germany. He is best known for his role as Lt Commander Geordi La Forge in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. He first achieved fame at the age of twenty, playing the part of Kunta Kinte in the 1977 television series ‘Roots’. Burton was also the host of the long-running children’s television series ‘Reading Rainbow’.

LeVar Burton was born Levardis Robert Martyn Burton in Landstuhl, Germany in 1957. His parents were stationed with the US Army in Germany at the time. He grew up in Sacramento, California and graduated from the School of Theatre at the University of Southern California. In 1977 he made his acting debut as Kunta Kinte in the drama series ‘Roots’. The winner of numerous awards, Burton went on to have a successful career as an actor, presenter, director and author.

LeVar Burton, award-winning actor who starred as Kunta Kinte in ‘Roots’ and as Lt Commander Geordi La Forge in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ was born in the year 1957 On This Day.

LeVar Burton



07 August-Oliver Hardy

Oliver Hardy was a comic actor who was a native of America. He is best known as a member of the comedy double-act Laurel and Hardy. Stan Laurel was a comic actor, writer and film director who was a native of England. The comedy duo became well known for their slapstick comedy films during the first half of the 20th century.

Oliver Hardy was born Norvell Hardy in Harlem, Georgia on January 18th 1892. He was a gifted singer who appeared in minstrel shows form a young age. At the age of 18 he was managing a movie theatre and began his career as a comedy actor at the age of 21. In 1914 he made his first movie ‘Outwitting Dad’. Hardy appeared in several movies before moving to Los Angeles in 1917.

In 1921 Oliver Hardy made his first film with Stan Laurel. Laurel and Hardy officially became a team in 1927. The duo went on to appear in 107 films, including The Music Box, Way Out West, Men O’ War, Another Fine Mess, Sons of the Desert, Block-Heads and Busy Bodies. Oliver Hardy was inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. In his hometown of Harlem there is a Laurel and Hardy Museum.

Oliver Hardy, best known as a member of the comedy double-act Laurel and Hardy, died aged 65 in the year 1957 On This Day.




04 July-Fethard-on-Sea Boycott

Fethard-on-Sea is a village on the Hook Peninsula in Co Wexford, Ireland. In 1957 the village came to national and international attention due to a sectarian boycott of the local protestant community led by the local catholic priest. The boycott was the basis for the film ‘A Love Divided’ which was released in 1999.

In 1949 Sean Cloney, a Roman Catholic, married Sheila Kelly, a Church of Ireland Protestant. The parish priest Fr Stafford told the couple that their children had to be raised as catholic. Sheila resisted and the priest organised a boycott.

The boycott was given support by the local catholic bishop. In a debate in Dáil Éireann Taoiseach Éamon de Valera called on Sheila to honour her pledge to raise her children in the catholic faith. The boycott failed find support outside of Fethard-on-Sea. Though a formal end was arranged damage was caused to community relations for a time.

The Fethard-on-Sea boycott was debated in Dáil Éireann in the year 1957 On This Day.


Photo Joe Rattigan