I was born in Belfast

I was born in Belfast Northern Ireland 22nd of August 1949.

The Lads
That's me on the right with the specs

I lived in The Sandy Row, a colourful Belfast inner city street in the heartland of Loyalist Ulster. I grew up with the sound of the Lambeg drums trance-like, yet stirring rhythms reverberating down that street every Friday night. The drummers, with blood pouring from their strapped wrists holding the canes as they beat the ancient rhythms in a cacophony of tribal sound. Four abreast they slowly walked or waddled like pregnant women under the weight of these massive drums. These are big drums and give out a powerful, thunderous sound.

Here's a bit of Sandy Row history http://www.blogigo.at/Sandy_Row_History

I remember the bonfires on the '11th night' that is the 11th of July, celebrating the Battle of the Boyne, fought on the 1st of July 1690, although celebrated on the 12th of July (due to a discrepancy in the calendar change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar) where Prince William of Orange, a Dutch Prince (affectionately known as King Billy) fought against King James 11, a catholic King at the

 Boyne River. The 12th of July of course sees the celebration in full swing with the procession of hundreds of marching bands from all over the province.

Many a gable wall in the district of The Sandy Row, not to mention the Shankill Road, shows a life-size or larger portrait of King Billy on his white charger, the lampposts decorated with red white and blue and of course orange pennants.

This time of year in Belfast is charged with much excitement and celebration but there can also be felt an undercurrent of religious and political tension.

I later moved to Bangor, a small town at the mouth of the Belfast estuary, about 12 miles from Belfast. Here I went to Clandeboye Road Primary School, passed my 11 plus and went to Bangor Grammar School on a scholarship. This where I became involved with my first band 'The Aside' The music scene in N Ireland at this time (early 60s) was quite vibrant and was producing bands such as Brian Rossi and the Wheels, The Mad Lads and of course Van Morisson's 'Them'.

First Band

There were a bunch of us who shared the same taste in music Charlie Whisker, Hayden McClennahan, Robin McClelland, and Jon Brown. Hayden's older brother had a great collection of Blues, Folk and Jazz, and when he wasn't around we would sneak into his room and play all these great records i.e. Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Bill Broonzey, Sleepy John Estes, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Sonny Terry & Brownie Magee, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Roland Kirk a rich smorgasbord of Black American culture from the 40s and 50s right through to the 60s. These sessions shaped my taste in music and actually formed the foundation of expression in my own music.

Van of course was a purveyor of these styles of music so needless to say I was a big fan from the early days and would try to catch his shows wherever possible. 'Them' were always an unpredictable but great band to see live. A few of us would go up to Belfast to The Maritime Hotel to watch Van and the band rock it out. http://www.ulsterhistory.co.uk/maritime.htm

There is a book by Colin Harper called 'Seaside Rock' which covers the North Down music scene in the 60s and is available through http://www.colin-harper.com/books/seaside-rock/

Next: Chapter 2 - 1967 Off to the Colonies