Photos of the Imperials spark memories of showband days

The Imperials
The Imperials

Fond memories of Showband days in Banbridge have been rekindled, as old photos of The Imperials have featured on Banbridge Historical Society’s social media page.

It was Dennis Lockhart who formed the band around 1965 along with three friends.

The Imperials

The Imperials

Dennis said: “Four of us started the group and it was Jim Nicholson who taught me to play the guitar.

“We started up in the old Imperial Hotel in Bridge Street which I believe is a pub now, but that’s where we took our name from.”

The Imperials, who soon became known as The Imperial Showband, began playing round church halls and Young Farmer’s Clubs in the town.

Dennis said: “We played cover versions of songs in the hit parade at that time.

The Imperials

The Imperials

“We played round lots of halls in Ireland and then we started to make a few trips across the water to England.

“Show Bands were in the big time at that time in Ireland. It was pre-troubles days”.

Soon the band added brass and began playing support to some of the bigger bands which saw The Imperial Showband playing in some of the bigger halls.

At their height the band members were Stanley McKinstry, Dennis Lockhart, John McMaster, Mervyn McCabe, Bill Wilson, Jean McKinstry/Chambers and Jim Nicholson.

“We stayed together for a long time but then a couple of us left and gradually we just drifted apart,” he said.

Speaking of the photos which appeared on Banbridge Historical Society’s page Dennis said: “Seeing our photos in pages from the past certainly lets you know how you’ve moved on.”

Others enjoyed seeing the photos too.

Heather Fegan said: “This brings back memories.”

Noah McCabe said: “First time I’ve seen my young grandfather,” and Connor Mccolgan said: “Looking good”.

John McMaster, who has kindly given the Leader permission to publish the photos, said: “It was so enjoyable playing as part of the band.

“Jean McKinstry was our lead singer and she was a fantastic singer.

“Mervyn McCabe went to Canada and has since sadly passed away, but the rest of us are still friends to this day.

“We’ve been friends for over 50 years now and there’s never been a bad word between us.

“It was sad when the band stopped playing but things like family commitments made it harder to keep things going.

“We keep saying we should organise a wee reunion - not to play or anything, just a reunion to see each other especially as we’re reaching the 50 year mark - but maybe if we have enough to drink we might start playing - who knows?”