"The Dominoes were founded
by Fred Isdell, Bill Morrison and Mike Shanks
and Roderick Downer in their A-level year at Campbell
that Roderick Downer of 'Old Hand' fame
(spoken with a Malone Road or perhaps Cultra accent)?
2. Where is he now?
3. If he indeed was the originator of that
'term of endearment', can anyone tell me exactly
what an 'Old Hand' is?
Are you sure you're
not confusing him with Robert (not Ricky) McCutcheon,
of the Queen's Bar, and a sometime male model?
The term was most used by the generation before
us, such as Trevor Kane and Dermot O'Donnell,
and probably had some nautical connection.
Dominoes were founded by
Fred Isdell, Bill Morrison
and Mike Shanks and Roderick Downer in their A-level
year at Campbell College.
Like so many of the early beat groups, including
the Beatles, the Dominoes started out as a Lonnie
Donegan inspired skiffle group - complete with
washboards and tea-chest bass.
After a brief period under the influence of the
Shadows, they met up with a portly singer called
Elmer and were described as Elmer and the Dominoes
until Elmer left and they were just The Dominoes.
From 1961, The Dominoes, now joined by Chris Doran
and Dick Pentland,
played Saturday nights at the Belfast Boat Club.
For many people now in their fifties, the Boat
Club is still fondly remembered as the only gig
in town. The Dominoes evolved into an accomplished
rhythm and blues band who took their inspiration
from Manfred Mann and the Rolling Stones.
On 20 November 1981, the original Dominoes came
together for the first time in more than 15 years
to perform at a charity dance in Shane Park on
behalf of the Royal Victoria Hospital Perinatal
The driving force behind this re-union was Cultra
resident and top gynaecologist, Dr Jim Dornan,
Director of Fetal Medicine at the Royal Jubilee
Maternity Hospital, Belfast.
"I knew that Fred and Bill could still draw a
crowd. I talked them into it and they scrounged
around for band gear and guitars, and held a rehearsal
in our house over a long week-end. We had a lot
of fun and the Ball was massive," he said.
It wasn't obvious who would play what to begin
with. Bill had been the organist with The Group
and Chips, and Bangor architect, Chris Doran,
had been the drummer in the Dominoes. In the end,
it was decided that Bill should move onto lead
guitar, Chris would play keyboards and another
Bangor man, Robin Lavery, should came in on drums.
On 14 January 1983, another friend of the Dominoes,
leading Holywood Estate Agent Eric Cairns asked
the boys to help stage the last dance ever at
Ballyholme's famous night spot, Caproni's.
"It had been derelict for years, but we couldn't
resist the thought of one last dance before Caproni's
was pulled down to make way for apartments. It
was the party of the year - an incredible night.
People were fighting to get in. Fred and the Dominoes
put on a mighty performance, with guest appearances
from George Jones and Dave Glover."
On one occasion in 1984, the Dominoes invited
Dave Dee, of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich,
to come across and perform all his sixties hits
with them at a special charity event in Crawfordsburn
By now firmly re-established, the Dominoes carried
on throughout the eighties and nineties. Charity
Balls, parent/teacher dances, and latterly weddings
kept the band in great demand up until Fred's
They kept their favourite songs of the sixties
alive over the last 22 years, playing at charity
bashes and weddings. In the latter years, John
Wilson, member of Rory Gallagher's "Taste," and
now a professional drummer, played regularly with
In the mid nineteen-nineties the Dominoes were
joined by Chris Doran's twenty-four year old daughter
Clare who teaches at Bangor Grammar School.
As Fred was quick to point out, the fact that
Clare looked good and was a great singer was handy
enough. But what was really important was the
fact that she reduced the average age of the band
So what now for the Dominoes? Bill Morrison was
Fred's closest friend and spoke at his funeral.
He formerly held the job of chief planner in the
Downpatrick Planning Office.
"We obviously have to fulfil commitments, but
the time has come to draw the line under the Dominoes,"
says Bill. "It is impossible to think of the Dominoes
without Fred. We have no plans for a farewell
swansong - the Dominoes will just fade away."
The Group came together in the spring of 1966
and quickly became the star attraction in the
clubs of Belfast and North Down.
The Group was around for little more than two
years, but is still remembered fondly by a fashion-conscious
generation who were swept away by flower power
and psychedelic lighting.
The place to go in those days was The Pound -
a warehouse behind Roddy's Bar in Belfast's Oxford
Street where the new courthouse is today.
The Group performed there every Saturday afternoon,
with spontaneous guest appearances on stage from
national pop stars who would go there to relax
ahead of an evening performance in the Ulster
In the evenings The Group's four-part harmony
Beach Boy sound would draw packed audiences to
popular venues such as the Maritime, the Marquee
Club, the Penthouse above Sammy Houston's Jazz
Club in Great Victoria Street, and the Queen's
Court Hotel in Bangor.
"There was something very special about The Group,"
says Colin McClelland,
former editor of Sunday World. "They were a musician's
band, hugely popular. They could adapt their performance
to suit any occasion. They would be billed with
Rory Gallagher and with Eric Clapton and Cream
one day, and then touring Ireland with Roy Orbison
The Group were resident in Ulster Television's
first attempt at local pop magazine programme,
Fronting that 1968 programme was DJ Hendi, Paddy
Kielty's sidekick on the BBC 1 show Patrick Kielty
"I was the DJ in the Marquee Club when The Group
was the resident band," says Hendi, "Fred always
had great lines and the band was as good as it
Sez Adamson, third from the left, was lead singer
and lead guitar with The Group. He is now living
in South Africa, where he has earned an international
reputation as a pedal-steel guitarist. He is the
younger brother of well known golfer Rusty Adamson
who lives in Cultra.
Drummer Ricky McCutcheon, on the right, is now
living in Banbury. Fred Isdell was on bass guitar
and his friend and colleague from the Dominoes,
Bill Morrison (on the left), played keyboards.