"The Dominoes were founded by Fred Isdell, Bill Morrison and Mike Shanks and Roderick Downer in their A-level year at Campbell College."

Is 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, an habitué
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.

THE DOMINOES 1959-1966

The 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.

THE DOMINOES 1981-2003

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 Fund.

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 Country Club.

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 untimely death.

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 the Dominoes.

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 significantly.

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 1966-68

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 Hall.

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 next."

The Group were resident in Ulster Television's first attempt at local pop magazine programme, "Zoom In."

Fronting that 1968 programme was DJ Hendi, Paddy Kielty's sidekick on the BBC 1 show Patrick Kielty Live.

"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 gets."

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.


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