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Sailin’ away on the crest of a wave

The Livin’ Thing 40 years ago 1979: Back row: Conor McHugh, Seamy Cassidy, Jim Hughes, Roy Cassidy. Front row: Tom Morgan, Angela Hayes, John McKavanagh The Livin’ Thing 40 years ago 1979: Back row: Conor McHugh, Seamy Cassidy, Jim Hughes, Roy Cassidy. Front row: Tom Morgan, Angela Hayes, John McKavanagh
By Cathy Dobbin

TO understand today’s music scene in West Belfast you have to go way back to brass, reed and silver bands. There were 13 children in our house, a sure sign you were from the Falls during the 70s, and St Peter’s Brass and Reed Band and St Paul’s Silver Band featured prominently in our lives.

Members of St Peter’s Brass and Reed were affiliated with the Irish Free State Army where they were assigned to the Infantry so they could play in the Army Band. With names like Johnny McCorry, Pat Campbell, Fr Montague et al teaching them the ropes, it was no wonder that most of the Morgan brothers like Pat, Tony and Tom went on to make music a big part of their lives. Tony was a member of various swing and brass bands while Tom, Pat and his wife Ann started The Ballymurphy Martyrs Flute Band which then split to form Éire Nua. Another band on that scene were the Tom Williams Pipers, I’m sure our readers know more.

Trombones and French horns, tubas and clarinets were all over our Beechmount house, with band uniforms hanging over doors and music stands taking up precious space. We were all encouraged to learn an instrument as our clarinet-playing father Paddy Morgan thought if we were ever out of work, especially being Catholic, we could always busk and have our music to fall back on.

During the late 1970s through to 1982 our Tom was in a band called ‘The Livin’ Thing’ named after Seamy and Roy Cassidy’s love of ELO. Also in the band with Tom, Seamy and Roy were Angela Hayes, John McKavanagh, Jim Hughes, Willie McAllister and Conor McHugh who has played for Katmandu, The Adventures and many other bands looking a genius keyboard player.

Other bands doing the West Belfast circuit during those times were Brendan Hayes’ band The Dodgers, The MSJ Band, Sunshine, The Starjets, Katmandu, the mighty Avalon, Paris, Luv Bug, Kozee, The New Dimension, Glenties Folk Group, Alec Matthews Quartet, Blackwater Boys, Freemen, Baraka and the Rollie Stewart All Stars – and they all played anywhere they could get a booking.

Places like The Green Briar, Terry McDermotts, The Sloan’s Club, Market Social, St Matthew’s, Donegal Celtic, The Old Burnt Cabin (South Link), Pound Loney Social Club, Andersonstown Social Club, Arlington House (Blacks Road), The Inn Place (Suffolk Road), The Clubhouse (O’Hare’s Lane), Beacon’s (Springfield Road), Pass ‘n’ Grove, The Trocadero, Rossa, Chluain Árd and the infamous Lake Glen Hotel. These nights were usually followed by a fish supper from Aldo’s.

During the dark days these groups gave people something to look forward to at weekends, sometimes taking big risks in travelling to various places usually in clapped out cars, nearly always getting stopped and sometimes getting caught up in tragedies happening on the road.

In 1982 Tom was in a car accident near Dundalk. He was transferred to Jervis Street Hospital in Dublin where he died aged just 25.

I know Tom’s family will feel proud when we hear about the talent that stemmed from West Belfast on 31st August as part of the Andersonstown News’ Greatest Hits Night when we’ll be celebrating the music of those days and remember Tom and all the people who kept the music going during our darkest times – we might even get a fish supper in Aldo’s afterwards!

• Jog any memories? Let us know anybody or any place you remember through Text 07537416823 or email Cathy at

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