‘Together Again’ – Evelyn, Hugh McLean and the Envoys

Saturday night, August 26, is a date for your diary if you are someone who loved the show band era then you must make your way to the Station House Hotel in Letterkenny when Evelyn, Hugh Mc Lean and the Envoys Show band will re-live those unforgettable days when they take to the stage once again.
Everyone of a certain generation remembers the dancehall days and ‘The Envoys’ were certainly a major part of it.
Evelyn will be joined by Hugh Mc Lean ‘The Hitchhiker’ who will be guest artist on the night together with band members from yesteryear who include, Brendan Duffy, Joey McDaid, T.J. McNamee, Malcolm Patton and Eamonn Brogan when the sound of the 60’s and 70’s will ring out again at the most popular Letterkenny venue.
Talking to Evelyn during the week she said 2017 is the 50th. anniversary of her joining the Envoys as a very young girl. She remembers how the late Fred and Maggie Wilkie her neighbours who lived only a stone throw away from her at ‘Shell House’ would take her to the Dry Arch Bar to sing.
One night while performing Joey McDaid was providing the music there and after he heard the girl from Dromore with the golden voice sing it wasn’t long before she was approached to join the band.
Prior to that she recalls the late Ina Walsh (nee Ponsonby) taking her down to Ramelton to sing with The Denver Showband in the local hall. ‘There was Billy, Pat, Ted, Don and Ina and I suppose that together with me taking part in the Pantomimes that was held in the shed beside Walsh’s home at Dromore and also in Houston’s shop in Letterkenny was the start of my singing career. The Ponsonby’s were exceptional in the music business and that special talent has spanned generations’’, Evelyn said.
Evelyn has many great memories including recording in the Eamonn Andrews Studios in Dublin as well as recording in Belfast and in later years herself and Hugh recorded at Percy Robinson Studios.
Songs that will forever be remember by their huge fan base across the North-West and indeed much further afield will be featured on the night and they include, ‘Silver Haired Daddy of Mine’: ‘Each Season Changes You’, and not forgetting ‘Letterkenny Town’ to mention but a few. Over the years fans of the band have been asking different members about a reunion and as all former members keep in regular touch as lifelong friends they decided to get the show on the road once again.
In the early days The Envoys practiced in the Fiesta Ballroom as the late Seamus Hannigan was managing them, she recalls the story she was told about Seamus booking Big Tom for Termon and he went down such a treat he told the late Leo Keeney that he should book him for the Fiesta.
As the Butt Hall was a smaller venue than the Fiesta, Leo decided to try him in the Butt and see how he would do, and as they say the rest was history. Evelyn said that Seamus was a great mentor and that they all had learned so much from him as he was professional in every way and never settled for half measures.
The Envoys loved playing relief in the Fiesta as they got to meet all the members of the big bands. Paddy Murray from Termon got them various gigs in Termon Hall down the years and for they are forever grateful.
The late Brian Finlay who was a drummer with the Mighty Avons and Vincy Doonegan from Enniskillen was also involved with the band as he secured countless gigs across Northern Ireland for them. Vincy will be a special guest of the band on the night.
Fergus Cleary and Anthony Scally also played with the Envoys and Evelyn and the other band members have very fond memories of the late Sammy Fisher from Ramelton who played with them. Another former member was famous guitarist Pete O’Hanlon from Strabane.
“We played in venues all over Ireland and in England, Scotland and Wales. We always loved playing at home and places such as the Middletown and Derrybeg halls not forgetting the Culdaff Arms where I played my first gig with the band have all fond memories as indeed has all the venues we played in,” she said.
She also recalls meeting Donal K O’Boyle in Gweedore for the first time all those years ago.
There were many great memories but Evelyn recalls one gig that they will never forget. While playing in Scotland the band were contacted and asked if they could make their way to Wales as the band that were booked to play had cancelled. They made the long journey down through England and arrived at a plush venue with a revolving stage. A twelve piece orchestra played first with The Envoys following as the main act.
They had a packed house and went down a treat with everything hunky-dory until they went looking for their money. Nobody knew who was supposed to pay the band and they left empty handed. When the former band members talk about their Welsh experience they often wonder why the band who cancelled did so and if someone had given them a heads-up.
Evelyn remembers being contacted by ‘The Hollywood Stars’ a band from Northern Ireland to join them but she was happy with The Envoys and the troubles in the North at that time was also a deciding factor in not making the move.
After marrying the late Ciaran Gallagher, Evelyn settled down and raised her family and although away from the bright lights her love for taking to the stage never faded.
She has done many guest appearances down the years and can’t wait to go back on stage with the band members who have remained friends throughout their lives.
Today Evelyn lives at home in Dromore and cares for her mother Nellie O’Donnell who celebrated her 93th birthday in February and Evelyn is hoping to take her mum along on the night. When you talk music and recording to her it is obvious that she is still as passionate as even about it and when asked about going back to the recording studio again she smiled and said: ‘’ as long as there is a breath in my body I would never rule out going back into the studio and recording again, when it’s in your DNA there’s not much you can do about it’’, Evelyn said.
Have you still got your winkle pickers under the stairs, have you your tie-pin and brylcreem, what about the bell bottom trousers, mini skirts, hot pants. Surely there is someone out there who can still put in the perms or feel that they are still a dab hand at putting up the ‘bun’, whatever tickles your fancy you are invited to come along and be part and parcel of what is sure to be an absolutely wonderful night of nostalgia.
Again maybe like me it doesn’t take too much of any kind of cream nowadays and if for any reason the hips have been reconditioned you can still come along and clap along.
After a few ‘minerals’ at the bar you might even shape at displaying a few of your former moves that were such a big hit with the guys or gals back in the day!!!.
Evelyn, Hugh and ‘The Boys’ (not too many boys in the band today!!!) are looking forward to a fantastic nights dancing and song and are looking forward to meeting friends and fans from far and near on Saturday 26th. August. No doubt many a story will be told and there will be a few tall ones too and you never know who you meet on the night.
Come early admission is €10 and you can pay at the door. Dancing is from 10 to 1 and enjoy the music of one of Ireland’s top show bands. You might even decide to book into the Station House Hotel and make a weekend of it. It will be a night to remember there is no ‘close dancing’ allowed!!

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