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Legends of music scene recall their golden era

They gripped the eyes, the ears and, most of all, the feet of the nation. From the late 1950s to the 1970s the entire island was captivated like never before by Ireland's showbands.

Four new stamps celebrating Ireland's legendary showbands are to go on sale today.

Featuring the Miami Showband, the Drifters, the Royal and the Freshmen, the series was unveiled at a ceremony in Dublin's GPO yesterday, attended by former members of the bands and their families.

Ben Dolan, the brother of legendary singer Joe Dolan, who features on the Drifters stamp shot in 1964, said: "It's a very proud day. We were all friends in the band business but we were all real enemies as well. We were friendly when we met but when we didn't, we told fantastic lies about one another."

Former Miami member Pat McCarthy said: "When I got the phone call about this, I honestly thought it was a wind-up but I'm so glad An Post have done this. There are people at this function I haven't seen since those days. It's really very emotional."

Another touching moment came when former Miami member Des Lee asked the gathering to remember the members of his band murdered by terrorists in July 1975 while returning to Dublin.

"As well as being a happy day, it's also a sad day. My Miami brothers in heaven, Fran O'Toole, Brian McCoy and Tony Geraghty, are not here with us today to enjoy such a momentous occasion, but I believe they are watching us from heaven high, every bit as proud of us as I am of their legacy.

"All my Miami brothers will live on forever in Irish history. God bless them all," said Des.

Another former member of the Miami who survived that attack, Stephen Travers, said: "In the North there were people with a vested interest in driving a wedge between the communities, we undid their work every night as we brought people together at our gigs."

Anna McHugh, of An Post, said it had been a difficult decision choosing the groups to feature on the stamps.


"We could have had a hundred stamps given the number of showbands across the country. What we tried to do instead was represent different eras within the showband scene as well as different parts of the country.

"So we have the Freshmen from the North, the Drifters from around Westmeath, the Royal from Munster.

"In a country like Ireland that doesn't have an honours system, being on a stamp is the highest honour the public can bestow and it's fitting that the groups' families are here with us today to celebrate," she said.

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