Ireland's Best Country and Western Band?

The Sheriffs were a wee band from the lower wack on the Falls Road

To those who remember The Sheriffs, this will awaken happy memories of a wee country and western band from The Lower Wack on the Falls Road in west Belfast.

Once known in their own locality as 'Ireland's best country and western band' the three former street corner balladeers who called themselves 'The Sheriffs from the West' (Belfast that is) were a favourite sight in the late 1960s and 70s in many of the pubs and clubs throughout Belfast and beyond.

Their repertoire consisted of the pop hits from the 60s and 70s to instrumentals by The Shadows, 'Apache' to 'Ghost Riders in the Sky' to Bert Weedens 'Guitar Boogie Shuffle' with close harmony songs like 'Tumbling Tumbleweeds'.

A long guarded secret as to the authenticity of the white cuban heeled boots worn by the band members can at last be revealed. They were rubber ankle boots mostly worn by surgeons in hospital operation theatres, as white leather boots in the 1970s were not only rare but very expensive at that time.

Authenticity was very important to each of the band members.The stetson hats worn at a certain tilt had all to be the same overall colour as the matching brown shirts. The black bootlace ties and sometimes yellow cravats were worn with a brown or white shirt complimented with a dark waistcoat.The Sheriffs silver star was worn on the left side.

The chrome and black novelty guns hung loosely from each side of the broad belted black and white holsters which were encrusted with sparkling red coloured glass stones. The sides of their blue denim jeans had straight lines of metal studs up and down each leg. American export iron spurs with cogged stars were secured around each white Cuban heeled boot.

As their popularity increased as a band they started to take their country and western music and image more seriously and set about dressing in the tradition of the American western cowboys.

The only difference was that these three homesteaders when they were dressed in their full cowboy outfits and heading for a local gig did not have any horses to hop on to, they just hopped on to the nearest bus or taxi and entertained the passengers to a free show as they went. They even took time to sign autographs as they disembarked at the bus stop for their local watering hole.

Decisions were made in 1965 to sail across the pond in the hope that they would find fame and fortune in England. The lead guitarist Hugh (Hugo) Dargan and his brother Vincent the rhythm guitarist both got jobs as labourers on a building site in London.Their singing and musical talent was soon spotted by a man named Bill Ward who offered to manage the duo.

Bill Ward got the brothers work in the pubs around Sheperd's Bush in London. Sitting in a pub one evening they both remembered seeing and hearing The Kinks playing their hit record 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion' live in the upstairs lounge of the pub.

At another venue which they were hoping to play at, The Garryowen Dance Hall in Sheperd's Bush their thunder was stolen by a young man from Wales who was just starting out on his career as a singer - he was called Tom Jones and his band were known as The Playboys. He brought the house down with his hit song 'It's Not Unusual'.

Where are they now?
Bernard (Barney ) McShane, lead vocalist and comedian
McShane still gigs in local pubs and clubs in Belfast with his vast repertoire of songs. His specialty is to emulate Dean Martin with his tribute to songs from his shows.

Vincent (Vinty) Dargan, rhythm guitar and vocals
Dargan is still trying to earn a crust from his work as a freelance photojournalist and writer. He has appeared on NI television with his documentary photographic exhibitions and is at the moment working on publishing a series of books documenting the social history of his twenty years work as a photographer.

Hugh (Hugo) Dargan, lead guitar and vocals
Sadly died in June 2000, some years before the playwright Martin Lynch penned the script for the stage play The Interrogation of Ambrose Fogarty. The play was based on Dargan and his lifestyle with his character played by television actor Ian McIlhinney.

Vincent Dargan continues to maintain the Photo Memories Belfast website where it is possible to view articles on, and photographs of, Belfast over the last 40 years. This article first appeared on the Photo Memories website.