Passing of Maurice Henry of 1960s showband legends 'The Freshmen'

Jane Witherspoon

Reporter:

Jane Witherspoon

One of the best known figures from popular 1970s band, the Freshmen has died.

Ballymena man Maurice Henry was a highly regarded and main saxophone player of the Freshmen Showband, who enjoyed rockstar status right across the island of Ireland during the 1960s.

In their hayday, The Freshmen played six gigs a week for 50 weeks of the year to full houses across Ireland.

The band came together in 1962, with Billy Brown (tenor sax, keyboards, arranger), Maurice Henry (tenor sax), and Torry McGahey (bass) -- late of a group called the Billy McFarland Showband.

They joined up with Damien McElroy (lead guitar), Sean Mahon (trumpet, trombone), and Davey McKnight (drums), with Derek Dean eventually taking the vocalist spot.

The Ballymena-based band played all the major ballroom venues, knocking out audiences with their covers of Stax/Volt singles and then-current songs by the Beatles and the Beach Boys, among others.

One of the band’s greatest occasions was playing support gigs to the Beach Boys at shows in Ireland in 1967, and they had a string of hits including top ten singles in the Irish charts during their peak period!

The Freshmen briefly reunited in the early 1980s, but weren't heard from otherwise until 2001, when Castle Records issued When Summer Comes as part of its Ripples sunshine pop series.

Lead sax player Mr Maurice Henry passed away last Tuesday (July 23) peacefully at his home.

The following notice was posted on the Funeral Times website last week:

Henry (12 Cushendall Road, Ballymena) 23rd July 2019 (peacefully at home) Maurice RIP, beloved husband of Sally, much loved father of Betty, Michael, Colette, David, Liam, Jane and Sarah and dear brother of George and Gladys.

A Requiem Mass was held in All Saints Church Ballymena on Friday with burial immediately afterwards in St Patrick’s Cemetery Crebilly.

He is deeply regretted by his sorrowing wife, sons, daughters, brother, sister, sons in law Peter, Chris, Edmund and Stewart, daughters in law Rhonda, Anne Marie and Valerie, grandchildren Christopher, Charlotte, Hannah, Elias, Jude, Rory, Louis, Seth and the late Liam and all the family circle.

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