By Kyle Reid | Irish Loop Post
When Ron Doyle looks back on his time with the band known as The Petty Harbour Boys, visions of kitchen parties, weddings and shindigs all along the Southern Shore come back in a flurry.
“If there was ever an Irish Loop group,” said Doyle, a former mayor of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove… “We must’ve played every wedding.”
Undoubtedly one of the most memorable times for Doyle, and perhaps the seven others who played in the band, was the time the group played on the original airing of the popular CBC program, All Around the Circle, in 1964.
At that time the show was a flagship program for the network, which was just getting its footing after the broadcaster expanded its radio coverage to the television screens.
Inspired by groups like the Clancy Brothers, a popular Irish folk group at the time, The Petty Harbour Boys had become quite popular along the Shore in the early ’60s. They auditioned for All Around the Circle after responding to a casting call looking for musicians to play for the show and were selected to play on the first airing of the program.
CBC, then known as CBNT, was just working out how to make the transition to television, Doyle recalled.
“They were making that many mistakes,” recalled Doyle, laughing. “You could be there all night.”
The set of All Around the Circle was located on the end of Water Street inside of what was the old Browning Harvey Building. The group would travel into town to play on the show, sometimes rehearsing and deciding what music they would play while on their way downtown.
And while they were certainly used to playing gigs along the Shore, Doyle recalled there being some nerves about the group’s first time playing on television.
“It was exciting, but it was also a bit nerve wracking,” said Doyle. “You weren’t used to following the cameras, keeping track of which camera you were on.”
Doyle said the group paid tribute to the Clancey Brothers, playing Brennan on the Moor, as well as the Irish folk tune Johnny Lad for their set on the show’s first airing.
“When the Clancey Brothers came here, the first song they played was Brennan on the Moor —our idols,” said Doyle.
Afterwards, the group became regulars on the show for some four years of the 10 years that the program was on air. Unfortunately, because of budget restrictions at the time, the network would reuse the tape from past shows to record new ones. So any footage of the original members playing on the program is now long gone.
“They don’t have any history now, unfortunately, of our group on the show,” said Doyle. “When All Around the Circle had their 25th anniversary special, they didn’t show us on it, because they didn’t have it.”
It’s left the original group, consisting of surviving Petty Harbour Boys Len Doyle, Tom Doyle, Jim Kieley, John Doyle and Mike Kieley, with nothing but memories of their experience playing on the once popular television program.
The other original Petty Harbour Boys, Jim Doyle and John Kennedy, have, unfortunately, passed away.
But, the group has continued on, with Shawn Doyle, Jim Doyle’s son, joining the ensemble. It’s a real family affair for the Petty Harbour Boys with Shawn’s son, Mark, also playing in the band.
Doyle family members are well used to cutting their teeth in the group. Tom Doyle — Ron’s brother — is the father of Alan Doyle, who in his youth, played with some of the Petty Harbour Boys.
Now the group, which consists of original members Ron Doyle, Len Doyle and Jim Doyle, alongside newer members Shawn Doyle, Mark Doyle, Dennis Doyle, Paul Doyle and David Stack, still regularly play shows in communities along the Irish Loop, as well as in seniors’ homes — to the delight of residents
“It’s a lot of good memories,” said Doyle. “And we’re still making some.”