Belfast Telegraph

The night I went down a storm with Billy Fury at Floral Hall

By Eddie McIlwaine

The Billy Fury Story is one musical I just have to see. If only for old time's sake. You see, once, years ago, in the 1960s, I stood on a stage in the grand old Floral Hall at Bellevue with Billy after being introduced to him by his promoter, Jim Aiken.

So, now that the show in his memory, subtitled Halfway to Paradise after one of his hits, is coming to the Millennium Forum in Londonderry on Thursday, September 7, and to the Grand Opera House in Belfast the following night, I will definitely be in the stalls at one of the performances.

That night at the Floral Hall, Fury talked me into joining him up there on the platform in front of a packed audience.

I stood with him for a minute or two, but wisely declined to join him in a song. Much to Jim Aiken's relief, for everything was going well up until then. And it continued to do so when I left the stage.

Fury's real name was Ronald Wycherley and he was born in Liverpool in 1940.

His premature death in 1983 was brought about by the heart disease that had dogged him all his life.

The curious thing about his highly successful career is that, despite all the hit records bearing his name, Billy never had a chart-topper.

I can tell you that David Hull, who is presenting Halfway to Paradise, is a latter-day Fury fan, too, and he will tell you that this likeable rock 'n' roller was a great loss to the music scene when he passed away too soon.

The two-hour show, featuring some of the members of his former band, The Tornados, and singer Colin Gold performing golden oldies like Last Night Was Made for Love, Wondrous Place and my favourite Jealousy, will bring back a lot of memories for veteran Fury fans.

But wouldn't it have been special if the Billy Fury Show could have been put on at the Floral Hall?

Sadly, the old place, once known as 'The Ballroom of Romance', is a near-ruin today and it is used as a store for animal feed at Bellevue Zoo.

Remembered for its dance hall days, music concerts and wedding receptions through the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, it closed its doors to the public in the early 1970s.

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