The last of The Irish Rovers as farewell tour comes back home

Shauna Loughran

Reporter:

Shauna Loughran

‘KINGS of Celtic', The Irish Rovers have been selling out concerts worldwide and are now on their way back home to Ballymena!

These international ambassadors of Irish music have maintained their timeless ability to deliver a rollicking, rousing performance of good cheer - one that will soon have you singing and clapping along.

The 2019 album release ‘Up Among The Heather, The Scottish Album’, reflects the Scots influence on their Northern Irish roots - the album will be released on tour.

Last year, their previous album ‘The Unicorn, the Continuing Story’ gave the long-awaited sequel to their famed Unicorn song.

BRAID DATE

Band leader, George Millar says: “In some ways it seems like yesterday, in other ways it seems a million years ago when I first met and played with Jimmy (Ferguson).

“Neither of us had any idea what could possibly be ahead of us. To return home and play after all these years, will be a highlight of our career and one we’re looking forward to immensely. "

Like the famous Bushmills Irish Whiskey, The Irish Rovers continue to improve with age and The Braid Arts Centre and Mid & East Antrim Borough Council are delighted that the boys are making a visit home to be applauded for all they have done over the years for the music industry, and for promoting this part of the world across North America and beyond.

Thursday March 21 will see the Rovers will be performing at The Braid and they will be guests of honour at a reception where the Mid & East Antrim will welcome them home.

AIR AMBULANCE

All proceeds from tickets will be donated by The Irish Rovers to the Mayors Charity Northern Ireland Air Ambulance.

Another great honour for the band this year was being recognized as one of these islands greatest émigrés by Ireland’s newest and most state of the art museum in Dublin, EPIC Ireland.

Museum Director Mervyn Greene says: “The Irish Rovers are iconic, world class and with very a long career.

“That’s important to us in Ireland.

“They’ve truly taken Ireland with them and shown the world."

As it happens, The Unicorn album is part of EPIC’s Irish Rovers installation.

As young immigrants, the Rovers emigrated to Canada and became so much a part of the Canadian culture that Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau personally asked them to become full citizens so they could officially represent Canada around the world.

In 1968, The Irish Rovers had a breakout hit with their second album, The Unicorn.

That album and the ‘lucky little ditty’ of a title track written by Shel Silverstein, took them from folk clubs of America to concert halls and television sets worldwide.

LAST MINUTE

“The Unicorn, which was in fact a last minute add to the original album, left us all with a tear or two, plus the unanswered question, ‘Whatever happened to the Unicorns when the ark left them stranded on the shore?” says George.

Since that first big hit, the band returned to the charts 15 more times with other songs, nevertheless, the magic of ‘The Unicorn’ remains.

To pay appropriate tribute on its Gold Anniversary, the Rovers are releasing ‘The Unicorn, The Continuing Story’.

It includes all new recordings, plus the sequel to the original song, which answers the question of the last fifty years.

A new music video also tells the story.

The World Wildlife Fund, and wildlife cinematographer Adam Ravetch assisted in the production.

Since the 60s, the Celtic super-group have travelled the world as musical ambassadors - with performances from as far apart as the Arctic Circle, Japan, and Germany, with regular tours to Australia, New Zealand, and the US.

The Rovers first became known in the US in the 60s on shows like The Tonight Show, The Smothers Brothers, Mike Douglas Show, The Dating Game (George Millar actually won the date), and even starring in The Virginian.

In the 70's they hosted their first of three international television series, ‘The Irish Rovers Show’ and throughout the next 20 years their weekly television shows brought Ireland into living rooms of America and the rest of the world.

More recently, their 2012 Drunken Sailor album went viral on YouTube, made news headlines back home in Belfast and put them back on radio across North America with a new younger generation audience.

A Canadian CBC producer saw the Belfast news articles about the Rovers new song and video and asked George Millar to sing his new song ‘The Titanic’ to help their telling of the 100th Anniversary of Titanic.

The 2015 "50 Years" triple CD broke tour sales records, while the lads returned to the small screen with three North American television specials, ‘The Irish Rovers Home In Ireland’, ‘The Irish Rovers Christmas’, ‘The Irish Rovers LIVE on St. Patrick’s Day/ 50th Anniversary Special’, all produced in the last few years.

The days of the long tours are finally coming to an end for these Irish lads as they are now completing one last world tour.

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