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EPIC was proud to welcome and congratulate The Irish Rovers in person for the recent release of their best selling album “The Unicorn, the Continuing Story”, a re-record for the 50th anniversary of the Unicorn Album, first released in 1968. A collection of their best albums have been on display in EPIC as part of the Music galleries, where the Irish Rovers influence in bringing Irish music and ballads to as wide audience in North America and further afield has been celebrated.

Since the 60’s, the Celtic super-group travelled the world as musical ambassadors taking them as far as the Arctic Circle, Japan, and Germany, with regular tours to Australia, New Zealand, and the US. Following a Civic Reception and a sold out gig in the Braid Arts Centre  in their hometown of Ballymena, as well as a Gala charity performance in the Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda, The Irish Rovers were hosted by Museum Director Mervyn Greene who considers the Irish Rovers as one of Ireland’s greatest émigrés. “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.”  

The Irish Rovers with Museum and Managing Director of EPIC, Mervyn Greene (far left)

The vault that boasts the Irish Rovers display, our ‘Music & Dance: Sharing the Tradition’ gallery, has repeatedly been voted the museum’s most popular by our visitors. It explores how emigrants and those of Irish origin have impacted the world through music and dance. From efforts to preserve our distinct traditional music style, we also highlight how it has influenced other musical forms across the world and how the popularity it has subsequently enjoyed it largely thanks to bands like the Irish Rovers who have helped to make it possibly our best known cultural export.

Their albums, displayed in a gallery alongside those of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, The Kellys, Phil Lynott and The Pogues, are symbolic of the 55 years of touring, decades of weekly international television shows, three recent American TV specials played to all of North America and decades of ambassadorship the band has given to Irish Folk Music.

In 1968, The Irish Rovers had a breakout hit with their second album, The Unicorn. That album and ‘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. 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?”

The Irish Rovers exploring the galleries at EPIC

Since that first big hit, the band returned to the charts 15 more times with other songs, nevertheless, the magic of The Unicorn remained. To pay appropriate tribute on the album’s Gold Anniversary, the Rovers released “The Unicorn, The Continuing Story” in 2018. It includes all new recordings of the original songs, plus the sequel to The Unicorn song, which answers the question of the last fifty years.

In presenting their album for inclusion in the Gallery, George Millar, band leader and founder,, vocalist and songwriter, thanked Mervyn and the EPIC team for their warm welcome and spoke of the pride of the band members at being recognised and acknowledged in such a dignified and important inclusion in the Museum.

Following the presentation, the band enjoyed a performance by local multi-instrumentalist musicians Garry and Alan, prompting some of them to join for a session. Gerry ‘Fiddle’ O’Connor, a well respected and admired musician within traditional musical circles described their visit as an unbelievable experience, their time being EPIC in every sense of the word. He says he’ll be back at the earliest opportunity.

 

THE IRISH ROVERS:

George Millar: (from Ballymena) A Rover all his life, band leader, vocalist and songwriter, George Millar (from Ballymena) first played as an Irish Rover when he and Jimmy Ferguson formed the band in 1963. As an award winning music producer and songwriter, he has seen the legendary band through their 50th anniversary and beyond. His study and focus as a songwriter is on Celtic history and emigration.

Seán O’Driscoll:  Over 25 years as an Irish Rover, Seán hails from Blarney, County Cork and comes from a very musical family. His father was a respected accordion player, who along with his three brothers made up the well-known O’Driscoll Ceili band, who played widely throughout County Cork in the days before amplification.

Seán is one of the most versatile musicians playing Irish music today. Although he first gained recognition for his virtuoso banjo playing, he is equally adept on guitar, accordion, bouzouki and mandolin. His natural musical ability extends to composition with many excellent tunes and songs to his credit. Playing strictly by ear, his memory holds a massive repertoire. Seán’s compositions have been recorded by Laurence Nugent and Kevin Burke among others.

Gerry (fiddle) O’Connor: (from Dundalk) A four times winner of The Fiddler of Oriel competition, Gerry also was co-founder and first Artistic Director of Ceol Chairlinn, in Carlingford , Co Louth and is also the Traditional Arts coordinator  at the newly established Creative-Connexions Irish/ Catalan Arts festival in Sitges. From an early age Gerry was involved Irish music and dance, winning numerous All Ireland titles between 1967 and 1973 in a range of formations including duet, trio and four Céili Band titles.

Ian Millar: Golden voiced Ian Millar, born in Ballymena, is vocalist / guitar and bass player for the Rovers. Ian took over his from his father Joe Millar carrying on the legacy and family tradition. Ian has played in several bands over the years, including Some Mad Irishmen with Will Millar in the mid 90’s.

Morris Crum: (From Carnlough) Top multi-insrumentalist Morris Crum (from Carnlough) has also has been playing on Irish Rovers albums and television specials for many years. Accordion / Vocals.

Fred Graham: Bodhran player, Fred Graham’s (from Belfast) performance history goes back to the time he was five following marching bands in Northern Ireland with a drum he made out of an old paint tin. Fred played in an accordion marching band in Belfast and a Dixieland Jazzband for over two decades in Montreal.

Davey Walker: (from Armagh) has toured the world extensively and has known the Irish Rovers since he arrived in Canada in 1977. He was the musical director for the late, great Jimmy Ferguson’s Canadian TV series in the early 80’s and was keyboard player for Some Mad Irishmen with Will Millar in the mid 90’s. For the last 20 years he has been the musical director and keyboard player for a major concert touring company in New Zealand and Australia and has finally come full circle to work with the Irish Rovers.

Geoffrey Kelly: The Rovers lively flute/whistle player Geoffrey Kelly (the only Scot on stage, from Dumfries) is also a founder of Canada’s Spirit of the West. He and John Mann are Spirit’s primary songwriters. Geoff is also a full-time member of The Paperboys.