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There’s no rocking chair, no knitting in Irish Rovers’ future

December 2011

It was the 1970s and many households got just the one channel—CBC. And that was just fine with one folk band, because it meant a captive audience for The Irish Rovers Show, which ran for six seasons.

But the truth is that, channel-surfing be damned, Canadians love these Irish boys and have for nearly 46 years.

“I thought by now I’d be sitting in my rocking chair, knitting,” George Millar told The Senior Times by phone during a break from filming a Christmas DVD. “I’m wondering when I’m going to get retired. But with Celtic music, the belly can hang out and the hair can recede. It’s okay.”

Millar was freshly arrived from Ireland and only 16 when he founded the Rovers in 1963 with 23-year-old Jim Ferguson. Joe Millar was recruited as he stepped off the plane soon after.

They played Irish festivals, coffee houses and the like, gathering musicians and fans along the way.

The Irish Rovers tobogganing while filming their Christmas television special at Sunshine Village, Banff National Park. Photo: Hamish Burgess

Though members have changed, the music remains the same, as does their friendship. Two of the Rovers live in Ireland, two in British Columbia and another in Montreal, so when they get together to record and tour, isn’t that a party?

“We’re like a gab fest. We’re like old cronies sitting at Tim Horton’s talking about what we’ve missed. We’ve always enjoyed the music, each other and what we do on stage.

“Nothing changes, because the people want to hear The Unicorn. So we play it for them, and they sing along.”

Expect also to hear Christmas favourites like Black Velvet and Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer when they play the Corona Theatre here in December. “People either love that song or hate it,” Millar says of Grandma. “It’s all in good humour, all in good fun.”

Though the Rovers haven’t played Montreal in 15 years, they enjoy the reception they get here, which Millar says is thanks to the strong Celtic and folk tradition in Quebec.

“We’re blessed that we’re doing a job that we like to do. The fans have let us do it. When you’re happy in your job, it’s a blessing.”

The Irish Rovers play the Corona Theatre December 10 at 7 pm. $47-$50. 514-931-2088, . Merry Merry Time of Year will be available at the venue, and fans can have the CD signed by the Rovers. Home in Ireland, a tour of their homeland, airs on PBS—check your local listings. A concert DVD filmed across Canada will be available next year.



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