It was short, tweedy trousers in those days, and knee socks forever falling over boot-tops. Three of us went every year to the seaside at Portrush. We sang in variety shows in the town hall — always drizzly, singing summers. We lived in a tin-roofed summer bungalow that rattled away at the coastal weather, drops of wetness splashing through the roof into an enamel chamber-pot or dancing with a hiss on the red-hot lid of the range.
Some of the crowd came in to hear us, the rest came to get out of the wet. Trailing mud and water, they wandered into the town hall. They clapped and booed, roared and sang, cheered and sucked pink peppermint rock gritty with sand.
One of us didn't brave — this variety — concert singing. That well-scrubbed chubby face sang angelically in the choir of St. Colom's Church in Belfast. From their pew, his mother and aunts in silk-headscarfed pride watched him with adoring eyes. Behind his missal he puffed wee cigarette butts, and he tormented the unfortunate in front of him. And he went on the sly to a Methodist Sunday school which had better bus tours and picnics than its Catholic counterpart.
These long-ago summers mingle together in a mist of rainy grey skies, with bursts of sunshine changing tin roofs to steam. They drift into the pounding surf on bleak, dark rocks and float aloft with wheeling, calling sea birds, swirling about bobbing fishing luggers. And the sounds of our boy-soprano voices pipe their way out of the lighted town hall and down the bicycle-wobbling street of the white-washed town. Sometimes in Brisbane or Boston or places in between, far removed from a drafty town hall, in night clubs or concert halls, or in front of a recording microphone, those summers will creep into focus again. And there we are doing our song and dance to a sniffing crowd in damp-smelling clothes, and they're yelling, "Ye're quare boys — give us another 'n!"
— WILL MILLAR
The days of raucous performances with brother George in the Town Hall of Portrush, Ireland are gone. So are hot and cold climates of career building in Trinidad and Calgary, Alberta respectively. So are hot and cold audience reactions. The Irish Rovers are big name now.
Will Millar made it so. For all of that, he still holds the nostalgia of those early days by virtue of his patriot's interest in Irish culture. And this often finds its way into a Millar poetic or musical composition. This in turn ends up in television serials, network guest shots, club dates and with gold records — and raucous "town hall" performances for friends.
How do you like your humour? All those who break up over those quiet; subtle one liners, step to this side of the stage. Despite his following for laughs, young George brother of Will, leaves audience "distemper shots" to Rover comedian Jim Ferguson.
George qualifies his appearance as a Rover with his mellow rain barrel voice and his flat pickin' on guitar. His other accomplishment is a number, "Diddle Diddle Dumplin' My Son Jon."
This is one of them:
What does a bird think
He thinks of hawks, or worms or does he?
What does a bird dream of he dreams of Eagles, of soaring cliffs or does he?
What does a bird fear, he fears big birds or guns or does he?
You know. I am a bird! Or am I?
He is a Rover thanks to his change of taste. When potato peels became unappealing, rotund Jim abandoned ship of the British Merchant Navy. He found solace in new foods and rollicking song as baritone in chief, the Irish Rovers.
Let the innocent be forewarned. An invitation to a friendly game of poker backstage may be heady stuff, to a fan of this All-Ireland Champion Accordianist. But beware, there are some Irish poker rules known unto Wilcil McDowell that the wary should predetermine. In the sphere of music, down your guard for virtuoso Wilcil deals you a winning hand with his masterful and emotional delivery of accordian solo and accompaniment as an Irish Rover.
Wilcil McDowell was born in Antrim Town, County Antrim, Northern Ireland … gave up architecture studies for accordion … Won coveted "All Ireland Championship Accordionist" Award … toured extensively on both sides of the ocean with his own band, "The Donegore Ceili" … He loves boxing and motorcycle racing as a spectator, and would love to spend all his spare time fishing around Vancouver, where he currently lives.
Everyone has a favourite cousin. For the Rovers, multi-musician Joe is it. Cousin to Will and George, he finds this in itself one of life's interesting phenomena. That he left his days as a cobbler in Ballymena to bear arms as an original Rover member is another.
Played harmonica and electric bass, button-key chromatic accordion and to test beer. He sings bass harmony too. Don't you wish you had a cousin like Joe?