Will Millar, the impish front man of the Rovers who achieved international success after eight seasons on Canadian television and exposure to millions with successful records and world tours, returned home to his native Ballymena recently to promote his work which has already received widespread acclaim by those in the business.
Will, still instantly recognisable from the heady days with the Irish Rovers in cloth cap and trademark beard, exudes tremendous enthusiasm for his paintings which offer a romantic and nostalgic view of an Ireland he acknowledges exists now mostly in memory.
For Will it is a passion he has been in love with from his early days. He reveals that as a family they ate at a table constantly cluttered with paints and brushes, half-finished small works of art.
In an interview with the Times, Will recalls how he used to thin cheap oil paint by dipping his brush into the glass oil lamp that lit the house. His love for art extended to him taking lessons from an art teacher in exchange for cutting sticks for the fire.
Will’s paintings reflect much about his love of Ireland and the correlation between that and his songs is very evident. Old pubs, characters drinking pints of Guinness - some of whom are friends from his days here, horse fairs and general rural scenes evoke a nostalgic approach from a man who praises God for giving everyone a creative soul.
“I have got to keep the culture alive,” he stresses.
“We all carry some of it with us and a lot of the time it gets buried in the mad rush of the modern world,” he said.
His message is for people to “find a silent place, take a pencil and paper and draw and write and hum and think just how grand and beautiful this world really is.”
Will left the Irish Rovers in 1995 in circumstances he very much regrets and for a period toured with another band. He will, of course, be best remembered for the song ‘The Unicorn’ which brought the Rovers fame and umpteen public appearances throughout the world as well as the sale of millions of records.
Most of that is now in the past as Will focuses his efforts on his paintings which he sells from his century-old cottage in Duncan.
He admits to taking more time now to discover nature. His most recent book “Messing About in Boats The Nautical Confessions of an Unsinkable Irishman, made it into the top the in Canada for non-fiction.
While back in the Ballymena area, Will took hundreds of pictures of scenes, people and places as a basis for future paintings. He describes himself as a peddlar of nostalgia and can still hold the attention of people with his boyhood experiences growing up in the Ballymena area to his early days in Canada where he emigrated to at the age of 15.
While Canada is home, Will plans to visit Ireland at least a couple of times a year to promote his paintings which have been hailed as excellent.
To achieve that he has enlisted the help of Ballymoney man, Liam Rodgers who has a studio on the Kilraughts Road and where a number of Will’s paintings are currently on display.
Liam has been engaged to market the pictures and is confident the public will like what they see.
To view them by appointment only contact Liam on 028 276 66878. Mobile is 078 0350 8204. Email to: [email protected] Website: www.irishartplus.com
So has Will any regrets about what someone described as “putting down the penny whistle to pick up the paint brush?” Not at all. At 71 years of age, he still has a marvellous zest for life and the creative factor that flows through his veins is the motivation behind is new venture. LMM.