Legendary stories are circulating about a famous Irishman roving around Chemainus to coincide with current performances of the Irish-themed Once at the Chemainus Theatre Festival.
It is indeed the luck o’ the Irish if you’ve spotted longtime Irish Rovers front man Will Millar, who’s been in town a few times while his paintings are on display in the Theatre Gallery, upstairs and downstairs in the theatre’s lobbies and within the Playbill Dining Room. The exhibit continues until the end of the Once production on March 10.
“We are thrilled to exhibit Will Millar’s work at Chemainus Theatre,” noted managing director Randy Huber. “Will is an iconic Canadian artist and an absolute pleasure to work with. Will holds genuine to his roots in his painting; the subject matter is daily Irish life comprised of wonderful village street scenes, afternoon teas and pub nights. The Theatre’s production of the musical Once is set in Dublin, so Will’s art show complements it perfectly.”
Who knew some well-known personalities possessed other amazing talents in completely different areas?
First, it was former Vancouver Canucks’ goaltending great Richard Brodeur displaying his works of art at the theatre last year. Now, it’s Millar’s turn with more than 40 pieces of his artwork gracing the theatre.
Millar has lived in a location he considers paradise along Quamichan Lake outside Duncan since 1995.
He actually started doing art at the age of 10 while growing up in Ballymena, Ireland, about 30 miles north of Belfast, obviously long before the launch of his singing career.
“I grew up mostly in he country because my grandfather had a farm,” he said. “I do a lot of art of farm animals and farm people working. I grew up in a time which I’m glad I did.”
The characters, countryside scenes and animals in his paintings immediately take you to a simpler time and place. Those depictions provide great memories for Millar.
“A lot of my paintings reflect the ’50s when I was a kid, mostly from Northern Ireland in the ’50s,” he indicated.
“I go back to Ireland every year just to inspire myself. I love going back.”
It’s noteworthy Miller turned 78 on Jan. 8, the same birthdate as Elvis Presley and David Bowie.
“They’re in the heavenly band and I’m still singing,” said Millar, who brought fame to the Unicorn during his time with the Rovers.
He feels as full of vibrancy as ever at his age but confessed “growing old ain’t for sissies.”
Millar’s life experiences took him from Ireland to Canada and periods of residing in Prince Edward Island and Toronto before coming to the West Coast while the Irish Rovers’ TV show was running.
After living in West Vancouver and White Rock, he came to the Island to Brentwood Bay and eventually to Duncan to stay where it’s a daily reminder of where he grew up.
Millar’s current property covers eight acres, providing the ideal surroundings to inspire his painting. “I’m still a country boy at heart,” he indicated.
“I’ve got a great little studio on Quamichan Lake that I love. I turn my music on and everybody leaves me alone and I love it.”
His passion for art was initially ignited while travelling around the world with the Rovers.
“It was easy to travel with a sketch pad and drawing pencils,” he pointed out. “My diary is full of little sketches.”
Millar only does oil paintings now.
His work has previously been showcased in the E.J. Hughes Gallery in downtown Duncan and the Winchester Galleries in Victoria. Last year, some of Millar’s art was displayed at Gallery 8 on Salt Spring Island for a few weeks that, appropriately enough, included the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
“I paint every day,” Miller noted. “It’s a labour of love. I paint without thinking will this sell or not.”
With the whirlwind schedule of his life, family has always been of the utmost importance to him.
Millar has two sons and a daughter, with three grandchildren and another one on the way in April.
He is indeed still living life to the fullest.
“No use sitting around saying ‘maybe I could do it.’ I have done everything I’ve dreamed about.”