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PHOTO SCRAPBOOK Ray Waines N. Ireland

PHOTO SCRAPBOOK #244.

THE IRISH ROVERS in NORTHERN IRELAND
by RAY WAINES
Posted MAY 13th 2019

Ray Waines' career as a television cameraman started in 1960 with CBC Vancouver. He enjoyed covering the BC Lions and, in the studios, musicals such as Some of Those Days and Lets Go. Dramas were even a greater challenge and by 1968 he became a supervising technician. In 1970 he started working the play camera on the Canucks games and for the 1972 Canada/Russia game. The Irish Rovers were great to work with, first in the studios and then taping shows in England, Scotland and Ireland. He was fortunate to cover the Olympics in Montreal in 1976, Los Angeles 1984 and then the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. He retired from CBC in 1991 and continued working as a freelance cameraman until 2010. In 2007 Ray became president for the Southern Interior Chapter and in 2013 he was elected to the position as vice-president and, having completed his term in that role, he is now a director on the Board.



The year was 1975 and we had heard so much about the beautiful scenery of County Antrim, Northern Ireland from the Irish Rovers that we were all looking forward to video taping shows with them on location in their homeland.

On our crew were Ken Gibson (producer/ director), Andy Martens (technical producer), Patsy MacDonald (script assistant), Les Erskine (lighting director), John Crawford (audio), Stephanie Nolan (wardrobe), Bill Reimer (VTR, maintenance), Joe Cranswick (maintenance), Jerry Williamson (video), Gene Baedek (camera) and me, Ray Waines (camera).  Bob Silk travelled with us as location manager and Les Weinstein, manager of the Irish Rovers, looked after our accommodations. Let me first introduce you to the Rovers.

1 - 5  Will Millar, George Millar, Jimmy Ferguson, Joe Millar, Wilcil McDowell.
6.  The Rovers had looked forward immensely to returning home to Antrim.

We had set up our vans in Prestwick, Scotland, one for cameras, one as Ken Gibson's control room and the third one for Les Erskine's lighting gear. It wasn't a long ferry ride from Scotland to Northern Ireland and then just a short drive up to the town of Ballymena which is about 30 miles north-east of Belfast.

7 & 8. We stayed at a Ballymena hotel called the Adair Arms. I remember checking in and being issued a key to the front door as it was locked 24/7, giving us a feeling that this hotel was very private and a safe place for our stay there.

The next morning after breakfast, Rovers' Jimmy and George offered to take Gene and me on a tour of their home town. This was their grand tour which showed us points of interest and of course where they went to school. Ballymena was a typical Irish town which they were proud of. We ended up at a small pub on the outskirts of Ballymena called the Raglan. It was Jimmy who knocked on the door and someone slid open a small opening and said "Oh, it's you Jimmy, come on in."  After the sounds of a few locks opening, in we went and of course we had to sample the Guinness on tap. For the first time I really enjoyed the quality of this famous Irish stout!  Gene had to show us how good this Guinness was by leaving seven rings on his glass! 

The next day I remember heading down the stairs to the lounge and there was Will quite upset, reading a newspaper with the headline, "Miami Showband Massacred!"  On July 1st 1975, this popular Irish band, dubbed by fans the Irish Beatles, was driving after a concert that night from Belfast south to Dublin and were pulled over by what they thought were police. Instead, men of the terrorist Ulster Volunteer Force, disguised in British Army uniforms, started to load a time bomb into their minibus to explode on the way, but it blew up and the massacre started with a hail of bullets.  Earlier that week at the Flamingo Dance Hall, Ballymena that holds a huge crowd, one of the house band musicians recognized Wilcil and, after they talked, the band member announced to all that for the next two weeks the Irish Rovers would be video taping shows in Northern Ireland. That's what really bothered Will after reading about this terrible tragedy that killed three of the group and two of the terrorists.  Netflix has Re-mastered their documentary The Miami Showband Massacre for those interested in further details and the results of the inquiry.

That morning by the time we had finished breakfast, we heard that the CBC Vancouver managers were very concerned about the safety of our group should there be any retaliation, so it would be best to return home! Fortunately Ken and Will convinced them that there was nothing to worry about, so we would continue on as planned.

9. Giant's Causeway and that's where we taped the Rovers singing Paddy Head for Home, a great start for this show.

10 & 11. It did not take long for Will's flute, along with a little magic, to invite the Leprechauns to join us. They asked Will to sing their favourite song about the Spanish Galleon that was loaded with gold and sank in the Giant's Causeway. The song goes on to tell us that it was the Leprechauns that first found the ship and so don't be surprised to see a happy little Leprechaun carrying a pot of gold!

12. Will and Patsy listened to Wilcil's memories of being told as a boy this legend: "A Scottish giant challenged Irish giant Finn MacCool to a fight and built a Causeway across the North Channel so they could meet. When Finn discovered the Scottish giant was much bigger than him, his wife disguised Finn as a baby and tucked him in a cradle. When the Scottish giant saw the size of the 'baby', he reckoned that its father, Finn, must be a giant among giants. He fled back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Finn would be unable to chase him down!"  This wonderful old legend that boys and girls believed in became even more believable when they found out that the remains of the Giants Causeway's other end could be found over in Scotland!

13. Stephanie, Patsy and me.  Being in such a beautiful country was a dream come true.  Wherever I turned, there were incredible scenic views. Patsy has been one of the main reasons as to why all our taping sessions with the Rovers have gone so smoothly and I might add so successfully. With Stephanie looking after wardrobe continuity, this helped Patsy immensely.              

14. We toured Bushmills Distillery in Bushnills, County Antrim which dates back to 1874 and there we video-taped the Rovers singing “Whiskey, You’re the Devil.”  Here Ken is giving Wilcil some pointers on putting caps on bottles of Bushmills whiskey as they roll past on this very shaky conveyer belt. We lost count on how many full bottles tipped and crashed on the floor. We could only hope that the whiskey was not the Bushmills Black Bush. Now that would an expensive waste!

15. The Rovers sang “Where the Old Bush Flows” as they left the Distillery situated by the 33 miles long River Bush, the source of water for the Distillery.

16. The Rovers played an Irish jig for the champion Irish dancers from Derry.  Dunluce Castle is just over to the left and that’s the Northern Sea behind.  It was exciting to realize that we were as far north as our travels in Northern Ireland would allow us to go.

17 & 18. After climbing up with my camera, I could see what was left of the ruins of pictureque Dunluce Castle, deserted for many years but now a popular tourist attraction. A local legend states that in 1639 part of the kitchen fell into the sea!  There were no survivors except for one kitchen boy working there at the time. The owners, Sorley Boy MacDonnell and his wife, left Dunluce as she refused to live there after the disaster.

19. We are packing up our gear and will soon leave Dunluce Castle. Tomorrow we will be driving through Belfast, the centre of the "Troubles."  For those who don't know, beginning in the late '60s, the mainly Protestants wanted Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom while the Irish nationalists / republicans, mainly minority Catholics, wanted the north to leave the UK and join a united Ireland. The result was guerilla warfare. Arrangements with the authorities have been made for us to travel together as a caravan in a direct route through Belfast. As we got close, we could see on a hill where the British soldiers had set up a lookout to monitor all traffic entering Belfast.

After taping songs with students at an Irish Music School, we were heading back through Belfast and for some reason our caravan stopped, which was a no-no.  Just when Ken was getting a little impatient and worried, we started moving again and when we got back to Ballymena, Bill and Joe were asked why they stopped.  They had stopped at a lane and watched British soldiers down on their haunches and with rifles up, working out a sniper!

20. Gene has his camera set up to videotape songs by the Rovers as they travel to Shane's Castle. The castle was the ancient seat of the powerful O'Neill family, and Lord O'Neill, being a railway buff, created his own narrow guage steam railway, transporting visitors from the car park to his castle. 

21. In the remote back hills behind Ballymena, arrangements were made to videotape songs by the Rovers in a unique setting where illegal potcheen (Irish moonshine) was made.  When we arrived, the locals had set up the still but hidden in the shade, so Ken asked them to move it to a sunny location for better shooting.  As the Rovers finished their songs, someone thought they heard sirens in the distance, so quickly everyone helped put out the fire, hide the still and all the evidence. The next day Wilcil asked us if we wanted a bottle of potcheen for only 5 pounds.  I bought one and, after sneaking it through customs going home, I did enjoy it, and I still have a couple of ounces left.  
In the evening, friends and relatives, comprised mostly of the Millar family, would drop in at our hotel for a reunion in the large lounge area. It was fascinating to listen to their stories of living in Northern Ireland while seeing the changes made since Will, George and Joe emigrated to Canada in the early 1960s.

22. As you can see, we are in the beautiful Glens of Antrim where Will sang a stirring ballad
"The Blue Hills of Antrim, I see in my dreams
The blue hills of Antrim, the glens and the streams
In sunlight and shadow, in weal and in woe,
The sweet vision haunts me wherever I go.

23 & 24. When Will completed the ballad with his flute, the three Leprechauns popped up onto a toadstool that Gene had found while setting up his camera. They wanted us to know that with the luck of the Leprechauns, our crew and the Rovers would have a safe trip throughout Northern Ireland.

25. Andy is enjoying the panoramic view of the green Glens of Antrim, this being just one of nine County Antrim glens.
26. Joe, Ray, Les Erskine, Stephanie, Patsy and John.
27. Joe and Bill                                     
28. Gene at the Glens, one of our favourite scenic locations for shooting.

29 & 30.  I remember that it was a Sunday when we visited Ireland's oldest thatched pub, the Crosskeys Inn, where we had planned to tape but which had been cancelled due to a bomb threat. So instead we followed Will through Ballycastle and down a lane where we parked. When Will knocked on the back door, the door opened and there was smiling Mary McDonnell who welcomed us to her charming pub. The Rovers knew her from their very first film trip in 1972 and had great memories of singing in her traditional Irish pub which is one of the oldest in Ireland, dating back to 1766 and known as the House of McDonnell.  The Irish Rovers sang Mickey Dolan's Whiskey and of course the Leprechauns knew all the words and sang along too.

What a great way to celebrate a very memorable trip to a beautiful country!  We lucked out with the best weather in a 100 years in that incredible summer of 1975 in Northern Ireland.

This is my last chance to thank my teammates on our great crew who have helped with photos and memories of video taping shows with the Irish Rovers in the UK and Ireland. These are the names of those who worked on the first trips to England and Scotland: Ken Gibson (producer/ director), Andy Martens (technical producer), Patsy MacDonald (script assistant), John Crawford (audio), Jim O'Brien (lighting), Bill Reimer (VTR, maintenance), Carl Pedersen (video) and me, Ray Waines (camera).

And these are the names of those who joined us for the Ireland, Northern Ireland trips and the return visit to Scotland when we had two cameras for these trips . . . Les Erskine (lighting), Beverley Takeuchi (makeup), Stephanie Nolan (wardrobe), Bob Akester (production assistant), Joe Cranswick (maintenance), Jerry Williamson (video) and Gene Baedek (camera),

                                                                                    IN MEMORIAM
31, 32, 33.   Since our travels in the 1970s to Ireland, England and Scotland, we have lost three in our very special Irish Rovers' family, namely Jim O'Brien (lighting), Jimmy Ferguson (Irish Rovers) and John Crawford (audio).  We are grateful for all the good times we had together with them and for their contributions in making our tours such a joyful and rewarding experience.  RIP Jim, Jimmy and John.


NEXT PHOTO SCRAPBOOKS:  Start of Summer's ENCORE Collections.
MAY 27  #245:   STAN FOX COLLECTION #1..
JUNE 10 #246   DOUG IN THE DOORWAY: Doug McKay photos by Chris Paton.



1 Will Millar

1 Will Millar

2. George Millar

2. George Millar

3. Jimmy Ferguson

3. Jimmy Ferguson


4 Joe Millar

4 Joe Millar

5. Wilcil McDowell

5. Wilcil McDowell

6  Rovers Return home

6 Rovers Return home


7   Ballymena

7 Ballymena

8  Adair Arms hotel

8 Adair Arms hotel

9. Rovers at Giants Causeway

9. Rovers at Giants Causeway


10. Will with magic flute

10. Will with magic flute

 	11  Will with leprechauns

11 Will with leprechauns

12  Ray, Will, Patsy, Wilcil

12 Ray, Will, Patsy, Wilcil


13- Stephanie, Patsy, Ray

13- Stephanie, Patsy, Ray

14  Wilcil & Ken at Bushmills Distillery

14 Wilcil & Ken at Bushmills Distillery

15  Rovers at Bushmill Distillery

15 Rovers at Bushmill Distillery


16  Rovers with Derry dancers

16 Rovers with Derry dancers

 	17  Ray at Dunluce Castle

17 Ray at Dunluce Castle

18  Ken at Dunluce Castle

18 Ken at Dunluce Castle


19  Our caravan seetting up at castle

19 Our caravan seetting up at castle

20. Back of Gene with Rovers & Ken

20. Back of Gene with Rovers & Ken

21  Making illegal Pocheen

21 Making illegal Pocheen


22  Will in Glens of Antrim

22 Will in Glens of Antrim

23  Will on flute

23 Will on flute

   	24  3 leprechauns, Twerp, Willy & Bun Worrier

24 3 leprechauns, Twerp, Willy & Bun Worrier


25.  Andy at the Glens of Antrim

25. Andy at the Glens of Antrim

26  Joe, Ray, Les Erskine, Stephanie, Patsy, John

26 Joe, Ray, Les Erskine, Stephanie, Patsy, John

27  Joe Cranswick & Bill

27 Joe Cranswick & Bill


28  Gene overlooking Glens of Antrim

28 Gene overlooking Glens of Antrim

29  Rovers at the House of McDonnell pub

29 Rovers at the House of McDonnell pub

30  Mary McDonnell with leprechauns in fg.

30 Mary McDonnell with leprechauns in fg.


31  Remembering Jim O'Brien

31 Remembering Jim O'Brien

32   Remembering Jimmy Ferguson

32 Remembering Jimmy Ferguson

 	33   Remembering John Crawford

33 Remembering John Crawford