The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic was marked this week and the Irish Rovers new song about the ship pays tribute to the greatest maritime story in history.
Back on April 15, 1912 the ocean liner hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage after four days into the crossing from Southhampton England to New York City.
What many people were not aware of was that the luxury liner, the largest afloat at the time was built in the Belfast shipyards of Northern Ireland.
The Titanic, an Irish Rovers song written by Rover’s founder George Millar who calls Nanoose Bay home is driving that fact home on both sides of the Atlantic.
The song documents the life of the ship from its beginnings in Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard to her legacy today.
Millar who was born and raised in a small town near Belfast on the anniversary of the ship’s sinking said he had always wanted to write a song about that fateful voyage because it happened on his birthday and it finally came to him a couple of years ago.
“The story of Titanic has really been on my mind for most of my life. It was just timing. I wrote the song when I was on a cruise ship two years ago. There were Irish entertainers on board and we had a lot of fun. I was thinking of my friends and what would happen if we sunk,” recalled Millar.
He said he was inspired by Gordon Lightfoot’s song about the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior in 1975 and he wanted his song to be just as memorable.
“That song was so well written. I wanted to write something similar in respect to the people. I didn’t want to blame anyone. The song is more about the people ... all those poor souls who lost their life.”
The song has earned Millar a nomination in the Vancouver Island Music Awards (VIMA) for Male Songwriter of the Year. Millar won the VIMA Song of the Year Award last year for Gracehill Fair.
He said he was honored to win but admitted he doesn’t feel comfortable being singled out for his work.
“It s a great honor that I will remember till the day I die. But I felt bad for the younger people…that it went to some old dinosaurs like us.”
He said he prefers young musicians to get awards for their work because it gives them incentive to keep going in the industry.
The VIMA awards will be handed out on April 21 in Victoria but Millar won’t be there for the ceremony because he and his family will be taking a cruise to Ireland.
Millar said things have come full circle because his family came to Canada on a cruise ship in 1959 much like the emigrants seeking a new life in North America did 100 years ago on the Titanic.
“We were in steerage when we came over…it was the cheapest way. From Belfast to Toronto we had to share a cabin a family we didn’t know,” he admitted.
On this trip he is cruising in style from New York to Southhampton, the first port the Titanic went to.
“It will be fun…they assure me the icebergs will be gone.”
Millar was just in Belfast last week where he was interviewed for an upcoming CBC documentary about Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard for the anniversary of the sinking.
He said the fact that the vessel had the word Liverpool printed on her stern has confused people over the years and he is glad that the song and video are helping to clear things up.
“She was absolutely the pride of Belfast. Back home, we’ve always taken great pride in the fact that she was built in Northern Ireland.”
He said when he returns to Ireland he will definitely visit the biggest Titanic exhibit in the world.
“When I go back we will see the museum because I have not seen it yet. I hear it is spectacular.”