One of Ireland’s best-loved songs. Initially written to a tune other than “Londonderry Air”, the words to “Danny Boy” were penned by English lawyer and lyricist Frederic Weatherly in Bath, Somerset in 1910. After his Irish-born sister-in-law Margaret (known as Jess) in the United States sent him a copy of “Londonderry Air” in 1913 (an alternative version has her singing the air to him in 1912 with different lyrics), Weatherly modified the lyrics of “Danny Boy” to fit the rhyme and meter of “Londonderry Air”.
Weatherly gave the song to the vocalist Elsie Griffin, who made it one of the most popular songs in the new century; and, in 1915, Ernestine Schumann-Heink produced the first recording of “Danny Boy”. Jane Ross of Limavady is credited with collecting the melody of “Londonderry Air” in the mid-19th century from a musician she encountered.
Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.
The summer’s gone, and all the roses falling,
‘Tis you, ‘Tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow,
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow,
‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh, Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy, I love you so!
But when you come, and all the flowers are dying,
And I am dead, as dead I well may be,
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my grave shall warmer, sweeter be,
For you shall bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!
Trad. arr. Michael McGlynn