“Danny Boy” is a song whose lyrics are set to the Irish tune Londonderry Air. The lyrics
were originally written for a different tune in 1910 by Frederick Weatherly, an English
lawyer, and were modified to fit Londonderry Air in 1913 when Weatherly was sent a
copy of the tune by his sister.
The first recording was made by Ernestine Schumann-Heink in 1915. Weatherly gave the
song to Elsie Griffin, who made it one of the most popular in the new century. Weatherly
later suggested in 1928 that the second verse would provide a fitting requiem for the
actress Ellen Terry. Though the song is supposed to be a message from a woman to a man
(Weatherly provided the alternative “Eily dear” for male singers in his 1918 authorized
lyrics), the song is actually sung by men as much as, or possibly more often than, by
women. The song has been interpreted by some listeners as a message from a parent to a
son going off to war or leaving as part of the Irish Diasporas.
The song is widely considered an Irish anthem. It is nonetheless widely considered by
many Irish Americans and Irish Canadians to be their unofficial signature song. It is
frequently included in the organ presentation at Irish-American funerals. The song has
sent off many fallen fire-fighters, and is a standard with many fire department bands.
O 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;
It’s you, it’s you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow,
Or when the valleys hushed and white with snow.
And I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow;
Oh Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy, I love you so!
But when ye come, and all the flow’rs are dying,
And I am dead, as dead I well may be.
Ye’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 grace will warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me;
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!
Oh danny boy I love you so!