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100 years of Danny Boy

Northern Ireland celebrates its famous song

New York, June 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — It is 100 years since a simple song was released to the public. A song that unites music legends Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Johnny Cash and The Pogues. One song that Elvis loved so much he had it played at his funeral. Yes, it’s the one and only Danny Boy. And it is celebrating its 100th birthday on June 21st, 2013. The song’s melody was first heard in Ireland in the streets of Limavady, County Londonderry where it was known as The Londonderry Air. However it wasn’t until 1910 that Frederick Weatherly, an Englishman, composed the lyrics for this melody. His famous words were published in 1913, making this year the song’s 100th anniversary.

The city of Derry-Londonderry, UK City of Culture 2013 is pulling out all the stops to commemorate one of its finest musical exports. An extravaganza called Music City will see the streets of Derry become one giant performance space, with hundreds of free musical performances across squares, neighborhoods, venues, churches, offices and workplaces. A massive outdoor performance of ‘Danny Boy’ will be the highlight of Music City and the celebration of the 100th anniversary of one of the world’s favorite songs.

The song is a sweet lament from a parent to a son who is leaving home to travel far away. At 12:30pm 21st June, 2013, the children, adults and choirs of Derry/Londonderry will come together for what is expected to be the largest-ever outdoor performance of Danny Boy.

Fascinating Facts about Danny Boy

  1. The discovery: The music was first noted down on a market day in 1851 in Main Street, Limavady, County Derry~Londonderry, by a local schoolteacher called Miss Jane Ross. Miss Ross was born in 1810 at The Lodge, Limavady, and moved with her three unmarried sisters to live at 51 Main Street, Limavady, where a Blue Plaque commemorates her to this day. She is buried in Christ Church Graveyard, just across the street from her former home.

  2. The tune: Jane Ross is believed to have heard the tune being played by a blind fiddler, Jimmy McCurry, on Market Day in Limavady. There is a special storytelling rug hanging in Limavady Tourist Information Centre to commemorate the pair.


  3. The lawyer: Four years before the outbreak of World War I in 1910, a skilled songwriter, Fredrick Weatherly from Somerset, England produced the lyrics, ‘Danny Boy’. His lyrics were published in 1913 and now the world over knows the tune. As well as writing Danny Boy Fred Weatherly, who was a busy lawyer, managed to write somewhere in the region of 1,500 songs during his lifetime, including The Holy City and Roses of Picardy.

  4. The lyrics: The answer to the question about who Danny was and why he was going has long been debated.  Originally called O’Cahan’s Lament, the original version begins with an O’Cahan bard, Rory Dall O’Cahan, lamenting the passing of his great Chief, Cooey na Gall O’Cahan whose death brought to an end the line of O’Cahan chiefs of Ulster. Others read it as a lament for a son heading off to war or leaving Ireland for adventure in the New World.


  5. The performances: As part of the musical extravaganza that is Music City, a special, one-off performance of Danny Boy will be sung by the children and adult choirs of Derry~Londonderry in a huge outdoor performance. This performance will follow on from the many legions of greats who have adored and performed the song, including Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Johnny Cash, Patti LaBelle, Glen Miller, Judy Garland, Nana Mouskouri, Roy Orbison, The Pogues and The Muppets, to name just some.  

Broadcast quality footage including Choral version of Danny Boy and extended interview is available at URL: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/s66s9ii94zrxy4x/vWpLIuv7Vr

For more information please email Ruth Moran at rmoran@tourismireland.com or Bernard McMullan at bmcmullan@tourismireland.com