Will Edwinson

Author & Storyteller

Will the Real Danny Boy Please Step Forward

Music  Notes

Image courtesy of ventrilock/Freedigitalphotos.net

As I approach the waning years of my eighth decade of existence here on the planet Earth, it occurred to me  it’s time to start thinking about my last rights preparations.   I was discussing this with one of my daughters a few nights ago and she asked me if I had any particular music I preferred to have played at my memorial service.  I said, “Yes, one in particular, Danny Boy—and preferably the Bing Crosby recording.”  Crosby’s interpretation of that song is unmatched.  (Anyone wanting to listen to the recording can do so by Googling  Bing Crosby’s recording of Danny Boy. It’s on You-Tube.) The lyrics are very wistful, and he captures that wistfulness brilliantly in his recording.  Unfortunately he only sings the first verse in this rendition because recordings in those days were limited to no more that three and half minutes. But I digress.  It’s not my imminent demise I want to talk about here; actually, it’s the song Danny Boy.

 I’ve always liked Danny Boy, but I’ve also long wondered about the meaning of the lyrics.  From whom did those words come that were directed at Danny boy.  Was Danny boy going off to war to fight in the Irish revolution, and his mother, or father, were reciting those words to him?  Or perhaps they emanated from his betrothed as he made preparations to  emigrate from Ireland to another land to seek a better life for himself and his beloved companion. I did a little research to see if author Frederic Edward Weatherly had ever shed any light on that subject.

 What I was able to find was, that he himself, had no particular scene in mind when he penned the words.  In fact the first tune he used for those lyrics was unsuccessful in the market place.  Then his sister-in-law from America sent him the music to an old Irish Air [tune] entitled Londonderry Air.  That melody fit his lyrics to a tee, and the rest is history.  Danny boy has become a music icon, and perhaps one of the most frequently performed pieces in the history of the world.

According to my research, there are two interpretations offered by listeners over the years to the meaning of the lyrics.  The first is the one mentioned above about a young man going off to war.  The second speculates about a young man seeking a better life for himself and his betrothed.  This second scenario, leads me to believe he has, in fact, emigrated to another land to seek his fortune; after which,  he was to  send for his bride-to-be. It is thought the words might have been penned in a letter as she  pines  away the time awaiting his call for her, but is now wondering if that will ever be.  After one hundred years, I guess we’ll still have to speculate about that.  This year is the one hundredth anniversary since the Londonderry Air version of this iconic song was first published.   The lyrics are printed below.

 Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes, are calling

From glen to glen, and down the mountain side

The summer’s gone and all 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 valley’s hushed and white with snow

It’s I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow

Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

                               2nd Verse 

And if you come when 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, tho’ soft you tread above me

And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be

If you’ll not fail to tell me that you love me

I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

 I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

 There you have it my friends.  Which Danny boy do you think is the correct one.  The young man going off to war, or the young man emigrating to another land seeking his fortune for himself and his fiancee’.  Personally, I lean toward the second version.

Until next time…but before you go, perhaps you’d like to click on the free download at upper right on this page for a free copy of the prologue and first three complete adventures in Buddy…His Trials and Treasures.  This little book of tales takes you back in time and into the life of little Buddy Crawford where you will venture with him into many of his mischievous escapades, and some not so mischievous.  It’s also available for purchase at www.amazon.com.   Happy reading.

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