Appalachia Music

Music For Saint Patrick’s Day

The song O Danny Boy is popular world wide-sung by famous vocalists as well as around the family piano-or family guitar. Tomorrow is Saint Patrick’s Day-and for the last week or 2 I’ve been noticing green clover and leaping leprechauns around and about. I’ve also had the song O Danny Boy tickling the back of my head.

I researched the old song and discovered some interesting facts:

  • While the tune is indeed Irish-the words were written in England
  • There are varying opinions about the origin of the tune-some believe its as old as the 1600s
  • In about 1855 Jane Ross discovered the tune and passed it along to a collector of old Irish music, at that time the tune was called Londonderry Air
  • Many songwriters tried to add words to the music but nothing seemed to fit the mournful tune
  • In the 1800s the tune made it to America along with Irish immigrants
  • About 1912 a Mrs. Weatherly heard the song in Colorado, she sent the music back to England to her brother-n-law who was a songwriter
  • Mr. Weatherly had already penned the words to Danny Boy but had never found the right melody-now he had it
  • When Mr. Weatherly put the old Irish tune to his words a hit that would last through the ages was created
  • To read more about the fascinating story behind the song check out this page

I believe O Danny Boy appeals to the masses because the song evokes the strong emotion of longing for someone you love and miss-a truly common theme of mankind.

For me personally, the song transcends location. If I replace the word glen with holler-I would swear the words were written about my mountains and the high graveyards that rest on many of them.

In the same way, you could substitute the descriptive words with hills, dunes, or whatever topography you live near-and feel as though it was written just down the road from you.

For this Pickin’ & Grinnin’ In The Kitchen Spot O Danny Boy. I want to encourage you to watch the video-Paul sings the original 2nd verse-most performers leave it out. No matter how many times I hear the 2nd verse-I get chills-every last time.

2nd verse:

But when you come and all the flowers are dying If I am dead as then I well may be You’ll come and find the place where I am lying And kneel and say a prayer there for me And I will hear though soft you tread above me And all my grave will warmer sweeter be For you will bend and whisper that you love me And I shall rest in Peace until you come to me


Portions of this post were originally published here on the Blind Pig in November of 2008.

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  • Reply
    José Luis
    May 18, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Friends in music
    In reference to St. Patrick’s Day:
    I say this as an illustrative example, the founder and greatest hero of our Navy Argentina, was the Admiral William Brown, born in County Mayo in Ireland.
    Before going into battle with Irish piper playing next to him ordered St. Patrick’s Day morning, in the struggle for our independence from Spain.
    Currently march is an army officer, Argentina.
    Part of that melody is also in the march on the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S..
    Big hug from Buenos Aires, Jose Luis.

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    March 24, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I just now found thi and I’m so sorry it took me this long..They do a fantastic job on this song…I love it…

  • Reply
    March 17, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    I remember our father singing Tura Lura Lura, albeit badly for alas, he did not come from a line of good singers – but how he did love that song.
    Praise God our mother and maternal grandmother could carry a tune, and some of us of later generations now can as well.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    March 17, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Irish, Scots, and Welsh all have a tradition of poetry and song (fine line between the two in Celtic traditions!) expressing deep nostalgia, heartfelt longing, “the backward look.” And tying a feeling to landscape is something that strikes a chord for many people, myself included, but I don’t think it’s because I’m Irish – I think it’s because I’m human.

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    March 16, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    The second verse is also my favorite. Thanks for sharing this beautiful song and post. I will be making corned beef, sauteed cabbage with bacon and egg noodles, corn bread, and fried potatoes for tomorrows dinner.
    The yellow bells from yesterday’s post was great. I am always so happy to see my favorite springtime yellow bells in bloom.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    March 16, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    I love your thoughts on the universality of longing — it’s such a beautiful tear-jerker of a song — and this is a beautiful version.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    March 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I love Danny Boy…Blind Pig group did a good job….
    “May all the clover you see have four leafs”..and when you find gold at the end of the rainbow, may the luck of the Irish find it overflowing in a patch of Shamrocks.”

  • Reply
    Bob & Inez Jones
    March 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    We have just recently been introduced to this site. We are loving it. We love the music. Hubby is a musician so really appreciates the singing and playing.You look to be having such a neat time.Love Danny Boy. So glad we found you.Bob and Inez Jones

  • Reply
    March 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    They always do a great job with any song they sing.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    I suspect that second verse of Don’s lament is directed at his brother.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Very nice harmonies, regardless of the song being sad. Boxcar Willie did a nice rendition of this song too.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    March 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Tipper—As likely you and most of your readers know, the majority of mountain folks have Scotch-Irish roots. The nature and character of the Scotch-Irish goes far in explaining the haunting appeal of Danny Boy. We are a people moved by mysticism, magic, and mountains, and we are a people defined by moodiness, moments of mirth, kinship with misery, and a deep connection to the good earth. Danny Boy has elements of most of these things.
    On a personal note, on two different occasions I spent extended periods of time in Scotland while holding post-doctoral research fellowships. Thanks to the loveliness of the place and the nature of the people, I felt closer to my native heath of the Smokies there than any place I’ve ever been with the possible exception of the North Island of New Zealand. The common elements of intensely green landscape, steep hills and deep hollows, and an overwhelming feeling of closeness to nature define these places, separated though they are by thousands of miles.
    I didn’t get around to commenting on yesterday’s blog of yellowbells, so I’ll double dip and do so now. As Don has pointed out to you, like our hardy mountain forebears, yellowbells are survivors, clinging to beauty in rugged places many decades after the human presence is gone. I’m also surprised there wasn’t considerable mention of one other thing I associate with the plant. The long stems of new growth make mighty fine tools for the administering of what I guess you could call “yellowbell tea.” The only type of switch I hated more that a long, limber yellowbell limb wielded by Mom was a switch made from another early blooming plant, spirea. Of course Don, being the youngest of the family and the one Mom spoiled rotten, likely doesn’t recall that side of the yellowbells (although the plant that provided Mom many a switch still sits on the west side of the house in Bryson City.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    March 16, 2012 at 9:32 am

    I have two friends who each sing beautiful renditions of this song. I can’t wait to share this with them and others. My Irish half is singing along and craving corned beef and cabbage! Thanks!

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    March 16, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Very nice Paul! One of my favorite songs and also love that second verse..

  • Reply
    March 16, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Thanks for this post. Like many things, I never appreciated this song until I had cause to stop and learn it’s history and story. With learning brings understanding, with understanding brings appreciation.

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    March 16, 2012 at 9:18 am

    For me, “Danny Boy” is heart-rending because it refers to a girl’s beau who went off to fight the Great War in 1914, and like millions of other brave young men, did not return. “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow/ Between the crosses, row on row.” “Danny Boy” was my mother’s favorite tune.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    March 16, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Golly gee! I really enjoyed the singing, but the second verse – well – hummmmmm! May you be blessed with some of the Irish blessings!

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    March 16, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I always associate O Danny Boy, with my late mother. It was the tune she sang so often and so beautifully. Last year at her memorial, some of the fiddlers in the family played the tune.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    March 16, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Paul’s baritone and Pap’s tenor and the instrumentalists all blend so well and with just the right plaintive quality on “Danny Boy.” Remembering all the Irish persons in my family who’ve gone on before brought tears to my eyes, and especially that special one who has been gone fifteen months now. Sometimes it’s good for us to cry; and this morning “Danny Boy” brought tears to my eyes! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 16, 2012 at 8:04 am

    A bit of sadness in the song but it better than dwelling on today’s problems.
    Happy Patricks Day! I left off the Saint ’cause I think he was probably a closet Baptist.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    March 16, 2012 at 8:03 am

    That is a beautiful, but sad, tune. I believe it was part of an “American wake”, which was held for those who came to America during the potato famine in Ireland in the mid 1800s. Once their kin went to America, they were as good as gone forever. Happy St Patrick;s Day to one and all…. with an emphasis on “happy”!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 16, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Certainly a song that speaks straight to the heart whether glen, hollar, hill, or dune. Anytime I hear it I feel a deep sadness.
    Thy guys did a good job on it!

  • Reply
    March 16, 2012 at 7:22 am

    O Danny Boy was my husbands favorite song, his Grandmother would sing it to him, it was a very rough life for them but as he said he and 4 of his brothers and sisters survived it, mainly because of his Granny. Hearing the song brings him back to me in spirit. He died the day after Hurricane Ike hit Galveston and the surrounding area. Sweet man, I miss him. Thanks for giving me this song today.. I think I really needed it.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Well Tipper have never heard the 2nd verse of that song and it sure did bring a tear to the eye—and as I have mentioned many a time before I just love to listen to Paul sing—

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    March 16, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Oh Mary Jane, the springtime flowers are blooming
    Throughout the hills and hollers down below.
    And so I go, to wander and to wonder,
    Oh Mary Jane, I love these mountains so.
    They call to me, in blooms and tender leafing.
    In waters laughing, dancing to and fro,
    Oh, come ye back, my son of city sorrows,
    Oh, come ye back, dear boy, I love you so.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2012 at 6:09 am

    I have been loving that song for years. Paul out did himself on this one (as well as the rest of The Blind Pig Gang). You always know just what to send. You’re the best Tipper!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    March 16, 2012 at 5:25 am

    in this part of Ireland they prefer to call it the Derry Air, dropping the London. My favorite verse is also the second. Happy St.Patrick’s Day – I’ll be flying home then. It’s been nice having you with me 🙂

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