What is the greatest Irish ballad of all times? You’ll never get any two Dubliners to agree, but there is something of a consensus that “Danny Boy” and “Mother Machree” should be at the top of most Hibernian lists.
Many would argue that “Danny Boy,” written in 1913, to the old Irish tune “Londonderry Air,” should win the prize. Recorded by virtually every Irish tenor in history and many of the greatest popular singers of the 20th century, the song's haunting melody and words combine for an emotional tour de force of music. Often sung at funerals and wakes for Firemen, Policemen and those of Irish origin, the lyrics lend themselves to a sorrowful good-bye and are a befitting salute to a dearly beloved who has departed.
But “Danny Boy” was written by Frederick Edward Weatherly (1848-1929), who was not only an Englishman, but also a lawyer. There is no evidence that Weatherly ever even set foot in Ireland.
Our nominee for greatest Irish ballad is “Mother Machree,” written in 1910 by Chauncey Olcott and Ernest R. Ball, with lyrics by Rida Johnson Young. If, after a couple of Bushmills, this tune fails to bring a tear to your eye, you are not a true son of Erin.
So, in the spirit of St. Paddy’s Day, you be the judge:
Oh, Dan-ny Boy the pipes,
the pipes are ca-ll-ing
From glen to glen,
and down the moun-tain side,
The sum-mer's gone,
and all the ro-ses fa-ll-ing,
It's you, it's you must go,
and I must bide,
But come ye back when sum-mer's
in the me-a-dow,
Or when the val-ley's hushed
and white with snow,
It's I'll be here
in sun-shine or in sh-a-dow,
Oh, Dan-ny Boy, oh Dan-ny Boy,
I love you so!
But when ye come,
and all the flow'rs are d-y-ing,
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
Ye'll come and find
the place where I am l-y-ing,
And kneel and say an A-ve there for me;
And I shall hear,
though soft you tread a-bo-ve me,
And all my grave will warm-er, sweet-er be,
for you will bend and tell me that you lo-ve me,
And I shall sleep in peace un-til you come to me!
Celtic Woman - Danny Boy