Derry Air

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DERRY AIR. AKA and see "Londonderry Air," "Maidin I mBe'arra," "Danny Boy," "Drimoleague Fair," "Young Man's Dream (The)." Irish, Air (4/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. One of the most famous Irish airs, known popularly as the tune for the song "Danny Boy" by Fred F. Weatherly (1848-1929), an Englishman, a lawyer, and author of the words of about 1500 songs including "The Holy City", also known as "Jerusalem." The melody has also been the vehicle for A.P. Graves' "Loves Wishes" (in Irish Songs and Ballads, 1882), Katherine Tynan's "Would God I were the tender apple blossom," and Terry Sullivan's "Acushla Mine." The melody was published for the first time in George Petrie's collection (1855), obtained from Miss Jane Ross of Limavady, County Derry, a collector who heard the air from a street musician. It is sometimes ascribed, apparently without substantiation, to the ancient chief harper of the chieftain Hugh O'Neill, the famous Rory dall O' Cahan. Previous to the "Danny Boy" publication the song was known in Ireland, in English, as "My Love Nell." The late 19th century collector Dr. Joyce claimed the original song was Irish, and that the first line translates as:

Would God I were a little apple
Or one of the small daisies
Or a rose in the garden
Where thou art accustomed to walk alone;
In hope that thou wouldst pluck from me
Some wee little branch
Which thous wouldst hold in my right hand
Or in the breast of they robe .... (Loesberg, Folksongs and Ballads Popular in Ireland, vol. 2, 1980).

The name Derry is Gaelic in origin and means an oak-wood. In England the generic name for this tune and its variations is "Dives and Lazarus."

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 1) 1912; p. 16, No. 30.

Recorded sources: Columbia DB 4121, Leo Rowsome (1926). Gael-Linn CEF 104, Matt Cranitch - "Eistigh Seal" Green Linnet SIF-107, Eugene O'Donnell - "The Foggy Dew" (1988). RCA 5798-2-RC, "James Galway and the Chieftains in Ireland" (1986).




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