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21 April 2014
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Limavady Part 2

1851 was a defining year in the history of Limavady

ML 1030

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Limavady Part 2 - The Londonderry Air and "Danny Boy"

Jane Ross commemorative plaque, Limavady

1851 was a defining year in the history of Limavady for it was during that year that, according to tradition, Miss Jane Ross wrote down the air she heard being played by an itinerant fiddler opposite her house in Limavady market.

But nothing is straightforward and there appears to be some confusion over the origins of this melody. Indeed one large American web site devotes many pages to rehearsing the various arguments.

However most local historians acknowledge Jane Ross as the first person to write down the tune which eventually became known as "The Londonderry Air". But who was the "itinerant fiddler"? Jane Ross never gave his name, but tradition says it was probably blind Jimmy McCurry from Myroe who regularly attended and played at the weekly market. Can you shed any light on these queries?

It is perhaps one of the worlds' best known melodies.

Listen to local traditional fiddler Tommy Hasson playing it for us.

Miss Jane Ross is buried in the graveyard of Christ Church Dromachose Parish Church, Limavady.

Danny Boy

There is no dispute, however, regarding who penned the words Danny Boy to this tune. Although there have been over a hundred different sets of lyrics set to this melody, Danny Boy is the most enduring of them all.

Many people consider the Londonderry Air and Danny Boy in the same breath, but the famous air was first noted in 1851 yet it was over 60 later before the lyrics of Danny Boy were added.

The story of the words starts in the Gold Rush in Colorado (USA) where a lady overheard some miners playing the tune. It is quite likely these men came originally from the Limavady area. She sent the tune to her brother in law, Fred Weatherly, who was a lawyer in Somerset England. Fred's hobby was composing lyrics (in his lifetime he wrote hundreds, including Roses of Picardy) and it was Fred Weatherly who wrote Danny Boy to the melody in 1913.

Click here to read about Limavady's pageant (held in April 2002) which was based around the Londonderry Air.

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YOUR RESPONSES

Hedy McAleer - Jan '07
Having retired to a Spanish mountainside, my husband and I were so moved listening to Tommy Hasson playing the Londonderry Air on his fiddle. It brought back so many happy memories of my schooldays in that lovely city---and our early lives in Northern Ireland.

 

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