Danny Boy Memories

Danny Boy seems to mean something unique to each person and here are some memories of the song that have been shared with us.

John R, London

I remember watching the Barry McGuigan v Eusebio Pedroza world championship boxing match in 1985, Barry’s father Pat McGuigan sang "Danny Boy" with a large Irish crowd at QPR football ground with the London crowd singing along. My Mother told me that my Dad had sung “Danny Boy" at his father’s request when he was very ill. He was then sent to get the doctor and when he returned his Father was dead. My Dad was 15 years old. His Mother was left with my Dad and his three younger brothers and one younger sister and so “Danny Boy” always reminds me about that story.

Mary H, New York

“Danny Boy” was such a part of my life growing up in the greater NY area. My uncle sang it (he was a good singer, too!) at every family occasion, and it was my father’s absolute favourite song in the world. He liked to believe that he could sing, and he sang it all the time and usually cried when he heard it, especially if he’s had a few!
He made it home safely and lived a few more years - although he was in and out of the hospital many times. I was so grateful to still have him that I savored every moment we had.

Jonathan Daniel V, London

I was named Daniel until my granddad came into the hospital room on the day I was born and started singing "Danny Boy". Mum decided a life of that would not be enjoyable for mother or son … so it quickly became my middle name!

Bob G, New Zealand

My name is Bob. I am an 87 year-old former Belfast man and have been living in New Zealand these past 63 years but am still as Irish as Paddy's pig!

Wayne McCullough won a gold medal for Northern Ireland at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland. During the award ceremony “Danny Boy” was to be played (instead of an anthem for medalists from Northern Ireland) but there was a hiccup with the tape and no sound was coming through to the arena.

I was in charge of the sound that day - so you can imagine the pressure I was under during those few moments from the various boxing officials, TV people, announcers etc. In the end I took the decision to sing “Danny Boy” myself! There was no way Wayne was leaving the ring without hearing the song he so richly deserved.

It was all so very spontaneous with 3500 Kiwis joining in as I rendered one of the most loved Irish songs … but I knew I was not going to hit the top note … so I held the mike towards the crowd and they hit it for me! The most important aspect was that I didn’t realise these Games were being transmitted on tv half way round the globe!

Kathleen Ann B, Wisconsin, USA

While in Ireland on "Holiday Tours", I had a chance to write a poem called "Enchanting Ireland". I told our tour guide about it and after she read it she made me get up in front of the entire bus and read it aloud. I tried to include some of the bus tourists in my poem.

Afterwards the bus driver played "Danny Boy" (my husband’s name is Daniel, and my song is “I'll take you home again Kathleen" because my name is Kathleen). We had a sports announcer on our bus from a local T V channel and he wanted me to come on TV and talk about Ireland. I declined, but when we got back to the United States he sent all of us a tape of pictures of us set to Irish music and included my poem, and all of us singing “Danny Boy” on the bus. I cried because these two songs went to my soul. This is my "Danny Boy Moment.

Bill MacS, Northants

My wife and I, and our children were all born in Ireland and we moved to the UK in 1988 when the children were quite young. My eldest son was quite active and very hard to get to sleep at night. My efforts of trying to get him to sleep were either drives in the car or more usually rolling/rocking him in his buggy while - you guessed it! - I sang “Danny Boy”. This went on for about a year.

When he was about 13 we discovered that he had a very good singing voice and was part of a choral group at school. He became a choral scholar at the world famous choir of Kings College Cambridge and ended up touring the world with them. He became known as their creamy Irish baritone

In his final year, and after the last performance of the choir in the chapel, there was an outdoor reception for their families in one of the quads of the college, overlooking the River Cam. After an hour or two the only people left were the choral scholars, my wife and me (much champagne had been drunk at this stage, I must add). I told them that I used to sing “Danny Boy” to get my son to sleep and one of them just decided there and then to start singing it. All the others joined in, in close harmony, and it was absolutely fantastic. We ended the night by being punted down the river at midnight whilst being serenaded to “Danny Boy” once again.

Eileen P, California

I was born in Lifford hospital, Donegal on 6th July, 1965 - Catherine Ellen McGirr. I was raised on my family's farm outside Castlefinn with my parents and four siblings where I lived until I was 19 years old. I then lived in Derry and attended The North West College for Hairdressing & Beauty Culture where I had four wonderful years. Then I began my hairdressing career working in salons and teaching in hairdressing schools in Galway, Limerick, London and Bermuda, where I met and married my husband. We moved and 18 years ago, settled in Thousand Oaks, California.

When I was growing up, every family which came together was involved in music – like most Irish families! Anyone who could sing or play an instrument had to participate!

We had our fair share of deaths within the family and also the unknown members of family on my mother’s side that had left Ireland for America.

My mother had seven sisters and I have great memories of my Aunt Teresa, Aunt Veronica, Aunt Ita, Aunt Bernie and my mum singing “Danny Boy” every time there was a family gathering. Everyone would be in tears by the end of the song.

In private at home, my mum told stories of her aunts and uncle leaving for America, and the pain her grandmother and mother went through.

Every time we go back to visit the family in Donegal we of course go to visit all the graves. When I stand over my Mum and Dad’s grave the song "Danny Boy" becomes reality for me – “… and I am dead, as dead I may well be.”

Leigh, Connecticut

I am an Irish-American. I went to high school at Notre Dame High in West Haven, Connecticut. Everybody was Italian....

Many years pass. I go back to my 45th reunion. I remember how Italian everything was. I am at an Italian restaurant eating Italian food with Italian guys. We're all using our hands while we talk. Italian, Italian. Italian. During dinner an accordion player appears. He plays a never-ending selection of Italian songs...

I finally say to him, "Hey, don't you know any Irish songs?" He immediately begins to play "Danny Boy."

"I'd like to dedicate this song," he says while he plays. "To Danny Aiello…. to Danny DeVito…. to Danny..."

Sandra MacF, Toronto

I love this song! I am Irish, born in Belfast but we moved to Canada when I was a child. This was one of my parents’ favourite songs, and from the time I was just a little girl, my dad had me sing this song for him, especially when they had company or a party, because he always said my voice was made for this song. I still feel a strong connection to the lyrics, and each time I sing it, I think of my dad. He died young - on his 49th birthday - and even now years later when I sing this song it brings tears to my mom's eyes. This song means a lot to me and I hope it will to many others for generations to come. Happy Birthday Danny Boy, your legacy lives on!

Patsy M

“Danny Boy” is quite sad for me. I am from a family who come from Ireland - my grandparents were Irish and growing up all the family used to sing songs. My mam used to sing “Danny Boy” and always told us “no-one really knows the last verse”. I’m sure that wasn’t really the case but she would sing it and the lyrics would make me sad thinking of the day I would have to kneel at her graveside. My mam passed away three years ago and every time I go and visit I can’t help but sing it to her. It makes me cry but it’s just what the song means to me and I’m remembering her singing it and the tale she told about it.

Deirdre McN, Gwynedd, Wales

It was the summer of 1984 and I was 18. I went to Golder’s Green in London to the Kibbutz Representatives office there and enquired how to go about becoming an overseas volunteer for them. They advised me what to do and, within weeks, armed with savings from my menial job as a receptionist back in Birmingham, off I went to buy my ticket to Tel Aviv. Amidst the backdrop of Kylie Minogue and Wham I went to Israel for a year to volunteer at a Kibbutz!

Well, what was meant to be 12 months ended up being six years for it was whilst taking a trip to the Dead Sea that I ended up meeting and falling in love with my very own "Danny Boy"! Danny was not Israeli but in fact, Moroccan (his family having emigrated to Israel in the 1940s) and, of course, Jewish. He was also very handsome - in fact, he reminded me of a young Tony Curtis!

I stayed at Ein Gedi Camping Resort where Danny was working as handyman. The resort was situated near the Dead Sea - 600 metres below Sea Level! We started courting and continued the relationship even though I was living in the North of Israel. However, the travelling was soon to take its toll on both of us and so, later on, I moved to Ein Gedi and began work as a chambermaid cleaning the Caravans and Chalets ready for coming guests. Life was fun, I met so many wonderful people and made many friends including Danny's lovely family, all of whom really welcomed me - a second generation Irish girl from Birmingham - into their fold!

I learnt all about the Jewish religion and celebrated festivals. The Moroccan cuisine is something I will not forget - it is so exciting and mouthwateringly tasty! We used to have "gatherings" around a camp-fire at night and watch the sun set listening to Pink Floyd, Dire Straits and the Scorpions - all of whom were HUGE in Israel! I recall when Dire Straits were doing a concert in Tel Aviv - I think the whole of the Country was in attendance..!

Danny and I stayed together for nigh on 6 years - we did not marry although the question was raised several times throughout our relationship - we never got round to it. My being Roman Catholic had never posed a problem - I would have converted to Judaism because I loved Danny - so it was not that which caused us to split up. I guess, looking back, the relationship had run its course and I, being 8 years his junior had grown up, I was no longer his little girl …

I am now the happiest I have ever been living with my 2 children in North Wales but I will never forget my first love - my very own Danny Boy!

Tom M, Charlotte, NC

I went to college with Glenn Hughes. He dropped out before finishing. He was an excellent tenor and one of the songs I remember him performing so well was "Danny Boy". I lost track of him for quite a while until I saw him taking tolls at one of the tunnels in NYC.

My younger sister purchased one of the original Village People albums. When I was looking at the back of the album, I recognized one of the names, Glenn Hughes. He was the "Leather Man"!

When they made the movie "Can't Stop the Music", Glenn sang "Danny Boy" as his audition song in the movie. Glenn passed in 2001 but his rendition still stands in my mind as an unheralded rendition of the song.

Paul D, Buckinghamshire

I am from county Derry, and have been living in England for 20 years where I work as a painter in a Buckinghamshire hospital.

I have never performed on stage but am quite a reasonable singer. By the grace of God I am a happy man and generally sing my way through the day around the hospital which has great acoustics. One day whilst working on the stairwell I was humming “Danny Boy” when a lady came to me and asked me with tear-filled eyes if I would come to her Irish mother who lay a-dying on the ward and sing “Danny Boy” - which I was more than happy to oblige. By coincidence I had just recorded myself singing “Danny Boy” the night before in my home studio so I gave it to the daughter who I later found out played it at her Mother’s funeral. It made me realise so poignantly just how much this song actually means to Irish people.

John C, Harlow

I am 47, live in Harlow, and teach media.

When my Mum met my Dad in the Galtymore in Cricklewood back in the early

fifties, he walked her home singing “Danny Boy”. When he died ten years ago, we had two inscriptions on his headstone. The first described him as 'The Quiet Man' as it was his favourite film.

At the foot of his headstone was this quote: ...'and all my grave will warmer, sweeter be, and you will bend and tell me that you love me, and I will sleep in peace until you come to me...' – lyrics from “Danny Boy”

Jim K, Ohio

As you might expect, I heard “Danny Boy” sung by my family at a very young age, I liked the song but didn't form any idea of its meaning until I was somewhat older, and it was the theme song for ‘The Danny Thomas Show’. At that time, outside of my surprise that Danny wasn't Irish, I felt it was about American Irish wanting to return home.

Then there was the revelation, and the tears, and I could see that this was a song about how I would feel some day when my own father would sing this to me from his grave. Even writing this floods my mind, and my eyes. Dad and I spent many a night listening to hundreds of songs from Ireland, and I never could make it through Danny Boy. When dad died, I listened to the old songs of Ireland and thought about my father.

Danny Boy gets into my religion, my heritage, my family. It gets into my heart and my mind. When I visit the cemetery, I do say an "Ave".

Nancy C, Cranberry Township, USA

This song was played at the end of the funeral Masses for my mother, father and two brothers and of course there was not a dry eye in the house. It has become a tradition for the end of the service.

Now it’s not unusual to hear “Danny Boy” around St. Patrick's Day and I have always been able to handle this, because I am expecting it. However, four years ago, there was a band concert at the school I work at. Suddenly they starting playing “Danny Boy”, I just broke down and started crying. Another teacher looked at me (also of Irish heritage) and said "Funerals? Go, I'll take your class". I gave a plea to the band teacher to forewarn me, in the future.

Theresa S, Derbyshire

Hi, my name is Theresa and the song “Danny Boy” is very special to me. My Dad was Irish and his name was Danny. I can remember when I was a child my Dad holding me in his arms and singing "Danny Boy" to me. This song was also one of my Mum's favourites. After my Dad passed away in 1976 this song had more emotion behind it for us as a family. I named my first child Danny after my Dad and "Danny Boy" was the song we played in church for my Mum's funeral in 2008. It is one of the greatest songs ever written and always brings a tear to my eye for many a reason.

J Conlon, England

My Da Daniel Patrick Joseph Conlon was born in Belfast in 1932 and came over here to England when he was 21 years of age as a boxer. He even sparred with one of the Kray twins! He married my mum shortly afterwards and he was the best Da you could ever wish for, his Irish sense of humour angered my mum in many ways but we thought he was a God. He sadly died very suddenly in 2006 of a massive heart attack. One of the funeral songs was “Danny Boy” as he loved that song - because it brought him back home. I miss him so much and will always remember our trips back to Belfast when we were little. I never want to forget that, so this song is extra poignant to us all.

Belinda Y

This song reminds me of my daddy Ollie Connelly who passed away three years ago. It was one of his favourite songs and he always sang it when we had any family gatherings. My cousin Heather sang it at his graveside the day we buried him. I will always think of him when I hear it as it reminds me of a lot of happy times. look forward to your program in the autumn.

Sam B, Surrey

'Danny Boy' means a lot to my family because it was played at my Nan’s funeral in 1998. She was from Listowel in Kerry and the song suited the way we all felt when she passed. We had a holiday booked to Zante for just after the funeral and we decided to go on it - unbelievably they played the song the first morning and we had to ask them to turn it off, but now when we hear it, it just brings fond memories.

Bill C, St Paul, USA

I first started singing “Danny Boy” back in 1962. I had only learned the first verse and, in my local pub, the pianist called on me as many as three times a night to sing it. I started resenting the song much as if my mother was calling me to the parlor to perform for her friends.

When my friend Pat and I started a band later that year, the song became a part of our regular repertoire.

A few years later, my friend Jack Hand (of Roscommon) passed away and his family asked if I would sing “Danny Boy” at his funeral. Jack was a special friend. We met through the local Irish American Club and I felt a special connection with him. At Irish American Club parties, I'd be asked to entertain and I can still hear Jack saying, "Don't get up there, Bill, they won't listen." I'd get up there anyway and, sure enough, they didn't listen. I thought it fitting that I should learn the full song in Jack's honor. Over the years, I sang this song at many funerals until the Catholic Church clamped down on non-liturgical songs at services; including for Jack's son-in-law Tom Casey, also from Ireland.

Almost all of the Irish bands in this area won't touch the song “Danny Boy”. Although I'm quite familiar with the origin of the song, I'm very happy to perform it. It's a song that people love to hear and a performer's job is to please the audience. I believe I've performed “Danny Boy” over 4,000 times in the past 50+ years. Each time, I think of Jack and Tom and the old days.

John W, Navan, County Meath

My father was a Liverpudlian Irishman. His parents were born in Ireland, but he was born in Liverpool, the youngest of 13 children. He was a sailor in the British Merchant Navy from his young teens. During the 2nd World war he met my mother who lived in Durban, South Africa and after the war they married and settled in South Africa, where I was born. “Danny Boy” was sacred to him and he sang it at many a party, with a tear in his eye.

In the late 1950’s I bought Conway Twitty’s version of “Danny Boy” (old 78 speed Bakelite record) and very proudly brought it home to play it for my Dad. He loved the start (it starts real slow …) and I saw him begin to smile, but then the smile turned to rage as the rock & roll kicked in. “Take that off at once!” he shouted “and if you EVER play that again I will break it”!!! I was devastated, as well as surprised, because my Dad was such a gentle man. He never shouted or lost his temper, so this was such a shock – but this is what Danny Boy meant to him. It was like it was his National Anthem.

My two youngest children (16 and 19) are singers (really good singers … ) and just this last weekend they were in a show where one of the songs was “Danny Boy”. I have to say, I struggled with the tears, as it was sung so beautifully and those days when my Dad used to sing it came flooding back to me. I could see him in my mind’s eye. “Danny Boy” now means as much to me today as it once did to my Father – but I have to ask for my Dad’s forgiveness, because I do still like Conway Twitty’s version also ….

Melissa B, Edinburgh

Wandering around Cork on holiday by myself in 1994, I came across a St. Catherine's Convent in Shandon and stopped to admire the garden. Being young and open to new experiences on holiday, I knocked on the door and enquired if it would be possible to have a look around - thinking it might be open to the public. The woman who answered, a nun, explained it was not.

As I walked back up the path, she called on me (she must have had a change of heart) and invited me in for a cup of tea and a scone. Her name was Sister Josephine.

Afterwards she kindly took me to the Church of Saint Anne, where I got a shot as 'bell toller' on the famous Shandon Bells. The song I played was 'Danny Boy'. At that point, my only reference to the song was knowing it was a favourite of my granddad’s - I had never actually heard the song before. Now when I hear it, I always think of Sister Josephine and Cork.

I still have a photo of me with the church in the background distance and also one of Sister Josephine in the convent gardens (as well as a set of rosary beads she gave me as a parting gift).