Background on the Original Song, Danny Boy by Frederic Weatherly
Frederic Weatherly Composer of Danny Boy“Danny Boy” is a ballad that was composed and scribed by Frederic Weatherly, a British songwriter in 1910 while he was living in Bath, Somerset. His sister-in-law, Margaret, who was born in Ireland, chose to sing Danny Boy to the tune of the Irish folksong, “Londonderry Air, instead of the tune which Weatherly had composed. There are other versions of this story in which she sent him a copy of the music for Londonderry Air and he rewrote the lyrics to fit the Irish Song. I like the first version better, and think it more likely, as women’s contributions were greatly downplayed in that era.
Original Post Date: September 15, 2017
Date Posted To This Site: October 8, 2021
Host(s): Founders Sing
News Source: Parody Project
The Londonderry Air was named after the county of Londonderry and the tune was collected by musicologist Jane Ross in the mid-1800s from a musician in that county. Ross passed the music on to George Petrie, who was a music collector, and he made it available to the Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland who published it in a book called The Ancient Music of Ireland. In the book, the tune was listed as an “anonymous air.”
The song, Danny Boy, newly set to Londonderry Air, might have languished unnoticed in Frederic Weatherly’s desk drawer had it not been for yet another woman, a famous vocalist of the day, Elsie Griffin. Elsie Griffin was born in Bristol, England, and in her youth was widely acclaimed as a child prodigy for her singing. During the Second World she became recognized for her participation in entertaining the British troops that were stationed in France. In that capacity she brought fame to at least two songs by Frederic Weatherly, “Danny Boy” and “Roses of Picardy.” In fact her renditions of those two songs made them two of the most popular numbers of that wartime era.
In a further boost to Weatherly’s success as a songwriter, In 1915, Ernestine Schumann-Heink produced the first recording of “Danny Boy,” on a double-sided 78 rpm shellac disc, which was the standard consumer music format from the early 1910s to the late 1950s.