Londonderry Air

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fr:A Londonderry Air

The Londonderry Air is an anthem of Ireland, especially Northern Ireland. It is also popular among the Irish diaspora.

The air was collected by Jane Ross of Limavady, County Londonderry, and was first published in book form by the Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland in 1855 in The Ancient Music of Ireland produced by George Petrie, in which it was listed as an anonymous air.

Many different lyrics have been set to the music. The most popular are Danny Boy ("Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling") written by the English lawyer, Frederick Edward Weatherly, in 1910 and set to the tune in 1913. The words are a love song of a woman to a man, though they are often mistakenly taken to be a call to arms, or a rebel song.

The first lyrics to be sung to the music were, almost certainly, The Confession of Devorgilla , otherwise known as "Oh! shrive me, father".

The tune was first called Londonderry Air in 1894 when Katherine Tynan Hinkson set the words of her Irish Love Song to it:

Would God I were the tender apple blossom
That floats and falls from off the twisted bough
To lie and faint within your silken bosom
Within your silken bosom as that does now.
Or would I were a little burnish'd apple
For you to pluck me, gliding by so cold
While sun and shade you robe of lawn will dapple
Your robe of lawn, and you hair's spun gold.
Yea, would to God I were among the roses
That lean to kiss you as you float between
While on the lowest branch a bud uncloses
A bud uncloses, to touch you, queen.
Nay, since you will not love, would I were growing
A happy daisy, in the garden path
That so your silver foot might press me going
Might press me going even unto death.

See also:

The definitive research on the tune is the following; Audley, B. 'The Provenance of the Londonderry Air'. Journal of the Royal Musical Society. Oxford University Press. vol. 125. part 2. pp205-247. 2000.

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