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Danny Boy: The Ballad That Bewitched The World

Danny Boy: The Ballad That Bewitched The World, on RT One on Monday 11th November, unravels the enigma behind the songs astonishing success and shows how the tune played a part in some of the key historical moments of the last century.

The documentary explains how the song was created when Fred Weatherly, an English barrister who had never set foot in Ireland, added lyrics to an ancient Irish melody, The Londonderry Air. It was a perfect match. The royalties of DANNY BOY made Fred Weatherly a very wealthy man, but his sister-in-law, who first introduced Fred to the tune, wasnt so fortunate.

DANNY BOY became an anthem for troops during World War 1 before being adopted by Irish-American communities in the 1920s. By the 1940s, the song had moved into the dazzling world of Hollywood musicals, but also resonated on the streets of black America. DANNY BOY comforted Elvis when he was a GI in Germany stationed thousands of miles from home, while country artists like Johnny Cash recognised that it was a heartbreak classic.

During the Troubles, Barry McGuigans father Pat sang DANNY BOY at Barrys 1985 world title fight, where it was seen as a unifying anthem, bridging the divide between the two communities. By the late 20th century, it had virtually become a secular hymn and although some Catholic dioceses banned it during funerals, this was ignored after 9/11, when DANNY BOY helped New Yorkers to grieve.

Producer of the programme, Patricia Moore from Tyrone Productions, said; Because 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of DANNY BOY, it was the perfect time to make this documentary and bring this much-loved songs epic story to viewers. When we started making the documentary, we discovered the impact DANNY BOY has had on the lives of millions of people it seems that everyone has a DANNY BOY moment.

As DANNY BOY reaches its 100th birthday in 2013, its appeal remains deep. Vivid archive footage of world-renowned artists including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jackie Wilson and Harry Belafonte shows how this iconic song has crossed all music genres, while contributors including GABRIEL BYRNE, MALACHY McCOURT, BARRY MCGUIGAN, ROSANNE CASH, JIM SHERIDAN, BRIAN KENNEDY and Fr BRIAN DARCY explain why DANNY BOY is one of the greatest tunes of all time, still much-loved 100 years after its birth.

Danny Boy: The Ballad That Bewitched The World is a co-production for RTÉ and BBC NI made by independent production company Tyrone Productions.

Quotes from contributors:

Jim Sheridan, film director:

DANNY BOY has mystery and thats a great thing for a song to have.

Gabriel Byrne, actor:

DANNY BOY comes out of the past, and you know its going to go on forever.

Brian Kennedy, singer-songwriter:

Theres something about the lyric of DANNY BOY. Its so personal yet universal and it sounds like its absolutely speaking to the centre of you.

Malachy McCourt, actor and writer:

The tune is so evocative and the words that Weatherly put to the tune evoke a sense of longing.

Barry McGuigan, former boxing world champion:

The song is both uplifting and melancholic its probably the greatest ballad ever written.

Danny Boy: The Ballad That Bewitched The World
  • RTÉ One, Monday 11th November, 9.35pm