Rory Dall O'Cahan, an Irish composer of the 17th century, is said to have heard fairies playing on his harp from which he composed a tune he named O'Cahan's Lament. Over time that tune became known as Londonderry Air.
In 1913 English lawyer Frederic Weatherly, a prolific song writer with more than 1500 lyrics to his credit, was introduced to the tune by his sister-in-law Margaret Weatherly who had been born in Ireland. On hearing the tune Weatherly was reminded of lyrics he had written in 1910 for another ballad which he proceeded to modify to fit the new tune.
The first public performance of Londonderry Air was by Elsie Griffin, an opera singer, who then went on to spread it among mass audiences. The ballad was first recorded by Ernestine Schumann-Heink in 1915.
While Weatherly, the author had never been to Ireland, today the song is the unofficial national anthem of that British island.
The ballad has been performed by artists ranging from Elvis Presley to Johnny Cash, Renee Fleming and the Morman Tabernacle Choir. It was sung at the funerals of President John F. Kennedy, Senator John McCain and countless numbers of first responders who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001.
When you have four minutes, please enjoy this version of the tune we know best as Danny Boy performed by Celtic Woman.