Oh Danny Boy


Oh Danny Boy

I don’t know why my parents named me Dan, other than my mother shared with me once that it was the name she preferred.  My father wanted to name me Patrick.  She never explained why she preferred it.  But, I do remember watching the Lawrence Welk show with my parents when I was young and hearing Joe Feeney, the Irish tenor sing Oh, Danny Boy.  My mother always hummed along with tears welling up in her eyes.  I remember that seeing those tears made me feel warm, sad, lonesome and loved all at the same time.  My mother passed away on Christmas Eve 1979.

Over the years of course, I have heard many other people sing Oh Danny Boy – usually on or around St. Patrick’s Day.  Hearing the song is as much a sign of spring as the chirping of the freshly returned robin.  To this day when I hear the song it is always a moment to pause and remember my mother, the fact that the song made her cry, and also the knowledge that she chose that name for me.  I find that the song still makes me feel warm, sad, lonesome and loved all at the same time.     

The song, of course, is vintage Ireland.  My mother certainly had a large dose of Irish blood as her mother was first generation American.  My grandmother’s parents both came from Ireland to the United States.  I strongly suspect that my mother’s Irish roots certainly played a role in her fondness for the song, and her fondness for the name Dan.  

Several years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Ireland.  The tour was a pilgrimage that focused on holy and religious sites, but even so, I don’t believe a single day passed without us hearing someone sing Oh, Danny Boy.  It is an apparent requirement of anyone with a microphone and an audience in Ireland to sing that song.  Obviously the Irish, and most people throughout the world, immediately recognize it as an Irish song – a national treasure even. 

It was in hearing so many renditions while in Ireland that I was struck by the fact that the song is equally moving whether it is sung by a man or a woman.  Maybe that comes from the ongoing debate about the song’s meaning.  Some say that the song is a ballad of longing of a parent for their child – the son either having gone off to war, or perhaps he was one of the millions who fled the country in the Great Hunger that Ireland suffered in the mid-1800’s.  Regardless of the cause of separation, if appreciated as written from a parent’s perspective, it is understandable why it can appeal whether sung by a male or female voice.  Others propose that it is a song of the separation of lovers.  Whether of patriotism or unique personal relationship, whether of child or lover, the song certainly sings of the trust in the hearts of believers that love is stronger than even death; love is eternal.

Even though my mother chose the name, it was my father who actually called me Danny.  My father was a man who struggled to express his affection in any other way.  I can’t recall him in the 26 years we shared ever saying that he loved me, or a hug, or saying that he was proud of me.  So, his calling me “Danny” will always be our special connection.  That’s why, to this day, whenever anyone else has tried to refer to me that way, I always correct them: “Only my father called me Danny.”  

My parents have both been gone many, many years now, but I regularly visit the place where they are lying; I kneel, I pray an Ave for them.  Kneeling there, I sense again that love truly is stronger than separation; love is stronger than even death.  In my heart I can hear, “Oh Danny boy, Oh Danny boy, I love you so.” And my mother softly humming along.  I love them too. 

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.
The summer's gone, and all the roses falling,
It's you, it's you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,
It's I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh, Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so!

But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
You'll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!

His Peace <><

Deacon Dan

Photo by Autumn Martin on Unsplash

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash