Life of local man behind song that Ireland loves so.
A much loved, emotive and seemingly-timeless song, Danny Boy has, over the past century, touched the hearts of millions. The Irish, whether from Ulster or the Republic, have claimed it as their own. Yet few are aware of the song's origins, of how West Country lawyer and lyricist Fred Weatherly linked his words to a traditional melody and created a song for the Irish nation. In a fascinating and insightful new book, the author's great grandson, Anthony Mann, tells the story behind the song, based upon as-yet-unpublished family letters and papers
The Bristol Post - Tuesday, July 02, 2013
Writing of Danny Boy left family broken
As one of the most loved songs of the 20th century Danny Boy has touched the hearts of millions. But as Cathal McGuigan finds out the famous ballad caused a major rift within the family of the man who penned the song. DESPITE a long association with Ireland Danny Boy was penned by English lawyer and lyricist Frederic Weatherly. However according to a new book written by Weatherly's great grandson Anthony Mann a key contributor to the much-loved song Danny Boy has been overlooked. For while Weatherly wrote the lyrics in 1910 he struggled to find the right melody for the song. Mann claims he has uncovered information which shows that Weatherly's sister-in-law finally introduced him to the tune he was looking for. Margaret Enright, an Irish American known as Jess, was married to Frederic's brother Eddie and sang the traditional Londonderry Air to Weatherly while visiting his home in 1912. Weatherly shaped the lyrics to the tune and published Danny Boy soon after. It quickly became one of the world's most popular songs. However according to Mann Frederic never acknowledged Jess's contribution, which caused a major division in the family. "Jess, who resented for the rest of her life the fact that Fred had taken this melody and made it his own, went on (with Eddie) to die in poverty while Fred enjoyed both fame and wealth," said Mann. Mann, a psychiatrist and former Professor at the University of London, has published a new book In Sunshine and in Shadow: The Family Story of Danny Boy, telling the story behind the song; based on unpublished papers and letters. He said he hopes it will also help recognise Jess's contribution to the song and the "neglected Irish link". "I have decided to publish this story primarily to set the record straight about Danny Boy but also, hopefully, to interest others in my journey," he said. "I have gained great pleasure from this family research and hope others might get the same from the results." Mann uncovered the story of the song's composition while on a trip to the US to research the Weatherly family. "Ten years ago, I began to research their lives and visited Colorado where Fred's brother Eddie had emigrated to make his fortune as a silver miner," he added. "While there I was told that there may be some boxes of Weatherly papers lodged in the archives of the University at Boulder. "I uncovered in these boxes, archived in 1936 and unexamined since, contemporaneous information about Fred, his family and about the struggles in the Depression of those in the family who had emigrated to the USA." Mann said he hopes a mass choir singing a rendition of Danny Boy in Derry on June 21 to celebrate its City of Culture status will take on board the new information. Mann said: "I hope those taking part will sing with added emotion as they will know now of this neglected Irish link to its creation." Danny Boy, first published in 1913, has been covered by some of the biggest names in music including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Eva Cassidy and Sinead O'Connor. Irish boxer Barry McGuigan's father Pat also be-came known for singing the song in the ring before many of his son's big fights. ■ In Sunshine and in Shadow: The Family Story of Danny Boy is available now to buy and download from Amazon. For more information visit the book's official website: www.dannyboystory.com. ■ WRITER: Frederic Weatherly, an English lawyer wrote the words to Danny Boy. However a new book shows that the finding the right tune to go with the famous ballad caused a family rift ■ VERSIONS: Pat McGuigan would sing Danny Boy before his son Barry's, pictured below, fights. Some of the other well-known singers who have recorded the song are Eva Cassidy, left, then from bottom right to left, Elvis Presley, Sinead O'Connor and Johnny Cash
Good biographies and family stories share one particularity: the deeper they go into the private, the unique and the singular, the closer they get to the universality of the human condition. That is, perhaps, one of the traits that lure so many readers towards the genre. “In Sunshine and in Shadow”, by Anthony Mann, is such a book, and has many boons on its account that will entice different readers for several reasons. First of all, Dr.Mann is the great grandson of Fred Weatherly (the author of Danny Boy’s lyrics), which gives him first hand access to a number of family secrets. Second, as a psychiatrist, he has privileged insight into the motivations of the characters of his tale: it allows us to read not only the small letters of the contracts, but – specially and delightfully – the unspoken words… The third reason that makes this book so interesting is the most important of all: the raw courage of Dr.Mann to expose all of this in a critical and honest way. Many biographers could say they abide by the Biblical saying according to ‘whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open’, but most biographers do not perform this ‘exploratory surgery’ on themselves. And even those who write about their own lives usually lack the cunning perception, the scientific method and the selflessness displayed by Anthony Mann. The key subject of the book is that the music of Danny Boy was provided by Fred Weatherly’s sister in law, Jess, who sent him the Londonderry Air – which was publically acknowledged by Fred. However, Mr.Weatherly enjoyed the fame (and royalties) of one the most popular songs in English language, while Jess and his husband Eddie died in poverty as a silver miners in Colorado. It is acknowledged that Fred Weatherly helped Eddie and Jess several times with loans and scanty donations, but with his death in 1929, that allowance was discontinued, since neither Jess or Eddie were mentioned in Fred’s will. The material issues of the Weatherly family and the turmoil of both American and British economies during the first half of the 20th century stand as a background to the human aspects of the negotiations and power games surrounding the song and those involved with it. Secrets of mental illness involving members of an aristocratic family offer a glimpse of the social perception of Psychiatric disorders (and the scarce possibilities of treating them) during that period. Not many people could discuss such a broad number of subjects in the same book, and it’s precisely that sort of knowledge that makes Dr. Mann the perfect storyteller for the journey of Danny Boy. Now you can pour yourself a cup of tea and feel like you’re listening to an old friend as he digs through his box of family memoires, revealing himself and the stories behind a song you though you knew. After all, a tune proudly sung by every Irish, written by a British man, with music provided by an Irish-American silver miner could not have a less than fascinating story.
Julio Xerfan, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Brazil (For international journal of social psychiatry)
As Reader in Psychiatry based at the Royal
Free Hospital, London and later as Professor
of Epidemiological Psychiatry at the Institute of
Psychiatry in London, Anthony Mann had a
huge influence upon a large number of trainee
psychiatrists,many of whom have had distinguished
subsequent careers across the spectrum from Child
and Adolescent to Old Age Psychiatry.
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