I saw a documentary on this song, [will try to post on this later] which has become a sort of secular anthem for anyone with Irish ancestry or those drunk enough to join in anyway. Something about it keeps niggling. Danny boy is going away in the autumn, being asked to come back in the spring. The historian in me cannot understand this. The pipes are calling – that suggests a battle. But battles are lost in winter. Nobody in their right mind would start a war at the end of the summer, when travel is impossible, and conditions in the open are… well, it just doesn’t make sense.
In my book on the masons who built Paris, they went to the city in the spring and returned in the winter, so it seems this person singing is not from Danny’s home, so what is going on here? Is the singer a mistress? In which case we should not sympathise with her.
Then yesterday I saw a broadcast from the Brtish Museum on their latest blockbuster exhibition, on the Vikings. They went to war in winter. Could Danny Boy have been setting off to plunder and pillage? Puts a totally different take on the song, doesn’t it?