Oh Danny Boy. . . the councillors are calling

The Jane Ross plaque. 1701SJ55
The Jane Ross plaque. 1701SJ55

From Elvis Presley to Johnny Cash, the world famous ‘Danny Boy’ has been sung by some of the biggest stars in showbusiness.

Hollywood heart throb George Clooney opened the pilot episode of the long running US hit medical drama, ER, with it, while The King, the ‘Man in Black’ and even ‘The Muppets’ made it their own. Search for it on Google and within three seconds 8.3 million results pop up.

Now, one local councillor in Limavady believes it’s time the Roe Valley cashed in on its famous link with the haunting tune, and have it played everyday, at the same time, from the town’s Arts and Cultural Centre.

“We have a product here in Limavady - Danny Boy - that is known all over the world and really I still think we should have it played everyday, out over the town centre,” said Sinn Fein Anne Brolly, who at one time recorded the tune with husband Francie. Colr. Brolly said the idea was first mentioned by former, long-time SDLP Colr. Michael Carten and herself and now it was time to re-visit it.

“Anyone who is anybody, and even a nobody like myself, has sung it. Londonderry Air, Derry Air, Danny Boy, whatever you prefer to call it, we are not capitalising on it the way we should,” she said.

Colr. Brolly’s proposal - that all the different versions of Danny Boy from various artists would be played - stirred quite a debate.

The SDLP’s Michael Coyle said it wasn’t just as easy as playing the tune, there was the issue of performing rights, but Colr. Brolly was confident it wouldn’t be a problem, or expensive.

“I propose we go ahead and get it checked out,” she said. “It won’t cost us a fortune and, anyway, what we have here is priceless.”

DUP Colr. Alan Robinson questioned the logistics of it and asked would there be somebody standing with a ghetto blaster playing it, while UU Colr. Jack Rankin cautioned about music being played before in the town and the complaints that resulted.

But Sinn Fein’s Brenda Chivers jumped in to defend Colr. Brolly, stating: “We have a product that we don’t cash in on at all.”

Adding to the lively debate, DUP Colr. James McCorkell thought it was a good idea, but suggested limiting it to during the tourist season, instead of all year round, and using local talent from school choirs to record their version and have it played.

Taking a different view on the debate, SDLP Colr. Gerry Mullan said he was bemused by the proposal, claiming the opportunity to name the new civic centre after Danny Boy had been wasted. Referring to former English MP Michael Portillo and his recent positive comments about Danny Boy, he said Mr Portillo should have been speaking on the steps of the new arts centre.

TUV Colr. Boyd Douglas wasn’t impressed with the proposal and accused councillors of “going over the top” with it and said the correct name was The Londonderry Air, not Danny Boy.

However, Colr. Coyle, who was chairing the meeting, brought things back on an even footing and said no matter what it was called: “There is an opportunity and it’s world famous. Colr. Anne is quite right, there is an opportunity here, but we need to be careful as there are other things we need to investigate.”

Jumping back into the debate, Colr. Brolly said: “It would be a wee bit like the Angelus, playing it once a day at the same time each day. Bringing the schools on board, as Colr. James said, is a good idea.”

But Colr. Douglas still thought it was too much and said if a version of the tune was available to buy in the Arts Centre and tell the story that would be enough.

“They can purchase it there,” he said.

But Colr Mullan wasn’t finished and fired back: “To say we have overplayed Danny Boy is absolutely ridiculous. Every famous artist has sung it world wide, and yet we can’t even name our own civic centre after it!”

In the end, it was agreed the poposal would be investigated and the findings brought back to councillors.