THEY say the tune originated with an Irish harpist called Blind Rory in the 16th century when it was known as the Air From County Derry.

But the words that made it the Irish anthem Danny Boy were not added until 1913 – and they were written by Englishman Frederic Weatherly.

The 100th anniversary of the song has just been celebrated by a performance of massed choirs in the City of Derry-Londonderry which is the European City of Culture for 2013.

In the 100 years since it was written it has been adopted worldwide as the iconic song for the whole of the Emerald Isle and is often performed with a tear in the eye and emotion in the heart – particularly by Americans whose Irish heritage has been lost in the mists of time.

It has been recorded by artists as diverse as Gracie Fields, Conway Twitty and Barney O’Shamrock (and, yes, he really exists). It was a favourite of Elvis Presley and was performed at his funeral.

The tune is The Londonderry Air, a name which, in the past, might have caused political friction. The city itself was known as Derry until 1635 when James I gave it a Royal Charter and the London guilds moved in to rebuild it as a trading centre. Thus, for almost the last 400 years, the city has been known as Londonderry.

Politics, religion and nationalist ambitions mean half its population have always called it Derry and half give it its full British title. In recent years, locals have become ambivalent. The airport, for instance, is the City of Derry International. Derry City Council’s website is

Is it too much to hope that the shared culture of Ireland could be celebrated rather than the differences highlighted in Belfast as riots over the flying of the union flag threaten the peace process. It would be nice to think the power of Irish music that will pour out from Northern Ireland’s City of Culture could help soothe and pacify the new troubles.