John McCain came home to his Scots Irish roots in August 2018 at the National Cathedral when, as per his request, Grammy-winning opera singer Renée Fleming performed a rendition of “Danny Boy.”

Arizona Republican Senator, John McCain, requested that Fleming sing the Irish song, according to her manager, Dannielle Thomas. 

"She is very honored," Thomas said, ahead of the service. "It's going to be a beautiful service."

In his autobiography, "Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir," Sen. McCain said that he is a descendant of Hugh Young. Young had come to the U.S. from County Antrim in the 18th century and settled in Virginia. Two generations earlier, Young's family had arrived in Ireland from Scotland. The family was Presbyterians, however, McCain identified as a Baptist.

McCain never forgot those roots when it came to the Irish and was very active in seeking immigration legislation to allow more Irish into America. He even had a "No Irish Need Apply" sign given to him by a staffer in his office,

The Ulster Family Heritage magazine wrote in October 2008 that, "The McCains are native to Counties Donegal and Antrim originally, but are now dispersed and are also found in Counties Derry, Tyrone, and Dublin."  

Danny Boy is an Ulster-connected song, also known as the “Londonderry Air.”

The original air is believed by some to date back to Rory Dall O'Cahan, an Irish harpist who lived in Scotland in the late 17th century, while the lyrics as we know and love them today were penned by a British barrister and prolific songwriter, Frederick Edward Weatherly.

Weatherly’s sister-in-law, an Irish immigrant, first heard the air while visiting a silver mining camp in Colorado. She overheard Irish miners singing the tune.

She sent the air back to her brother-in-law who combined it with the lyrics he had written and the rest is history.

John McCain is just one of the millions who thought the song cast a wonderful spell.

"Danny Boy" lyrics:

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

'Tis you, 'tis 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

'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow

Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so

But when he 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, tho' soft you tread above me

And all my grave will warm and sweeter be

For you will bend and tell me that you love me

And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

What is your favorite version of "Danny Boy?" Let us know in the comments section, below.

History facebook
IrishCentral History

Love Irish history? Share your favorite stories with other history buffs in the IrishCentral History Facebook group.