Written in the version as we know it now, the words were set to the traditional Irish air “Moreen” by the poet Thomas Moore sometime after 1798. There is the thought that it was written to commemorate Thomas Moore’s three friends who had died, in prison, by hanging after capture and after wounding respectively, while taking part in the United Irishmen 1798 rebellion and had also been students with him while at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The song immediately caught on and travelled with many Irishmen to America in the mid-1800s and was taken with them when they fought in the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. Another verse was tacked on to it but who wrote it has not been discovered.
In 1947 the composer Leroy Anderson wrote his arrangement of Irish tunes called Irish Suite and this song became the second movement. His version has been described as “a slow march” with sounds of “distant trumpets and drums” and other versions are often performed by fife and drum corps.
Boston Pops Orchestra recordings
RCA 60746-2-RG (CD: Irish Night at the Pops)
Conductor – Arthur Fiedler
Eastman-Rochester Pops Orchestra recordings
Mercury 434 376-2 (CD: Fennell Conducts the Music Of Leroy Anderson and Eric Coates)
Conductor – Frederick Fennell
Richard Hayman and His Orchestra recordings
Naxos 8.555016 (CD: Irish Rhapsody)
Naxos 8.990018 (CD: Irish Rhapsody)
Rochester Pops recordings
Pro-Arte CDD-454 (CD: Classical Jukebox: More Favourites of Leroy Anderson)
Conductor – Newton Wayland