It was on the train from London to Inverness that I first started humming the famous ballad Danny Boy.
Mm m m mmmm, m mmmm, m mmmm m mm-m-mmmmm
The hum became a strum by the time I was driving from Inverness to Hopeman, the small fishing village where I lived for a year in 1975, which I had not visited since.
Driving along the main highway, carving through the wide gold fields of late summer, I began to raise my voice with the standard . . . Oh Danny Boy, the pipes the pipes are callin’ . . .
I ken, I ken, Danny Boy is widely credited with being an Irish song – others say otherwise, that it is Scottish and the confusion results from it being sung to an Irish tune.
What I do know is that it was written by an Englishman, and driving north for a homecoming that had been brewing for 37 years . . . from glen to glen and down the mountainside it was a Scottish song for me.
Hopeman. I was 16. 1975 was a year of intense friendship and living laughter.
The summer’s gone . . .
As I found my old friends, at first one by one and then a tidal flow, there was a name they all spoke first: Danny Main, a missing son from a village that hugs its sons and daughters close.
With urgency in their voice and tears in their eyes they would say in turn:
Do ye mind Danny Main . . .
Danny’s gone from us . . .
Danny’s nae longer here . . .
Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling . . .
Danny Main was older than the rest of us running wild on the streets of the village.
He must’ve been 18 at the time, tall and dark haired and beautiful, a fisherman’s son born for the sea.
From glen to glen and down the mountainside . . .
We all loved Danny.
He was kind.
He had patient, smiling eyes.
He had time for a word with all of us.
Come ye back when summer’s in the meadow . . .
Aye, I mind Danny Main.
And 10 years after his passing from the village, Danny is here still.
In sunshine and in shadow . . .
He is here on the eternal currents: wind and sea, hearts and minds, friends and family.
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy we love you so.