This article features the less well known song called Galway Bay, the one performed by the Irish singer Dolores Keane.
This version was written by Frank Fahy and is sometimes known as The Old Galway Bay, or My Own Dear Galway Bay.
Click here the other Galway Bay, the one written by Arthur Colahan and made famous by Bing Crosby and various pop and country singers.
Great old song but little known outside Galway
This fine old song has been around for about 100 years but wasn’t very well known outside Ireland until it was taken up by the Irish singer Dolores Keane.
Keane was born the village of Sylane in County Galway, not far from the famous bay and so she is well acquainted with both the song and the area. She still lives in Galway.
An emigrant looks back to Ireland
Like its more famous counterpart, Fahy’s Galway Bay is told from the viewpoint of an Irish emigrant living abroad and looking back to his youth in Ireland.
It’s less sentimental than the better known version and has none of the Irish cliché scenes of turf fires and barefoot children. For this reason, it is more popular with Irish musicians and singers.
Lyrics give a personal statement of regret
Fahy came from Galway and his song is like a personal statement from a man who wishes he had never had to leave. The song is told from the point of view of an old man who expects to die soon but wishes to give his blessing to all those back home.
The lyrics not only sing the praises of Galway and Ireland but they also suggest regret at ever leaving.
The singer reflects that if his youthful “heart of fire” could be restored to him once more, if he could have his time again, then he would never leave Galway. He would be “content with whatever God sent” as long as he could stay in his homeland.
Galway Bay strikes a chord with many emigrants
Those are sentiments that would have struck a chord with many of the millions of Irish people who had to emigrate to countries like America, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Hardly any of them returned but they kept their longing for the “old country” and in many cases that empathy with Ireland was passed down to their children, grandchildren and beyond.
Many of those descendants can remember the sacrifices made by their Irish ancestors and can still relate to the sentiments in Galway Bay.
Lyrics set to old Irish melodies
The lyrics to Galway Bay were originally set to an old Irish folk tune that was also used in the song Skibbereen, which is also about a person having to emigrate from Ireland.
Later it was set to another old Irish tune which was also used in the Australian song The Wild Colonial Boy, about the legendary Irish/Australian outlaw Jack Duggan.
This is the melody used by Dolores Keane in her version, shown here.
Lyrics and chords