Down by the
is an Irish
folk song. The lyrics were written by W.B. Yeats in 1889.
William Butler Yeats (13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)
was an Irish poet, dramatist, mystic and public figure, brother
of the artist Jack Butler Yeats and son of John Butler Yeats. He
signed his works W. B. Yeats. Yeats, though born to an
Anglo-Irish mother and father, was perhaps the primary driving
force behind the Irish Literary Revival and was co-founder of
the Abbey Theatre. Yeats also served as an Irish Senator. He was
awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923 for what the Nobel
Committee described as "his always inspired poetry, which in a
highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole
The verse was
subsequently set to music by Herbert Hughes to the air
Maids of the Mourne Shore
(1882 – 1937) was an Irish composer, music critic and collector
of folk songs.
He was born and
brought up in Belfast, Ireland, but completed his formal music
education at the Royal College of Music, London, graduating in
1901. Subsequently he worked as a music critic most notably for
The Daily Telegraph
from 1911 to 1932.
having an “ardent and self-confident manner”, Hughes is first
heard of in an Irish musical capacity (beyond being honorary
organist at St Peter’s Church on the Antrim Road at the age of
fourteen) collecting traditional airs and transcribing folk
songs in North Donegal in August 1903 with his brother Fred, F.J.
Bigger, and John Campbell. Dedicated to seeking out and
recording such ancient melodies as were yet to be found in the
remoter glens and valleys of Ulster, he produced in 1904
with Joseph Campbell, illustrated by his brother John and paid
for by Bigger.
encouraged by Bigger, and in collaborations with the poets
Joseph Campbell and Padraic Colum (met at Bigger's house
and Yeats himself, Hughes arranged and produced three celebrated
Irish songs that have and will long outlast his memory,
She Moved Through the Fair and Down By The Sally Gardens. A
dispute with Hamilton Harty over related copyright was on
Bigger’s advice never pursued.