The EPIC untold story behind Fairytale of New York
It’s that time of year. Trees are up, decorations are twinkling and halls are being decked. Christmas FM is on the radio, carolers are at the door, and bells are starting to ring out for Christmas Day.
Did you know that The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York was released 36 years ago?
It’s the quintessential Irish Christmas classic, a global anthem about Irish emigration that has over 325M listens on Spotify and 87M views on Youtube. ‘Fairytale’ has been officially recognised (by PLL) as ‘the most played Christmas song of the 21st century’.
In the chorus, Shane MacGowan has a standout lyric on which most listeners join in: “…the boys of the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay…”. While people all over the world belt out that line, very few realise there has never been an NYPD choir, so none have ever sang Galway Bay…
As champions of Irish emigrants the world over, we decided to bring this famed line to life, to help tell the story behind Galway Bay, another timeless Irish classic, penned by another Irish emigrant Dr. Arthur Colahan as a tribute to his homeland and his brother.
Last month, we assembled a handful of retired NYPD officers, who together with a local amateur choir, lent their voices to the beloved ‘Galway Bay’ in a Brooklyn recording studio.
The result, we hope you’ll agree is a breathtaking rendition of ‘Galway Bay’, which will be shared with and reach the Irish around the world, wherever they might be spending Christmas this year.
Merry Christmas, from everyone at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum.
Watch on YouTube
MEET THE MAN WHO WROTE GALWAY BAY
Galway Bay, a song of longing, remains enchanting, drawing visitors from across the globe to the City of the Tribes. However, the creator of this beloved song has sadly faded into obscurity within his cherished Galway.
Born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Nicholas Arthur Colohan was eldest child of Professor Nicholas Colahan (1853–1930) and Elisabeth (Lizzie) Quinn of Limerick (born c.1866).
His family moved to Galway, and he grew up there. After completing his secondary education in Galway, he enrolled at University College Dublin in 1900, did an Arts degree then studied medicine. He began his medical career in the County Infirmary in Galway, and then moved to Holles Street maternity hospital. As the spectre of war loomed, he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps and suffered severe effects from mustard gas exposure in India. Following the war, he established himself in Leicester, dedicating the remainder of his career to becoming a specialist in neurology.
Among his diverse interests, music held a special place, and he took pleasure in playing the piano. He crafted several original songs, including ‘Asthoreen Bawn,’ ‘The Kylemore Pass,’ and ‘The Claddagh Ring.’ His most renowned composition, ‘Galway Bay,’ emerged in 1927, and was popularised by Bing Crosby, becoming the biggest selling record of all time at one stage.