1. Dirty Old Town
'I met my love by the gasworks wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
Dirty old town, dirty old town'
This song is unique in that the verses, as well as the chorus, lend themselves to a sing-along. Many people mistakenly presume that the Dirty Old Town in the lyrics refers to Dublin. The song was, in fact, written about the town of Salford, in England. I still can’t help picturing Dublin when I sing it though.
Maybe this is because the song was initially made popular by The Dubliners. Ronnie Drew, the lead singer, had a very strong Dublin accent. When they were singing it, they were most likely thinking of their home town of Dublin.
Well-known band, The Pogues, also released their own excellent version of this song in 1985.
Find out more about what there is to see and do in Dublin
2. Nancy Spain
‘Oh, where is the ring I gave...
to Nancy Spain?’
A good question, to be fair.
This song, written by a relatively unknown Irish songwriter Barney Rush, was adopted by Christy Moore — Ireland's answer to Bob Dylan — after hearing it being sung in a hotel on the island of Jersey, one night in 1969.
He said, "When I heard him sing Nancy Spain, I was instantly smitten by this beautiful song."
It wasn’t until 1976 though that Moore finally released his own version of the song. It has become a firm favourite ever since.
'No matter where I wander I'm still haunted
By your name
The portrait of your beauty stays the same
Standing by the ocean wondering where you've
Gone, if you'll return again
Where is the ring I gave to Nancy Spain'
3. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
One of the world's best known Irish songs that is not Irish!
Co-written by Irish-American, Chauncey Olcott, this song dates back over 100 years. It was brought into the modern era and made famous by Bing Crosby. His movie of the same name was released in 1944.
When Irish eyes are smiling
Sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing
4. Galway Girl
I lost my heart to a Galway Girl
Didn’t we all! Sure, have you met VagaGuide Denise!?
Another favourite Irish singalong song which happens to be written by an American. This one was penned by Steve Earle in 2007.
But Galway Girl only became famous when his friend Sharon Shannon performed it with Irish artist Mundy. Irish radio picked it up. Then Gerard Butler did a rendition in P.S. I Love You. The rest is history!
This version was filmed in the heart of Galway with what appears to be most of the population of the city!
Check out our recent blog all about Galway (and some of the other best cities in Ireland)
5. Summer in Dublin
I remember that summer in Dublin
And the Liffey as it stank like hell
And the young people walking on Grafton street
And everyone looking so well…
Pure magic, really. And definitely one of the best Irish songs to sing out loud!
Released in May 1980, Summer in Dublin was an overnight success. It catapulted the band Bagatelle into the spotlight. Songwriter Liam Reilly was living in Dublin at the time. He says the song just ‘flowed out onto the page’. We are very grateful it did.
This video includes the lyrics so you have no excuse not to sing-along.
Find out more about some popular day tours in Dublin.
6. Dicey Reilly
Oh poor old Dicey Reilly she has taken to the sup
Oh poor old Dicey Reilly she will never give it up
For it's off each morning to the pop
And then she's in for another little drop
For the heart of the rowl is Dicey Reilly
With its catchy clap-along chorus, this is an all-time favourite of many a VagaGuide on tour.
Dicey Reilly is an Irish traditional song about a woman who was, shall we say, a little too fond of the drink. She is forced to visit the ‘ pop’ (pawnshop) on a daily basis to get enough money for just one more 'little drop'.
Dicey Reilly was written by Dominic Behan and made famous by The Dubliners.
7. The Rocky Road to Dublin
One two three four five
Hunt the Hare and turn her down the rocky road
And all the way to Dublin, Whack fol lol le rah!
This epic ballad tells the tale of a young man who leaves his Galway home and makes his way on foot to Dublin, where he jumps on board a ship bound for Liverpool.
He has many adventures along the way, stopping for the occasional drink and eventually arriving in Dublin, where his ‘bundle it was stole’.
The Rocky Road to Dublin was written by DK Gavan in the mid 19th century. It was made popular by the unique voice of Luke Kelly, of The Dubliners fame.
Since then, The Rocky Road to Dublin has been covered by some other great artists, including The Pogues and The Rolling Stones.
8. The Ferryman (Strawberry Beds)
Where the strawberry Beds,
sweep down to the Liffey,
you'll kiss away the troubles from my brow
I love you well today
and I'll love you more tomorrow,
if you ever love me
Molly, love me now!
What a great chorus. Sure ya couldn’t but sing along to this one!
The song is a monologue by a former captain of a ferry on the River Liffey in Dublin. He is singing to his wife, Molly, as he contemplates the implications of his unemployment. But all is not lost. With Molly by his side, he remains positive.
But Molly we're still living and darling we're still young
And that river never owned me, heart and soul
9. City of Chicago
To the City of Chicago,
As the evening shadows fall,
There are people dreaming,
Of the hills of Donegal.
Once you see the hills of Donegal for yourself on a Vagabond or Driftwood tour of Ireland you will understand what he is singing about. City of Chicago is a sad song detailing the immigration of thousands of Irish to North America during the Great Famine of the mid 19th century.
The song was released by Christy Moore in 1984 on his hit album Ride On.
They spread throughout the nation,
Rode the railroad cars,
Brought their songs and music,
To ease their lonely hearts.
10. The Voyage
Life is an ocean, love is a boat
In troubled waters, it keeps us afloat,
When we started the voyage
There was just me and you,
Now look around us,
We have our own crew
Some songs are written from the heart and this is certainly one of them. Written by Singer-songwriter Johnny Duhan. He was unsure of his own vocal capabilities so he offered it to the Christy Moore who recorded his own version in 1989.
Johnny said that the chorus of the song came to him out the blue and affected him tremendously. Mainly because he felt that it got to the nub of what family life is ultimately about - the children.
So there you have it, happy singing!