21 Irish Funeral Songs

Though it doesn’t take the pain away, it helps to know others have gone through similar hardships. Whether you’re Irish or not, these Irish funeral songs can provide some comfort during difficult times. Here are some beautiful Irish ballads to honor your loved ones and help you feel less alone.

1. “Danny Boy” covered by Jim McCann

Song Year: 2008 (cover), 1910 (original)

“Danny Boy” is probably the most well-known Irish ballad. It wasn’t inherently a funeral song but has become one over time. You can’t deny how powerfully the conveyed emotions (longing, grief, heartbreak, love) speak to your heart no matter who is singing it.

The song was originally written by Frederic Weatherly. There are varying ideas about who he wrote it for and why. The uncertainty leaves more room for you to apply it to your own circumstances.

2. “The Parting Glass” covered by Liam Clancy

Song Year: 1959 (cover), 1605 (original)

“The Parting Glass” is a song full of sadness, joy, respect, and camaraderie. The singer looks back over their life, the good and the bad. They decided it was enjoyable overall thanks to decent friends, good lovers, and great comrades.

The underlying message is not to be too sad for them because they had a quality life. The singer also bids farewell to others who left before them. We feel sorry for everyone who left but also happy about the time we spent together.

3. “Carrickfergus” covered by VOCES8, Sibéal

Song Year: 2019 (cover), 1965 (original)

Many people have covered “Carrickfergus” since Dominic Behan wrote the modern song in 1965. This cover feels especially appropriate for a funeral, though. It’s a slower acapella version that lets you get lost in the singers’ voices and lyrics. It’s profoundly beautiful and moving.

The singer would do anything to return to their love. They want to experience happiness from before but know it’s no longer possible. There’s no resolution for this grief, but sometimes just saying it aloud can help.

4. “May the Road Rise To Meet You” covered by Celtic Thunder

Song Year: 2022 (cover)

“May the Road Rise To Meet You” is a traditional Irish/Gaelic blessing or poem. This blessing-turned-song talks about having a safe, happy journey. That journey applies to both life and death.

The sentiment behind it is the desire for God to take care of someone and keep them safe. Wishing for someone to have a “risen road” means you don’t want there to be any mountains or other obstacles. It’s a very poetic way to let them know you care.

5. “She Moved Through the Fair” covered by Sinead O’Connor

Song Year: 1997 (cover), 1909 (original)

“She Moved Through the Fair” is a traditional Irish folk song by Padraic Colum and Herbert Hughes. The song is about a man watching his lover walk away from him at a fair. She gives him what appears to be good news about their upcoming marriage.

The whole song is filled with melancholy and longing, though. The man loses sight of his lover and then quite literally loses her. Depending on how you interpret the lyrics, he may be joining her soon enough.

6. “Raglan Road” by Luke Kelly

Song Year: 1971

“Raglan Road” is a song that comes from a poem written by Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh. The poem is titled after Raglan Road in Dublin. It’s about a person who sees a beautiful woman walking. The speaker fears they’ll eventually regret trying to love the woman but does it anyway.

It’s better to regret the things you did rather than the things you didn’t. “Raglan Road” is a very Irish song, and Luke Kelly is a very Irish man.

7. “May It Be” by Enya

Song Year: 2001

Enya originally wrote “May It Be” for the first The Lord of the Rings movie. The lyrics are just as beautiful as her voice. It feels a lot like a traditional Irish blessing. The singer wishes for you to persevere and find your way home.

The melody is sad and a bit haunting, but it’s also full of hope. The lyrics say darkness has come but also that darkness has fallen. It makes sense why this song became a traditional Irish funeral song.

8. “The Mountains of Mourne” covered by Don McLean

Song Year: 1973 (cover), 1896 (original)

Percy French and Houston Collisson wrote “The Mountains of Mourne” about the Irish diaspora. The song is a message to the singer’s lover at home. It compares the superfluous city life in London to the simple country life in Ireland.

The singer would rather be home with his love, but he can’t go there now. There’s a physical separation that creates sadness, nostalgia, and yearning. These same feelings come up when we lose someone we love.

9. “Celtic Song of Farewell” covered by Catherine O’Connell

Song Year: 2002

The song “Celtic Song of Farewell” was adapted from an Irish blessing/poem. It sounds like a prayer for God to send angels to guide you in your journey to Heaven. The singer wants you to have a grand welcoming party. They want you to feel happy and at peace for all of eternity.

It’s a beautiful, loving sentiment. Sometimes, we want these things for others, but we forget to say them out loud. It’s nice to simply acknowledge it.

10. “You Raise Me Up” covered by Celtic Woman

Song Year: 2010 (cover), 2002 (original)

Irish lyricist Brendan Graham wrote this powerful ballad in 2002. The vocals of every cover are incredible. You can interpret the lyrics as being about God and religion, or just about the love of others. Both of these ideas provide comfort during trying times.

If you’re religious, it’s a good reminder that God will care for you even on dark days. If you aren’t religious, it’s a good reminder that you aren’t alone. The love of others can ease all our burdens.

11. “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” by Brendan Graham

Song Year: 1997

“Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” is another extremely moving song by Irish lyricist Brendan Graham. It’s not specifically about death, but it is about loss. The lyrics tell the story of a young Irish girl immigrating to New York.

She doesn’t know what the future holds, and it scares her. She misses her home even though she suffered there too. Things are often complex like this, and give us contrasting feelings. All we can do is feel the emotions and move through them.

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