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.
12. “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues
Song Year: 1988
Most people associate this song with Christmas time as that’s its setting, but it’s more than that. It’s a very Irish song that talks about the immigrant’s story. The singer feels love and hope to begin with, but it quickly fades.
It doesn’t matter what the lyrics are; what matters is how the song makes you feel.
And this song’s sorrowful, poignant tune makes it a popular choice for funerals.
13. “The Rare Ould Times” by The Dubliners
Song Year: 1979
“The Rare Ould Times” is another fantastic Irish tune, especially if you’re a Dubliner. The singer talks about aging regarding Dublin and themselves. Things always change for better or for worse, though the singer decided they’re worse.
He’s bitter in his old age and too stuck in his ways. That’s why he remembers fondly the way Dublin used to be. It’s a song full of love and nostalgia (but also mourning) for old Dublin.
14. “The Soft Goodbye” by Celtic Woman
Song Year: 2005
This song is exactly what it says it is, a soft goodbye. It’s a beautiful song that evokes a sense of peace and calm. The singers are choosing to focus on love instead of loss. They believe they’ll meet their love again one day.
“The Soft Goodbye” seems full of hope for the afterlife rather than simply grief. Because this song is sung by a group of people, there’s a stronger sense of community and connection. We aren’t alone in life, not even through the bad times.
15. “Jealous of the Angels” by Donna Taggart
Song Year: 2013
“Jealous of the Angels” expresses what many of us feel when a loved one is gone. There’s a shock from the events and denial that they’re real. The singer tries to understand why it happened, though she won’t question God’s will.
The song is full of love, appreciation, and longing for the person who’s gone. There’s also some underlying hope to be reunited one day in Heaven. That’s why the singer is jealous of the angels because they get to see her loved one.
16. “One More Day” by Sinéad O’Connor
Song Year: 2003
“One More Day” isn’t about having more time with someone who’s gone. It’s actually about being able to move on after a loss. This ballad is full of sadness, grief, and heartbreak. The singer loves the person who’s gone very much; they find themselves overcome with feelings.
But, no matter how bad things seem to get, the sun is still going to rise tomorrow. It’s a gentle reminder that things will eventually get easier. There’s also a beautiful verse in this song sung in Irish Gaelic.
17. “Boolavogue” by The Dubliners
Song Year: 1976
You can play “Boolavogue” at any funeral, but it’s most appropriate at a soldier’s funeral. This song remembers an Irish uprising in a town called Boolavogue in 1798. Father John Murphy led his people against the English and got killed for it.
This song honors him and his sacrifice for Irish freedom. That’s why it’s a soldier’s song, though many Irish folks relate to it. It’d be hard to find an Irishman who isn’t proud to be Irish.
18. “Lux Eterna, My Eternal Friend” by Shaun Davey
Song Year: 1998
The first part of this haunting melody is a Latin prayer. Not being able to speak Latin doesn’t mean you can’t understand the emotions conveyed. This prayer is asking for God’s eternal light to shine upon the one who’s gone.
The prayer’s also asking for them to have eternal rest. The last bit of this piece is spoken rather than sung. It’s a man who’s reflecting on the great friendship he had with the man who died. It’s nice to celebrate the love between friends, too.
19. “Fields of Gold” by Eva Cassidy
Song Year: 1996
“Fields of Gold” is a moving Irish funeral song. The lyrics provide comfort to those who are religious. It says we’ll be reunited with our loved ones one day in the fields from the title. The singer promises it to their loved ones.
This song is full of love and nostalgia for the times that were shared. There were moments when the singer and her love were so happy together that they forgot about everything else. She hopes for that again.
20. “The Auld Triangle” by Luke Kelly
Song Year: 1967
“The Auld Triangle” refers to a triangle that guards used to wake prisoners in Mountjoy Prison. Brendan Behan (a friend of the song’s writer, Dick Shannon) made the song famous by using it in a play. He set the play before an inmate’s execution.
The crime isn’t specified, but this song later became identified with the Irish rebel spirit. That’s why you’ll often hear it at Irish funerals.
21. “Red is the Rose” by The High Kings
Song Year: 2010
“Red is the Rose” is about two lovers who’ve become separated. They have to leave each other even though they don’t want to. They both promised to love each other forever and plan to keep that promise despite the pain it’ll bring.
Losing a loved one is like that. We feel grief and sadness because we loved them, but we don’t plan on stopping. This cover by The High Kings is particularly beautiful because it’s acapella. There’s no music to distract you from the lyrics.
Best Irish Funeral Songs, Final Thoughts
In general, traditional Irish music’s genre is folk. You’ll find this has influenced their funeral music, too. There’s a lot of fiddle, flute, and banjo. The Irish also frequently use bagpipes.
Somehow all these instruments work perfectly to convey sadness, longing, and grief. These Irish funeral songs are proof of that. We hope one of these many beautiful ballads can provide comfort to you and your loved ones. If these aren’t exactly your style, you may want to try a different genre.