Performed by the US Army Band Strings
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Garryowen, also known as Garyowen, Garry Owen and Gary Owens, is an Irish tune for a quickstep dance. It was selected as a marching tune for British, Canadian, and American military formations, most notably Gen. George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry. The name "Garry Owen" has also been used for US forward military installations during wartime, and for a small town in Montana near the Custer battlefield.
The word garryowen is derived from Irish, the proper name Eóghan ("born of the yew tree") and the word for garden garrai – thus "Eóghan's Garden". The term refers to the area of Garryowen in the city of Limerick, Ireland.
This song emerged in the late 18th century, when it was a drinking song of rich young roisterers in Limerick. It obtained immediate popularity in the British Army through the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers.
Beethoven composed two arrangements of the song in 1809–1810 (published 1814–1816 in W.o.O. 152 and W.o.O. 154) to the title, "From Garyone My Happy Home", with lyrics by T. Toms, on romantic themes. The arrangements were part of a large project by George Thomson to engage prominent composers of his day to write arrangements of the folk songs of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
A very early reference to the tune appears in The Life of the Duke of Wellington by Jocquim Hayward Stocqueler, published in 1853. He describes the defence of the town of Tarifa in late December 1811, during the Peninsular War. General H. Gough, later Field Marshal Hugh Gough, 1st Viscount Gough, commanding officer of the 87th Regiment (at that time known as the Royal Irish Fusiliers), after repulsing an attack by French Grenadiers "… was not, however, merely satisfied with resistance. When the enemy, scared, ran from the walls, he drew his sword, made the band strike up 'Garry Owen', and followed the fugitives for two or three hundred yards."
Garryowen was also a favourite in the Crimean War. The tune has also been associated with a number of British military units, and is the authorised regimental march of The Irish Regiment of Canada. It was the regimental march of the Liverpool Irish, British Army. It is the regimental march of the London Irish Rifles (now part of The London Regiment (TA)). It was also the regimental march of the 50th (The Queen's Own) Foot (later The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment) until 1869. Garryowen is the Quick March and Canter March of the Welsh Horse Yeomanry, a civilian organisation based in South West Wales, who perform Cavalry and Living History Displays, including the Welsh Horse Musical Ride, in which the tune Garryowen features prominently. See www.welshhorse.co.uk
In early 1851 Irish citizens of New York City formed a militia regiment known locally as the Second Regiment of Irish Volunteers. The group selected "Garryowen" as their official regimental marching song. On 12 October 1851, the Regiment was officially accepted as part of the New York Militia and designated as 69th Infantry Regiment, New York Militia, (the famed "Fighting 69th" ). The regiment has served in the Civil War, Spanish–American War, the Mexican War, World War I, World War II and most recently Operation Iraqi Freedom II where it was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division as part of the 39th Separate Infantry Brigade. Today it is officially known as the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry (Mechanized) and is part of the 42nd Infantry Division.
It later became the marching tune for the American 7th Cavalry Regiment during the late 19th century.
The tune was brought to the 7th Cavalry by Brevet Colonel Myles W. Keogh and other officers with ties to the Fifth Royal Irish Lancers and the Papal Guard, two Irish regiments in the British Army. As the story goes, it was the last song played for Custer's men as they left General Terry's column at the Powder River.
The name of the tune has become a part of the regiment, the words Garry Owen are part of the regimental crest.
There is a Camp Garry Owen, north of Seoul, Korea, which houses part of the 4th Squadron of the regiment. There is also a currently operating Forward Operating Base, FOB Garryowen, within the Maysan province of Iraq. FOB Garryowen was established in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 8–10 in June 2008 by 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.
The 7th Cavalry became a part of the 1st Cavalry Division in 1921, and "Garryowen" became the official tune of the division in 1981.
The tune became the name for bases established by the Cavalry in current conflicts. The most recent was Combat Operating Base, (COB), Garry Owen in the Maysan Province of Iraq. The base was near the city of Al Amarra and was established by the 2/7 CAV.
Garry Owen most recently was also the Regimental Quick March of The Ulster Defence Regiment CGS (UDR). When the UDR merged with The Royal Irish Rangers in 1992 to become The Royal Irish Regiment, Garry Owen was dropped as the Regimental Quick March and was replaced with Killaloe.
In popular culture
- The song is the theme of the 1940 movie The Fighting 69th by Warner Bros. 1940 starring James Cagney, Pat O'Brien and Alan Hale which chronicles the World War I exploits of the 69th Infantry Regiment, New York National Guard, the famed "Fighting 69th," and it appears numerous times throughout it.
- In They Died with their Boots On, which starred Errol Flynn and was released in 1941, the lyrics were actually sung. The tune was played on a number of occasions during the film.
- In both Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, the song is sung by the cavalry troopers and also used as part of the score.
- In The Long Gray Line, which starred Tyrone Power and was released in 1955, the band company played it on the parade grounds at West Point, and its melody was integrated throughout the score as a love theme between the main character, Marty Maher, and his wife-to-be, Mary O'Donnell.
- In John Ford's The Searchers (1956) it is played when the Seventh Cavalry detachment appears part way through the film.
- Little Big Man, which starred Dustin Hoffman and was released in 1970, incorporated a fife instrumental version, played several times.
- The air is whistled by Richard Dreyfuss's character in Always (1989).
- In Son of the Morning Star, which starred Gary Cole and was transmitted in 1991, Cole's character, George Armstrong Custer, and his regiment whistled it whilst on the march, and it was played by a practising band.
- The song was played in Gangs of New York at an American Nativist society celebration.
- In the 1997 film Rough Riders, Elan Oberon, the wife of director John Milius, accompanied by a military band, sang the song to the Rough Riders as they departed San Antonio, Texas by rail on their way to Tampa, Florida.
- The forces of Skye use the song in the Mechwarrior novel, Flight of the Falcon by Victor Milan. It is also sung, with slightly different lyrics.
- The song is featured in the 2002 movie version of We Were Soldiers Once... And Young, which dramatises the battle in Vietnam's Ia Drang valley in 1965.
- The American acoustic musician Tim O'Brien set new lyrics to the melody for his song "Mick Ryan's Lament," a fictional story about two Irish brothers who emigrate to America, one to die in the Civil War, the second to die at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Actually, "Mick Ryan's Lament" was written by Robert Dunlap, but was later recorded by Tim O'Brien and Ken O'Malley.
- In Italy, the melody is known as "Era meglio morire da piccoli..." [We'd rather have died as children...] and is used as an unofficial marching tune by the Italian Army, especially during parades. This Italian use is limited to the verse tune of "Garryowen" (omitting the chorus) and it has several different sets of traditional lyrics – all starting with the title line – including some bawdy ones. It was popularised by its use at the end of the 1985 comedy film I pompieri and its 1987 sequel I pompieri 2: Missione eroica, both about a team of comically inept firefighters from all over Italy (played by Lino Banfi from Apulia, Christian De Sica from Rome, Paolo Villaggio from Genoa, Massimo Boldi and Teo Teocoli – the last two both from Lombardy, although Teocoli was born in Taranto). The film version had specially-written ironical lyrics: "We'd rather have died as children/with our asses like pink cotton flocks/than die as great soldiers/with the hairs in our asses severely burnt". In 1994, comedian Paolo Rossi performed a satirical version about Silvio Berlusconi and various other political figures, with recurring lyrics inspired by the above ones but not identical to them; he subsequently recorded his version during a live show of his.
- GlobalSecurity.org (2004) 4th Squadron 7th Cavalry Regiment Retrieved
- Lewis Winstock, Songs & Music of the Redcoats, 1642–1902, (1970)
- Walter Wood, The Romance of Regimental Marches, (1932)
- 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers connection to the early history of Garryowen: Royal Irish Lancers
- 1st Squadron 7th Cavalry (history, song, etc.): US Army site
- 1st Cavalry Division (history): US Army site
- 7th US Cavalry Assn. Legend of the "Garryowen" (not a browser-independent website!)
- General Information: (2004.03.17) The "American Soldier" blog, no name or expertise cited, but the information is well-written, complete and meshes with other sources. Retrieved 2004.12.10.