Theme from Harry's Game

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"Theme from Harry's Game"
Original 7" cover
Single by Clannad
from the album Magical Ring
ReleasedOctober 1982
RecordedDublin, Ireland
StudioWindmill Studios
GenreCeltic, new-age
Songwriter(s)Pól Brennan, Ciarán Brennan[n 1]
Producer(s)Richard Dodd
Clannad singles chronology
"Strayed Away"
"Theme from Harry's Game"
"I See Red"
Audio sample
1993 US single cover
Theme From Harry's Game 1993 cover.jpg

"Theme from Harry's Game" is a 1982 song by Clannad commissioned as the theme for Harry's Game, a Yorkshire Television miniseries adapted from a 1975 novel set in The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It was released as a single in October 1982 and became a surprise hit, reaching number 5 in the UK Singles Chart the following month and number 2 in the Irish Singles Chart.


The song was written "in a couple of hours",[4] credited to Pól and Ciarán Brennan.[n 1] Gerald Seymour, author of Harry's Game, originally wanted to use "Mhorag 's Na Horo Gheallaidh", a Scottish Gaelic song from Clannad's album Fuaim, but Clannad felt Irish-language lyrics would be more appropriate.[4] The verse is adapted from a Connacht Irish proverb in a 1948 anthology,[n 2][4][5] glossed by Máire (Moya) Brennan as "Everything that is and was will cease to be."[4] This was considered appropriate to the miniseries' depiction of the futility of political violence.[6][4]

The song was the first Irish-language song to chart in the UK. The chorus is a slowed-down lilt of non-lexical vocables, inspired by the English folk music tradition: "Fol lol the doh fol the day".[4][7][8][9]

Over previous albums, Clannad's sound had moved away from traditional Irish music arrangements, and the production of "Theme from Harry's Game", using lush slow layers of synthesiser and vocal harmony, marked the arrival of what would become their signature style for the next decade.[4]


The song won an Ivor Novello award, and launched Clannad's global career. Its success delayed the release of the band's 1983 album Magical Ring, which was altered to include it and more material in the same style.[10][4]

It has since appeared in several Hollywood movies, most notably Patriot Games, in which an IRA member, played by Patrick Bergin, is seen watching the music video for the song on his television.

Clannad's 1990 album Anam was released in the United States in 1992 to capitalise on the Patriot Games exposure, with "Harry's Game" inserted in the tracklist; the album sold well and the track was often broadcast on VH1.[11] Its use from late 1992 in a Volkswagen Passat commercial introduced Clannad to a broader American audience and boosted sales of Anam.[8][12][13]

The song also features on Clannad's vocalists's live albums, the 2005 album Óró - A Live Session and the 2008 Moya Brennan solo album Heart Strings. The original has also been sampled various times by artists such as Kaleef and Elate. Moya Brennan recorded a solo version at Mothership Studio for dance musician Chicane, which he used on his UK top 10 hit "Saltwater."

Track listing[edit]

  1. Theme From Harry's Game – 2:30
  2. Strayed Away – 2:47

Chart history[edit]

Chart (1982) Peak
Irish Singles Chart 2
Dutch Top 40 9
Swedish Singles Chart 16
UK Singles Chart 5

1989 Theme from Harry's Game / Hourglass AA-side[edit]

In 1989, as part of the promotion for their compilation Pastpresent, Clannad re-released the "Theme from Harry's Game" as an AA-side single with their new song "Hourglass."

1992 Patriot Games re-release[edit]

The song was recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin.

In 1992, the "Theme from Harry's Game" was used in the soundtrack to the film Patriot Games, and it was also re-released as a single. There were two versions of the CD single, a two-track and a four-track version, both with the same cover and catalogue number.

Track listing[edit]

7" single, cassette, 5" compact disc

  1. "Theme from Harry's Game"
  2. "Robin (The Hooded Man)"

5" compact disc

  1. "Theme from Harry's Game"
  2. "Robin (The Hooded Man)"
  3. "In a Lifetime"
  4. "Closer to your Heart"

1993 Jameson Whiskey re-release[edit]

In 1993, in connection with an advertising campaign for Jameson Whiskey, both "Theme from Harry's Game" and "In A Lifetime" were re-released in The Netherlands.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Theme from Harry's Game"
  2. "Caisleán Óir"

Cover versions and other use[edit]

The song has been covered by artists including Phil Coulter[14] and Celtic Woman.[15] The Irish rock band U2 also used the song as their outro during the War Tour, and it can be heard as such at the beginning and end of their live film U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky.[13][16] It has also been used extensively by the RAF for the decommissioning flypasts of the Avro Vulcan Delta wing bomber, and subsequently in memorial flights at airshows.[17]


  1. ^ a b The song is credited solely to Paul Brennan (Pól Ó Braonáin) in the liner notes of various recordings from 1982 to 1995,[1] and to Paul and Ciarán in liner notes from 2003 and later.[2] According to Moya Brennan, it was written "mainly" by Paul and Ciarán, with some input from her.[3]
  2. ^ The original is:[5]

    Imeoidh an seanfhear atá cráite liath,
    Imeoidh an fhuiseog is áilne ar an gcraoibh,
    Imeoidh an duine óg is a cháil ina dhiaidh
    Imeoidh a dtiocfaidh is a dtáinig ariamh.

    A literal translation to English is:

    The old man, grey with torment, will go,
    The most beautiful skylark on the branch will go,
    The young man will go, and his reputation will follow him,
    All that ever will come and has come will go.


  1. ^ e.g.
    • "Clannad - Theme From Harry's Game (1982 single: RCA 292)". Discogs. Retrieved 25 August 2019. and Harris, Steve (1988). "Harry's Game". Film, television, and stage music on phonograph records : a discography. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 298, No.8767. Retrieved 25 August 2019.;
    • "Clannad - Magical Ring (1983: RCA PL 70003)". Discogs. Retrieved 25 August 2019.;
    • ""Patriot Games" OST (RCA 07863-66051-2)". Internet Archive. BMG Victor. 1992. Retrieved 25 August 2019.;
    • "Anam (Atlantic 7-82409-2)". Internet Archive. Atlantic. 1992. Retrieved 25 August 2019.;
    • "Themes (Atlantic 82737-2)". Internet Archive. Atlantic. 1995. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  2. ^ e.g.
  3. ^ "The Success Of Clannad". RTÉ Archives. 25 October 2017 [1987]. 1m18s. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Bond, Lahri (August–September 1993). "Clannad & Máire Brennan". Dirty Linen (47). Archived from the original on 8 November 2008. Retrieved 5 November 2008.
  5. ^ a b Ó Máille, Tomás S. (1948). Sean-fhocla Chonnacht (in Irish). 1. Oifig an tSoláthair. p. 8, No. 51. OCLC 14877629.; cited in Denvir, Gearóid (1987). Cadhan aonair: saothar liteartha Mháirtín uí Chadhain. Leabhair thaighde (in Irish). 54. An Clóchomhar. p. 52. ISBN 9780903758451.
  6. ^ Elswick, Justin R. (31 January 2004) [2003]. "Two Horizons: Moya Brennan". Musical Discoveries. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  7. ^ Campbell, Sean; Smyth, Gerry (2005). Beautiful Day: Forty Years of Irish Rock. Atrium. p. 82. ISBN 9780953535354.
  8. ^ a b Gates, David (4 April 1993). "The Marketing O' The Green". Newsweek. p. 60. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  9. ^ Ó Néill, Eoghan (2000). The golden vale of Ivowen: between Slievenamon and Suir. Geography Publications. p. 274. Indeed Colm Ó Baoill of the Department of Celtic in the University of Aberdeen has pointed out that the vocables "Reics fol de di do" and "Fol de Lol de diddle o", which are so common in Irish songs, particularly from the Munster area, are not traditionally Gaelic at all and show the influence of the English folk song and the later ballad on Irish songs.
  10. ^ "Clannad".
  11. ^ Newman, Melinda (22 May 1993). "New Clannad Set Coming To America". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 105 (21): 12, 113.
  12. ^ Clancy, Luke (17 May 1996). "Celtic Cake Mix". The Irish Times. p. 12. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  13. ^ a b Hochman, Steve (2 June 1993). "Clannad Finds Road to U.S. Exposure : Pop music: The use of 'Harry's Game' in TV car commercials has given the Irish folk-pop group another shot at the American market". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  14. ^ "Legends". 25 February 1997 – via Amazon.
  15. ^ "Celtic Woman". 22 May 2006 – via Amazon.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-30. Retrieved 2007-09-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Vulcan index".

External links[edit]