Wednesday, 15 July 2015 11:18

Jimmy Kennedy (Tyrone): Irish Heritage Hall of Fame Inductee

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Famous Son Of Ireland: Songwriter Category:

Jimmy Kennedy 1902 - 1984

Jimmy Kennedy Wrote Many International Hit Songs


Famous international songs written by Jimmy Kennedy from Omagh, Co. Tyrone include Red Sails In The Sunset; South Of The Border; We’re Going To Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line; The Isle Of Capri; Istanbul; My Prayer; Teddy Bears’ Picnic; Love Is Like A Violin; Hokey Pokey; Roll Along Covered Wagon; Harbour Lights.



Jimmy Kennedy was born at Omagh, Co. Tyrone on 20 th July 1902 and died at Cheltenham, England on 6 th April 1984. His father was an Ulster policeman and when the family relocated to Portstewart, Co. Derry, Jimmy found great inspiration in the nearby scenic ocean and the beautiful hills and dales around the Antrim coastline.


He studied at Trinity College, Dublin and on graduation went into the teaching profession. He taught for a short period only and the call of music was always ringing in his ears. 

Jimmy also applied for a British Civil Service post in 1927 and whilst awaiting an overseas posting to Nigeria, his music was by now receiving rave reviews.

He finally decided to forego his Government job and went to work for a well known music publishing firm, Bert Feldman, in London’s Tin Pin Alley.


In a music career in songwriting he penned more than 2,000 songs and 200 of these became international hits all over the world.

Fifty of Jimmy’s songs became all time popular music classics. "My Prayer" with original music by Georges Boulanger had English lyrics penned by Kennedy in 1939. It was originally written by Boulanger with the title "Avant de Mourir" in 1926.


Until the rise of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Jimmy Kennedy had amassed more hits in America than any other Irish or English songwriter. 

His first success came in 1931 with the "Barmaids Song" sung by the legendary Gracie Fields.  


In 1935 the song, "Red Sails In The Sunset" was inspired by many beautiful summer evenings in his own native Northern Ireland.


He took inspiration from many sources for his great hits and the song, "South Of The Border" was motivated by a postcard Jimmy received from a friend holidaying in Tijuana in Mexico.


While serving in the British Royal Artillery, where he rose to the rank of Captain, he wrote the wartime hit, "We're Going To Hang Out The Washing On The Siegefried Line".


Jimmy was also a patron for the well known Castlebar, Co. Mayo, International Song Contest, a post he held from 1973 until his death in 1984.


The Omagh born famous songwriter won two Ivor Novello Awards for his outstanding contributions to music and The new University Of Ulster conferred an honorary degree also. In 1983 he was made an OBE.


In 1997 Jimmy Kennedy’s name was posthumously inscribed into The Songwriters Hall Of Fame and now in July 2015 the famous Tyrone songwiter is incorporated into our historic Irish Heritage Collection of Famous Sons & Daughters Of Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery.



Last modified on Wednesday, 23 September 2020 10:32