One of the most enduring lines in the Pogues’ Christmas classic “Fairytale of New York” comes in the chorus, when frontman Shane MacGowan belts out “... and the boys of the NYPD choir were singing ‘Galway Bay.’”
The lyric is built on a myth—the NYPD doesn’t actually have a choir. So, of course, they have never sung the Irish song. But 36 years after the release of the Pogues hit, Irish creative agency The Public House has found some retired NYPD officers to finally sing “Galway Bay.”
Their version is part of a campaign for EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, a Dublin institution dedicated to recognizing the Irish diaspora and contributions made by Irish people worldwide.
A video begins with the original Pogues lyric from “Fairytale of New York,” which the Independent once described as “a drunken hymn for people with broken dreams and abandoned hopes” and “therefore, a perfect contrast to some of the perkier perennial favorites we wheel out each Christmas.” (MacGowan was born on Christmas Day in 1957 and is currently battling a life-threatening condition, viral encephalitis.)
The ad asserts that the song is “the most-played Christmas song of the 21st century.” But there are some significant qualifications in that claim—it is taken from a list published in 2020 of the 40 most-played Christmas tracks in the U.K. from music licensing company PPL, which used music usage data in the country, according to media reports.
In the ad, the retired officers are assisted by a New York-based amateur choir. The men are shown arriving at a New York recording studio. They do a little practicing before performing “Galway Bay,” which was written by emigrant Dr. Arthur Colahan and popularized by Bing Crosby.
The campaign includes a limited-edition vinyl record and is supported with social, digital and OOH. It will run worldwide with a focus on the U.S., U.K. and Irish markets. The effort comes as EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum runs an exhibit from Dec. 1 through January called “They Gave the Walls a Talking—the Extraordinary Story of the Pogues and Shane MacGowan.”
“In theory, the Irish have no right to have had such an impact on the world, but you only need to listen to the talent and creativity in songs such as ‘Fairytale of New York’ to understand why it has,” Colin Hart, Public House founder and executive creative director, said in a statement. “Rather than making a traditional ‘ad’ this December, we erred on the side of meaningful by building on Ireland’s greatest-ever Christmas anthem, which just so happens to have multiple tales of emigration at its core.”