In December, 1983, the gravely ill Luke Kelly appeared for the last time with the Dubliners, in a performance shown on Irish television. Kelly died of a brain tumor in January, 1984. The group continued to work until 2012, when it disbanded after the last surviving original member passed away.
The lovely song itself, with opening lines that seem to presage the singer's imminent departure, is a composite of several "night visiting" songs -- not from Ireland, but Scotland. Turns out Kelly's grandmother was a MacDonald. Truly, we never know where the music will take us.
For the past week, I've been listening to Dubliners songs, watching the group's performances and absorbing documentaries. I know already that in years to come, this song -- this performance of it -- will remind me of Christmas in the year 2015. Ultimately, we all must away.
If you'll excuse me now, I seem to have gotten something in my eye.