Belfast Telegraph

Was Van’s famous Brown Eyed Girl from Fermanagh?

By Ivan Little

The mystery surrounding Van Morrison's most famous song - Brown Eyed Girl - has taken a new twist after claims he wrote it in Co Fermanagh and that the girl who inspired it was from Derrygonnelly.

Van fans have reacted with surprise to the assertions about the hugely popular song from author Doreen McBride in her latest publication, The Little Book of Fermanagh.

She said that Sir Van wrote the classic hit at a piano at the Old Pals Bar on Derrygonnelly's Main Street.

Doreen said that on a visit to the village she discovered that the former Them frontman and a male friend from Fermanagh spent part of a summer in the Derrygonnelly area.

Doreen said she also learnt that Van went out with a local girl who was said to have been the inspiration for Brown Eyed Girl.

The author continued that she was told who the girl was, but didn't reveal her identity.

But Doreen said the woman was still alive and living in County Fermanagh.

The owner of the Old Pals Bar, Stephen Donaldson, told the Belfast Telegraph yesterday that Morrison's links to Derrygonnelly and the mystery Brown Eyed Girl were well known in the area. But he said the piano was in premises across the street from his bar.

Stephen said: "Van was in and out of the bar that summer before he went to America.

"The story was that it was during that time that he worked on a lot of songs that ended up on the album Astral Weeks."

The millionaire megastar has never revealed the identity of the Brown Eyed Girl but there's been speculation that she was from east Belfast.

One report said she now lives in a small town in Co Down.

The locations that Van sings about in the song are all related to east Belfast.

Most of the places are centred around one area called the Hollow off the Beersbridge Road.

Extensive renovations have been carried out at the Hollow and storyboards about Morrison and Brown Eyed Girl have been erected as part of the Connswater Community Greenway initiative.

In 2011 Van was given a special award by Broadcast Music Inc in recognition of over 10 million US plays of Brown Eyed Girl, but he doesn't receive royalties from the song because of a contract from the time.

In a recent radio interview Van said he wrote Brown Eyed Girl, and another popular song, Moondance, after he came under pressure from record bosses in America.

He said: "I was going up to Warner Brothers music in New York and they stick me in this room with a piano in it and they say: 'Go ahead and write songs for us'."

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