Music of the troubles…

Thanks to Blogorrah for pointing us in the direction of Ryan Foley’s top ten songs on the Troubles. But I’m inclined to agree that the Cranberries’ Zombie is a glaring omission from the list… Not least for the line, “And the violence caused such silence…”Ryan’s:

1 – Streets of Sorrow – The Pogues

2 – Cypress Avenue – Van Morrison (bit of a cheat , but there is footage of 1979 Belfast in the video)

3 – Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2

4 – The Divine Comedy – Sunrise

5 – Stiff Little Fingers – Alternative Ulster

6 – Nicky Wire – Bobby Untitled, preceded by brief quotation from Robert Frost (Scroll down for sound clip only – Hat Tip to Tokyoite)

7 – Belfast – Orbital

8 – It’s going to happen – The Undertones

9 – Belfast Child – Simple Minds

10 – Ulster – Sham 69 (30 second sound clip only – Hat Tip to Tokyoite)

Let us have yours…

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  • brendan,belfast

    There are a few others worthy of consideration such as

    Aztec Camera / Mick Jones, Good Morning Britain

    The Police – Invisible Sun

    Specials, Ghost Town (often heard that Belfast was the subject matter but i am not sure)

    There are others that get the subject matter right but are just awful.

    Elton John – Belfast
    Boney M – Belfast

  • smcgiff

    Sunday Bloody Sunday,

    Sung by soon to be “Sir” Bono.

    Belfast child is my favourite

  • smcgiff

    Not sure why name isn’t coming up – smcgiff

  • Valenciano

    Ghost Town was about the Specials home town of Coventry. Others:-

    Wings – Give Ireland back to the Irish
    Spandau Ballet – Through the barricades

    Others not about NI but referencing it

    Elvis Costellos ‘Olivers Army’ references the murder mile

    Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the UK
    (“is this the UDA or is this the IRA…”)

    Dexy’s Midnight Runners ‘Dance Stance’ is an attack on anti-Irish prejudice in England but it’s not specifically about NI.

  • brendan,belfast

    Honourable mention to Nanci Griffith for “Its a hard life.”

    dishonourable mention for Spandau Ballet’s “Through the barricades.”

    didn’t james Taylor also write something about Belfast? how the hell did that happen?

  • XmasPast

    Surely any decent list should start with Mary Hopkins 1968 classic, Those Were The Days. I remember it being used as soundtrack to a item on BBC NI’s ‘Scene Around Six’.

    This featured ranks of marching Orangemen and the then Unionist Politburo. It seems that the lyrics, ‘those were the days my friend, we thouht they’d never end’ were taken by Unionists to mean that their days were over. Needles to say the BBC was censured in Stormont and received a deluge of phone calls. Good song though, at least Mary could sing unlike the others you have listed.

  • Rory

    And don’t forget the dissident republican theme tune:

    My Way by Prionsais O’Sinatra

  • andy

    Stretching things a bit but wasn’t Dylan’s “With God on our side” taken from the Patriot Game, by Dominic Behan?
    They have the same tune at least (although they may just have a “common ancestor”)

    I think Ryan’s list is pretty much on the money. Personally I thought Zombie was falling into the trap of painting the conflict (or at least one side of it) as being purely the result of misapplied romantic nationalism- hence the reduction of all the causes of the troubles down to something like “its 1916 in your head”.

    Marillion wrote a couple of songs about the troubles – Forgotten Sons being one of them. I liked them at the time I have to admit, although they seem a bit overblown and prog-rocky now.

  • Any songs about the Troubles cause me to cringe to such an extent that my face aches for a good two weeks afterwards.
    No need!

  • Mick Fealty

    Actually, I’d be grateful if anyone could dig out videos/soundfiles the two missing songs – neither of which I have heard before.

    Maybe we should do a poll?

  • Molly Forker

    I recall Boney M’s ‘Belfast’ being adapted for the extolling of escapist pleasure rather than depressing politics, back in the Lurgan town of my youth

    ‘Buckfast, Buckfast a five gets you happy and a ten gets you gassed, Buckfast,Buckfast etc etc’

  • Irish in America

    “Zombies” ommission is shameful. Who can we blame?!? j/k

    Great song and video.

  • gerry

    boney m’s belfast? is that the song, belfast belfast wonderful town doesn’t matter if your skin is brown, belfast belfast I love you, if your out of work you can get de bru?

    How about a black velvet band? great number.

  • Christopher Eastwood

    “Natives”, by Paul Doran (as performed by Christy Moore, Live at the Point) . . .

    “For all of our languages we can’t communicate
    For all of our native tongues we’re all natives here
    Sons of their fathers’ dream the same dream
    The sound of forbidden words becomes a scream
    Voices in anger, victims of history
    Plundered and set aside, grow fat on swallowed pride

    With promises of paradise and gifts of beads and knives
    Missionaries and pioneers are soldiers in disguise
    Saviours and Conquerers, they make us wait
    Like fishers of men they wave their truth like bait
    But with the touch of a stranger’s hand innocence turns to shame
    The spirit that dwelt within now sleeps out in the rain

    For all of our languages we can’t communicate,
    For all of our native tongues, we’re all natives here
    The scars of the past are slow to disappear
    The cries of the dead are always in our ears
    And only the very safe can talk about wrong and right
    Of those who are forced to choose, some will choose to fight

  • heck

    what’s wrong with my favorite “the town I loved so well”? by Phil Coulter Even though it’s about derry and I grew up in belfast i think it is one of the best songs about the troubles.

    or is my musical taste not progressive enough?

  • Mbari

    As the reviewer says, “Zombie” could apply to pretty much any conflict, anywhere.

    Gang of Four had a couple good songs relating to the Troubles, “Ether” being the first that comes to mind. “Armalite Rifle” is a bit of a joke on their part, I think, but is a good tune still.

    I’d take “Wasted Life” by SLF over “Alternative Ulster.”

    And who could forget Skrewdriver’s “Smash the IRA”? Just kidding.

  • Christopher Eastwood

    LOL . . “Fenian Record Player”. It must be one of the worst, but one of the funniest songs ever.

    Hear hear to “The Town I Lovd So Well” . . .

  • The Cranberries Zombie used to give me a pain in my head. ‘Its the same old theme since 1916’ in particular used to grate my nerves. It made me think ‘ach get back to Limerick and give over!’

    I have a fantastic version of Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris and Liam O (Hothouse Flowers). While not about the troubles it was recorded for one of the peace concerts and brings an auld lump to the throat.

    My top favs are Olivers Army and Alternative Ulster.

    And Belfast Belfast a wonderful town was by Clubsound which also had the line ‘have you any such thing as bullet proof kniokers’.

  • dalek

    For what its worth my favourite is Ether by The Gang of four…

    ” Dig at the root of the problem (Fly the flag on foreign soil)
    It breaks your new dreams daily (H-block Long Kesh)
    Fathers contradictions (Censor six counties news)
    And breaks your new dreams daily (each day more deaths)”

  • Jesus, hearing that silly bint caterwauling ‘Zombie’ over and over and over and over again makes me want to stick hot knitting needles in my ears.
    Thumbs up for Town I Loved So Well and also The Island (Paul Brady or Delores Keane).
    And at risk of having things thrown at me, when you forget the fact that it’s the theme tune for possibly the worst TV programme ever, the full length version of the Saw Doctors ‘Give My Head Peace’ isn’t actually that bad.

    PS my security thingie is ‘March52’!!!

  • Rory

    Of course now that Bono has been invited (and accepted) entry into the Order of the Knights of the British Empire all pride in modern Irish music will be momentarily sickened. Do not be too harsh on the poor boy, it stems from insecurity, it was ever the case the the noveau riche must prove that they are the big boys’ bitch.

  • ulsterwecanbanman

    alas Bono can never be known as *Sir* Bono as he is not a British subject…..yet.

  • Harry Flashman

    The exclusion of “Invisible Sun” is rather odd given that it was produced by one of the top bands of the time, is actually quite good and it had a very high profile as a result of the video being banned by Top of the Pops (showed some wee’uns in Belfast throwing stones at a army patrol).

    “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” was also banned by the Beeb, quite right too, we deeply ironical ten year olds instead sung “Give England Back to the Arabs” as a damning indictment of London society in the early 1970’s.

    Why is “The Island” not there? And “Belfast Belfast” was a bloody great song, still is.

    I’m fairly sure that “Murder Mile” in “Oliver’s Army” refers to the original; Ledra Street in Nicosia, Cyprus rather to our own rather undefined version which was used by local press men but nobody else.

  • agree with Mbari that Wasted Life is a much better anti-paramilitary song than Alternative Ulster; although the SLF track Every Dollar a Bullet is a good crtical analysis of external and internal influeces on the ‘conflict’. Worth checking out so much SLF in reference to ‘conflict’, even just for the awful/wonderful puns of Barbed Wire Love. Also, Megedeth’s Holy War, written after a stoned lead guitarist/singer Dave Mustaine caused a riot (probably the first joint denominational riot since the 30s) in Antrim by dedicating a song to ‘The Cause’. Also Magnum wrote several songs in the 80s relating to ‘The Troubles’ after a chance meeting with singer Bob Catley in the QUB Modern History Common Room (and they still owe me and Kyle royalties for helping pen the line ‘children’s feet on broken glass).

    More importantly it is worth remembering that in NI there has been a far greater impact on the musical world than any other territory of similar population!

  • Teach

    The song recently covered by U2 and Green Day “The Saints Are Coming” ,written and sung originally by the Skids,was about NI.Richard Jobson who wrote the lyrics,wrote about a friend he grew up with in Dunfermline who due to the industrial decline in Dunfermline and the resulting high unemployment it caused,joined the army so he could support his family and learn a new trade at the same time.But unfortunately he was murdered a few months after joining by the IRA.

  • Tokyoite

    A 30 second clip of Ulster by Sham 69 is available at the, and emusic (as “Ulster Boy”). No success for a video but they’ve got the lyrics at

    Nicky Wire’s Bobby Untitled can be found full-length at his site. A 30 second clip is at the

    As a Japanese student in the 1980s, the U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday first told me about the Troubles. The song was on air very frequently, and I didn’t get the English lyrics at the time except the “Sunday Bloody Sunday” refrain, the drums and guitar-riffs alerted me. It was more than 20 years ago…

  • Dualta

    Zombie by The Cranberries is a brain-deadening drone of drivel. Sorry Mick, but it really falls flat where the lyrics are concerned. Good, angry music, but the lyrics are woeful.

  • susan

    Elvis Costello (aka eclan Patrick Aloysius MacManus) wrote “Oliver’s Army” on a plan travelling back to London from Belfast.

    When I was much younger, I couldn’t listen to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” or ELO’s “Telephone Line” without thinking about young men I knew then caught up in the violence.

    Still can’t, to be honest.

  • susan

    s/b Declan for eclan. Better go now — getting maudlin with the Christmas!

  • Comrade Stalin

    “Don’t you ever learn” by Todd Rundgren. It’s not about Belfast but the lyrics apply well.

    Don’t you ever listen?
    Don’t you ever learn?
    The hand may find you
    It’s time to take a turn
    You think this life is something strange
    You’re ready for another change
    But don’t you ever learn?

    Don’t you ever listen?
    Don’t you ever learn?
    The world is on fire
    Your body doesn’t burn
    Kill yourself before receiving
    Something out of all this breathing
    Don’t you ever learn?

    I also have a track called “Belfast” by a relatively obscure french band called Heldon. I’d be well chuffed if other people on here had ever heard of them.

  • loftholdingswood

    Ah yes, Todd Rundgren. Wonderful artist and a fine gentleman.

    A bit of a tenuous link but I used to love The Starjets (in my skinhead days – sigh), particularly ‘War Stories’. Stiff Little Fingers were also a guilty secret with ‘Tin Soldier’ and ‘At the Edge’ being faves.

    Microdisney never wrote a song about Northern Ireland but some of their lyrics do pertain to ‘the troubles’. ‘Escalator in the Rain’ brings back memories as does ‘Town to Town’. But now we are heading into such an esoteric territory that people will be lost.

    Have a good Christmas everyone. 2007 will see some remarkable developments and will be worth hanging around for.

  • Rubicon

    The most glaring omission (for me) is Paul Brady’s “the Island” (the Delores Keane version is too ‘country’). I guess it’s a matter of taste – and not just a little of political viewpoint but I’d have it as my no. 1. I don’t have a link to any video of it – but if anyone knows if one exists I’d be most grateful. The lyrics are worth a read:

    They say the skies of Lebanon are burning
    Those mighty cedars bleeding in the heat
    They’re showing pictures on the television
    Women and children dying in the street
    And we’re still at it in our own place
    Still trying to reach the future through the past
    Still trying to carve tomorrow from a tombstone…

    But Hey! Don’t listen to me!
    This wasn’t meant to be no sad song
    We’ve heard too much of that before
    Right now I only want to be here with you
    Till the morning dew comes falling
    I want to take you to the island
    And trace your footprints in the sand
    And in the evening when the sun goes down
    We’ll make love to the sound of the ocean

    They’re raising banners over by the markets
    Whitewashing slogans on the shipyard walls
    Witchdoctors praying for a mighty showdown
    No way our holy flag is gonna fall
    Up here we sacrifice our children
    To feed the worn-out dreams of yesterday
    And teach them dying will lead us into glory…

    Repeat Chorus

    Now I know us plain folks don’t see all the story
    And I know this peace and love’s just copping out
    And I guess these young boys dying in the ditches
    Is just what being free is all about
    And how this twisted wreckage down on main street
    Will bring us all together in the end
    And we’ll go marching down the road to freedom…

  • susan

    Cheers to you, loftholdingswood.

    Rubicon, here’s a link to Paul Brady singing “The Island”, although I’m biased towards Dolores Keane’s rendition:

  • Rubicon

    Thanks Susan – the link is a tardis to sader times.

    A merry Christmas to you and yours!

  • Patrique

    was “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” not by someone called “The Edge”,who was a protestant lamenting the fact that Sunday’s were dead because all his mates were at mass.
    Certainly Bono then capitalised on it, as he did with famine in Africa and everything else. It’s a wonder Bono wasn’t in the Wolfe Tones. making a career out of death.

  • susan


    So the lyric “How long, how long must we sing this song?” was Edge’s literal protest against the overuse of the hymn “Here I Am Lord” by would-be trendy liturgists in late 1970s Dublin?

    Food for thought, Patrique. Food for thought.

    To you and yours, Rubicon! And the happiest of new years to all reading here.

  • Ahhh the musings about U2 – back in ‘the day’ they were regarded as sell-outs compared to Belfast’s pure punk scene; especially given Bono’s spiritual waffling. We forgave im all that for his worthy rant on Sunday Bloody Sunday live after the Enniskillen bombing. But, as mentioned elswhere Marillion’s Forgotten Sons, had a different take, especially when introduced by singer Fish at Belfast’s Maysfield Leisure Centre on the Misplaced Childhood Tour with the cry: “Burn All Flags” to an empassioned response of yes. Here’s the lyrics:
    Armalite, street lights, nightsights
    Searching the roofs for a sniper, a viper, a fighter
    Death in the shadows he’ll maim you, he’ll wound you, he’ll kill you
    For a long forgotten cause, on not so foreign shores
    Boys baptised in wars

    Morphine, chill scream, bad dream
    Serving as numbers on dog tags, flak rags, sandbags
    Your girl has married your best friend, loves end, poison pen
    Your flesh will always creep, tossing turning sleep
    The wounds that burn so deep

    Your mother sits on the edge of the world
    W when the cameras start to roll
    Panoramic viewpoint resurrect the killing fold
    Your father drains another beer, he’s one of the few that cares
    Crawling behind a Saracen’s hull from the safety of his living room chair
    Forgotten sons, forgotten sons, forgotten sons

    And so as I patrol in the valley of the shadow of the tricolour
    I must fear evil, for I am but mortal and mortals can only die
    Asking questions, pleading answers from the nameless faceless watchers
    That stalk the carpeted corridors of Whitehall

    Who orders desecration, mutilation, verbal masturbation
    I in the guarded bureaucratic wombs

    Minister, minister care for your children, order them not into damnation
    To eliminate those who would trespass against you
    For whose is the kingdom, the power, the glory forever and ever, Amen
    Halt who goes there, Death, approach friend

    You’re just another coffin on its way down the emerald aisle
    When your children’s stony glances mourn your death in a terrorist’s smile
    The bomber’s arm placing fiery gifts on the supermarket shelves
    Alley sings with shrapnel detonate a temporary hell
    Forgotten Sons

    From the dole queue to the regiment a profession in a flash
    But remember Monday signings when from door to door you dash
    On the news a nation mourns you unknown soldier, count the cost
    For a second you’ll be famous but labeled posthumous

    Forgotten sons, forgotten sons
    Peace on earth and mercy mild, Mother Brown has lost her child
    Just another Forgotten Son

    ….all a bit verbose in cold hard digital replicated words, but live the line “Halt, who goes there? Death. Approach friend” sent chills of recognition for those of us who lost friends and family members to the cold stare from the barrel of a terrorist’s gun

  • Ziznivy

    I still recall being in Donetsk on the border between Ukraine and Russia to watch Northern Ireland and Belfast by Boney M coming on the radio in a taxi. Extraordinary.

  • Mow the Lawn

    Sunday Bloody Sunday…….

    Think I prefer Alan Partidge’s explanation of the meaning behind Bloody Sunday

    Hope the hyperlink worked…..

  • Am I the only one who remembers the Fun Boy Three’s “The More I See The Less I Believe”?

  • londoner

    Northern Industrial Town by Billy Bragg

    It’s ‘s just a northern industrial town
    The front doors of the houses open into the street
    There’s no room for front gardens, just two-up two-down
    In a northern industrial town

    And you can see the green hills ‘cross the rooftops
    And a fresher wind blows past the end of our block
    In the evenings the mist come rolling on down
    Into a northern industrial town

    And there’s only two teams in this town
    And you must follow one or the other
    Let us win, let them lose, not the other way round
    In a northern industrial town

    And the street lights look pretty and bright
    From the tops of the hills they rise dark in the night
    If it weren’t for the rain you might never come down
    To your northern industrial town

    And on payday they tear the place down
    With a pint in your hand and a bash’em out band
    Sure they’d dance to the rhythm of the rain falling down
    In a northern industrial town

    And there’s plenty of artists around
    Painters steal cars, poets nick guitars
    Cos we’re out of the black and into the red
    So give us this day our daily bread
    In a northern industrial town

    But it’s not Leeds or Manchester
    Liverpool, Sheffield, nor Glasgow
    It’s not Newcastle-on-Tyne. It’s Belfast
    It’s just a northern industrial town

    Merry Christmas, war is over
    In a northern industrial town

  • Pat the Man

    U2??….Sunday Bloody Sunday??…MY ARSE..Of course it wasn’t a rebel song Boner ya fanny, you’re a spineless gobshite who is about to kneel before the queen.

    The original, one and only Sunday Bloody Sunday that definitely WAS a rebel song was sung by John Lennon

    Sunday Bloody Sunday

    Well it was sunday bloody sunday
    When they shot the people there
    The cries of thirteen martyrs
    Filled the free derry air
    Is there any one amongst you
    Dare to blame it on the kids?
    Not a soldier boy was bleeding
    When they nailed the coffin lids!

    Sunday bloody sunday
    Bloody sundays the day!

    You claim to be majority
    Well you know that its a lie
    Youre really a minority
    On this sweet emerald isle
    When stormont bans our marches
    Theyve got a lot to learn
    Internment is no answer
    Its those mothers turn to burn!

    Sunday bloody sunday
    Bloody sundays the day!

    Sunday bloody sunday
    Bloody sundays the day!

    You anglo pigs and scotties
    Sent to colonize the north
    You wave your bloody union jack
    And you know what its worth!
    How dare you hold to ransom
    A people proud and free
    Keep ireland for the irish
    Put the english back to sea!

    Sunday bloody sunday
    Bloody sundays the day!

    Well, its always bloody sunday
    In the concentration camps
    Keep falls road free forever
    From the bloody english hands
    Repatriate to britain
    All of you who call it home
    Leave ireland to the irish
    Not for london or for rome!

    Sunday bloody sunday
    Bloody sundays the day!

    Sunday bloody sunday
    Bloody sundays the day!

    Sunday bloody sunday
    Bloody sundays the day!

    Sunday bloody sunday
    Bloody sundays the day!

  • Rubicon

    Very good Pat the Man – and after that I expect we’ll have recommendations for; “The Butcher’s Apron”, “When Only The Rivers Run Free” or any number of ‘cause ballads’.

    Strange the song you choose was written by the same man who wrote “Imagine”. The 2nd verse of that song is worth recalling;

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace

    And the last couple of lines of the 4th verse don’t sit easily with “Leave Ireland to the Irish” – much less the sentiments in, “You anglo pigs and scotties”.

    I guess the contradictions didn’t much matter – money was made from those gullible enough to buy it.

  • Shuggie McSporran


    “Am I the only one…?”

    No – I posted this on the later thread but it really belongs here:


    There’s a very important omission from this list, so far.

    “The Fun Boy Three – The More I See (The Less I Believe)”

    It’s the only song in the UK singles chart that mentioned Ian Paisley and Sinn fein – none of your Spandau Ballet Billy and Mary love across the barricades nonsense. It was released way back in 1983

    It’s best listened to on the “Waiting” album due to the superb “Murder She Said” segue. I can’t find the lyrics online but, here’s a taste

    The Government is confused
    The armys becoming bemused
    Another bomb becomes defused
    And the terrorists aren’t amused
    Paisley is getting his shirt off
    Sinn Fein are going insane
    Another attack leaves a widow in black
    Grieving for her bereaved
    Another kid with a brick gets shot in the back
    And gets left on the pavement to bleed
    It’s not my concern

    Belfast Oh Belfast
    Belfast’s only half an hour away
    Close your eyes, but it won’t go away
    Belfast’s only half an hour away
    Does anybody know any jokes?”

  • CW

    “Banana Republic” by the Boomtown Rats is also worth a mention. Lyrics here:

  • Alan

    No mention at all of the iconic “Soldier, Soldier” by an artist whose name escapes me. It was huge in unionist communities in the early ’70’s when it became a bit of an anthem. It told the story of a soldier who died when he threw himself onto a bomb to save people in the Springfield Road police barracks – “seconds and not minutes on the fuse”.

    As for U2, I was proud of the fact that when U2 and SLF played Queen’s McMordie on consequative nights ( for Sight and Sound in Concert?) in the early eighties, I chose to pay to see SLF and gate crashed U2’s second set. “U-who” we used to say (weren’t we witty!).

    Finally, for a sense of the sheer desperation of those times, you can’t beat Hendrix “Peace in Mississippi” – a world away from Belfast, but showcasing the same maniacal violence and the brooding, impersonal animosity that the militarists dragged down upon our heads.

    Damn them, lives and hopes distroyed, to what purpose?

  • The World’s Gone Mad

    An honorable mention for ‘No Man’s Land’ by David Holmes. This may or may not be specifically Troubles-related although if you believe various net pages it was inspired by the film ‘In The Name Of The Father’. However, the title, the church bells and the military snare drum are evocative of the composer’s home town in the early 90s (when the tune composed). Reasons no more spurious than those given for the inclusion of Orbital’s Belfast. Its also, quite simply, a great track…

  • “ No mention at all of the iconic “Soldier, Soldier”…”

    I believe it was Spizzenergi (one of the many spellings of their related names). I remember this being listened to by a republican who liked the song for the opposite reason than that mentioned.

    Songs of the Troubles… surely the Wolfe Tones should be included?

  • Alan

    “Spizzenergi” ? !

    Definitely not – this was a North of England folk artist.

  • Alan

    Googled the words – and came up with

    The Soldier’s Song

    In the station, in the City, A British Soldier stood
    Talking to the people there, If the people would
    Some just stared in hatred, And others turned in pain
    And the lonely British Soldier wished he was back home again

    Come join the British Army, Said the posters in his town
    See the World and have your fun, Come serve before the Crown
    The jobs were hard to come by, And he could not face the dole
    So he took his Countries Shilling, And enlisted on the roll

    But, there was no fear of fighting, The Empire was long was lost
    Just ten years in the Army, Getting paid for being bossed
    Then leave a man experienced, A man whose made the grade
    A medal and a pension, Some men present a trade

    Then came the call to Ireland, As the call had come before
    Another bloody chapter, In an endless civil war
    The Priests they stood on both sides, The Priests they stood behind
    Another fight in Jesus name, The blind against the blind

    The Soldier stood between them, Between the whistling stones
    And then the broken bottles, That lead to broken bones
    The petrol bombs that burned his hands, The nails that pierced his skin
    And wished that he’d stayed at home, Surrounded by his kin

    The station filled with people, The soldier was soon was bored
    But, better in the station, Than where the people warred
    The room filled up with Mothers, With daughters and with sons
    Who stared with itchy fingers, At the soldier and his guns

    A yell of fear, The screech of brakes, A shattering of glass
    The window of the station, Broke to let the package pass
    A scream came from the Mothers
    As they ran towards the door, Dragging children crying
    From the bomb upon the floor, The soldier stood

    And could not move, His gun he could not use
    He knew the bomb had seconds and not minutes on the fuse
    He could not run to pick it up, And throw it in the street
    There were far too many people there, Too many running feet

    “Take cover” yelled the soldier, “Take cover” for your lives
    And the Irishmen threw down their young, And stood before their wives
    They turned towards the Soldier, Their eyes alive with fear
    For God’s sake save our children, or their end their short lives here

    The Soldier moved towards the bomb, his stomach like a stone
    Why? Was this his Battle God, Why was he alone?
    He lay down on the package, and he murmured one farewell
    To those at home in England, to those he loved so well

    He saw the sights of summer, felt the wind upon his brow
    The young girls in the city parks, how precious were they now
    The soaring of the Swallow, the beauty of the Swan
    The music of the turning Earths, so soon would it be gone

    A muffled soft explosion, and the room began to quake
    The Soldier blown across the floor, His blood a crimson lake
    They never heard Him cry or shout, they never heard Him moan
    And they turned their children’s faces from the blood and from the bone

    The crowd outside soon gathered, and the Ambulances came
    To carry off the body of a pawn lost in a game
    And the crowd they clapped and jeered and they sang their rebel songs
    One Soldier less to interfere where he did not belong

    But will the children growing up learn at their mother’s knee
    The story of the Soldier who bought their liberty
    Who used his youthful body, as the means towards the end
    Who gave His life to those who called Him murderer not friend……

  • Rubicon

    Alan – thanks for recalling that song. I first heard it near 25+ years ago and hadn’t heard it since. The story (and the song) was told me by a Catholic friend whose father had been in the RUC (retired early 70’s). That friend is dead now too (may he RIP) but he told me it recalled a true event. I think it happened in a N.Belfast police station and the soldier was a sergeant in the British army.

    Do you know the actual details of the events of that day?

  • The Ballad of Claudy by James Simmons? I know it’s better known as a poem, but surely one of the most affecting………

    The Sperrins surround it, the Faughan flows by
    At each end of Main Street the hills and the sky
    The small town of Claudy at ease in the sun
    Last July in the morning, a new day begun

    How peaceful and pretty, if the moment could stop
    McIlhenny is straightening things in his shop
    His wife is outside serving petrol and then
    A child takes a cloth to a big window-pane

    And McCloskey is taking the weight off his feet
    McClelland and Miller are sweeping the street
    Delivering milk at the Beaufort Hotel
    Young Temple’s enjoying his first job quite well

    And Mrs. McLaughlin is scrubbing her floor
    Artie Hone’s crossing the street to a door
    Mrs. Brown, looking around for her cat
    Goes off up an entry, what’s strange about that

    Not much, but before she comes back to the road
    The strange car parked outside her house will explode
    And all of the people I’ve mentioned outside
    Will be waiting to die or already have died

    An explosion too loud for your eardrums to bear
    Young children squealing like pigs in the square
    All faces chalk-white or streaked with bright red
    And the glass, and the dust, and the terrible dead

    For an old lady’s legs are blown off, and the head
    Of a man’s hanging open, and still he’s not dead
    He is shrieking for mercy while his son stands and stares
    And stares, and then suddenly – quick – disappears

    And Christ, little Katherine Aiken is dead
    Mrs. McLaughlin is pierced through the head
    Meanwhile to Dungiven the killers have gone
    And they’re finding it hard to get through on the phone

  • Alan


    I understood it happened in Springfield Road barracks, although I’m not sure that the incident is exactly as described.

  • Rubicon & Alan… I’ve searched the ‘net looking for the story of the brave English soldier who jumped on a bomb (thrown into a room packed with civilians) @ Springfield and haven’t been able to find anything. I’ve gone thro loads of links to those killed in NI especially soldiers. I can’t find anything in anyway similar to the story in the song.

    If the mentioned incident had taken place the soldiers name would still roll off our lips easily as it would have been the greatest media / propaganda sound bit for decades.

    Face it lads… it’s made up / urban myth and yet you two have posted about this like its fact. The song might have a nice backing tune and the words might bring a tear to a military man’s eye but it’s almost wishful thinking in the barracks / OO hall after a few whiskeys. Save the beer soaked sentimentality for the Young Loyal or OO sites (or should that be Buckfast)… and I thought it was the republicans who had the monopoly on maudlin song for the dead… at least “Sean South from Garryowen” and “Kevin Barry” are based on the facts.

    Have you noticed that you become worse than those you are in opposition to … and you’ve developed the stereo types of your opposition as well? It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

  • anonymous