The Wolfe Tones

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The Wolfe Tones
The Wolfe Tones from left to right: Brian Warfield, Noel Nagle and Tommy Byrne
Background information
Origin Inchicore, County Dublin, Ireland
Genres Irish rebel music, Irish folk, Pan-Celticism
Years active 1963–present
Labels Shanachie Records
Website Official Site
Members Brian Warfield
Noel Nagle
Tommy Byrne
Past members Derek Warfield

The Wolfe Tones, is an Irish rebel music band, that incorporates elements of Irish traditional music in their songs. They take their name from the Irish rebel and patriot Theobald Wolfe Tone, one of the leaders of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, with the double entendre of a wolf tone – a spurious sound that can affect instruments of the violin family.

Formation and early years[edit]

The origins of the group date back to August 1963, where three neighbouring children from the Dublin suburb of Inchicore, although some believe that they originate from Santry, namely Darragh Molloy and Neil Brazil; brothers Brian and Derek Warfield and Noel Nagle had been musical friends. They were later joined by Tommy Byrne whom they met when playing at an open-air festival (a Fleadh Cheoil) in Elphin, County Roscommon in 1964.This subsequently led to the three friends playing at Fleadh Cheoil and music festivals around Ireland.

"The Split"[edit]

In 1989, a contract was signed by band leader, Derek Warfield, signing rights to an American distributor. The contents of this contract were apparently misrepresented to the other members of the band, resulting in a clause that prevented them from recording. Unable to reverse this agreement, they continued to tour albeit without any new material.

In 1995, Derek Warfield released a solo studio album entitled Legacy as he was still eligible to record under his own name. With Derek on vocals and mandolin, the music on this album was performed by a new band, although he was still in fact touring with The Wolfe Tones. Derek's solo releases continued on bi-annually.

In 2001, after a show played in Limerick, Derek Warfield departed the band to concentrate on his own career. Calling themselves "Brian Warfield, Tommy Byrne and Noel Nagle, formerly of The Wolfe Tones" the three would later go on to release "You'll Never Beat the Irish" and the more recent album "Child of Destiny".


The Wolfe Tones continue to tour, but as a 3-piece band comprising Brian Warfield, Noel Nagle and Tommy Byrne.[1]

The Wolfe Tones celebrated their 45th Anniversary with a special event at the prestigious Waterfront Hall, Belfast, on Sunday 26 October 2008, which was also filmed for their biographic documentary.

In 2014 they celebrated their 50th anniversary and will be performing at The Citywest Hotel and Conference Centre in a series of Easter weekend concerts

On Tuesday 8 January 2013, Brian Warfield announced via the group's newsletter that, by mutual consent, the band would retire from touring on completion of their 50th anniversary year in November, 2014. He went on to say that, although not touring, The Wolfe Tones would still be available for special events and that it was their ambition to be involved in the 100th Anniversary Commemoration for the 1916 Easter Rising in 2016, which they did, again performing at the Citywest Hotel and Conference Centre.[citation needed]

Notable works[edit]

The song "Irish Eyes" was written as a paen of love by Brian Warfield for his mother Kathleen who died of cancer the year previous to its release. A song about emigration to London entitled "My Heart is in Ireland" became a number 2 hit for the band. The song "Celtic Symphony" was written by Brian Warfield in 1987 for the centennial of Celtic Football Club. Other famous songs written by the group include Joe McDonnell, a song about the life and death of the Provisional IRA member who was the fifth person to die on the 1981 Hunger Strike.

The Sunderland footballer James McClean attracted criticism when he tweeted that he listened to their song The Broad Black Brimmer before a match. The song was an original composition by the Wolfe Tones, in which a son learns of how his father was killed in fighting for the IRA. He was told by club manager Martin O'Neil to refrain from using Twitter.[2]

In 2002, after an allegedly orchestrated e-mail campaign by fans to "try and mess it up"[3][4] their rendition of "A Nation Once Again" by Thomas Osborne Davis was voted the number one song of all time in a BBC World Service poll.[5]

Their 1982 hit "Admiral William Brown" pays homage to the renowned Irish-born Argentine naval hero.


  • A Nation Once Again (2003) (Ireland #15)
  • You’ll Never Beat the Irish (2002) (Ireland #19)
  • World Cup Symphony (1990) (Ireland #12)
  • Flow Liffey Water (1988) (Ireland #6)
  • Flight Of Earls (1987) (Ireland #3)
  • Remember Me At Christmas (1986) (Ireland #7)
  • Dreams Of home (1986) (Ireland #6)
  • My Heart Is In Ireland (1985) (Ireland #2)
  • Janey Mac I’m Nearly Forty (1984) (Ireland #16)
  • Song Of Liberty (1984) (Ireland #2)
  • Merman (1983) (Ireland #23)
  • Irish Eyes (1983) (Ireland #3)
  • Farewell to Dublin (1983) (Ireland #11)
  • Admiral William Brown (1982) (Ireland #4)
  • Streets Of New York (1981) (Ireland #1)
  • Fourteen Men/ the Punt (1979) (Ireland #14)
  • Padraic Pearse (1979) (Ireland #4)
  • Rock On Rockall (1975) (Ireland #17)
  • Up and Away (1973) (Ireland #1)
  • Highland Paddy (1973) (Ireland #19)
  • On The One Road (1972) (Ireland #20)
  • Snowy Breasted Pearl (1972) (Ireland #7)
  • Slievenamon (1970) (Ireland #14)
  • James Connolly (1968) (Ireland #15)




  1. ^ Rory Warfield. "". Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  2. ^ "James McClean closes Twitter account after Wolfe Tones song row". BBC News. Northern Ireland. 27 February 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  3. ^ Paterson, Michael (2002-12-14). "Late surge for Irish anthem in BBC poll". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  4. ^ Vivek Chaudhary, chief sports correspondent (2003-12-03). "Gaelic footballer's fans try to topple Jonny Wilkinson by rigging sport poll | Media". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  5. ^ "". BBC News. 2002-12-20. Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  6. ^ Jaclyn Ward. "The Irish Charts – All there is to know". Archived from the original on 2009-06-03. Retrieved 2014-01-20. 

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