Dirty Old Town

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For the 2003 film, see Dirty Old Town (film).
"Dirty Old Town"
Single by The Dubliners
B-side "Peggy Gordon"
Released 1968
Format 7"
Genre Folk, Irish, Pop


Label Major Minor
Writer(s) Ewan MacColl
Producer(s) Tommy Scott
The Dubliners singles chronology
"Maids When You're Young Never Wed An Old Man"
"Dirty Old Town"
"Hand Me Down My Bible"

"Dirty Old Town" is a British song written by Ewan MacColl in 1949 that was made popular by The Dubliners and has been recorded by many others since.


The song was written about Salford, Greater Manchester, England, the town where MacColl was born and brought up. It was originally composed for an interlude to cover an awkward scene change in his 1949 play Landscape with Chimneys, set in a North of England industrial town,[1] but with the growing popularity of folk music the song became a standard. The first verse refers to the Gasworks croft, which was a piece of open land adjacent to the Gasworks 53°28′50″N 2°16′36″W / 53.4806°N 2.2768°W / 53.4806; -2.2768, and then speaks of the old canal, which was the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal. The line in the original version about smelling a spring on “the Salford wind” is sometimes sung as “the sulphured wind”. But in any case, most singers tend to drop the Salford reference altogether, in favour of calling the wind “smoky”. Thanks to Luke Kelly, the Pogues, U2, and others Dirty Old Town has all but taken out Irish citizenship in the years since it was written and has allowed the song to be unofficially adopted by Dublin.[2]

The song has also more recently been sung by The Pogues with a few changes to the lyrics.

A portion of the canal referenced by the song
Salford docks, another place mentioned in the song

The Dubliners[edit]

Chart (1968) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[3] 10
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[4] -

Recordings and performances[edit]

Notable renditions of the song include:


External links[edit]