Irish rebel song

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Join the British Army)

In the music of Ireland, Irish rebel songs refer to folk songs which are primarily about the various rebellions against English (and later British) Crown rule. Songs about prior rebellions are a popular topic of choice among musicians which supported Irish nationalism and republicanism. In the 20th and 21st centuries, Irish rebel songs focus on physical force Irish republicanism in the context of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.


The tradition of rebel music in Ireland date back to the period of English (and later British) Crown rule, and describe historical events in Irish history such as rebellions against the Crown and reinforcing solidarity amongst the people of Ireland.[citation needed]

As well as a deep-rooted sense of tradition, rebel songs have nonetheless remained contemporary, and since 1922, the focus has moved onto the nationalist cause in Northern Ireland, including support for the IRA and Sinn Féin.[1] However, the subject matter is not confined to Irish history, and includes the exploits of the Irish Brigades, who fought for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and also those who participated in the American Civil War. There are also some songs that express sorrow over war (from a Republican perspective), such as Only our rivers run free, and some have been covered by bands that have tweaked lyrics to be explicitly anti-war, such as the cover of The Patriot Game by Scottish band The Bluebells.

Over the years, a number of bands have performed "crossover" music, that is, Irish rebel lyrics and instrumentation mixed with other, more pop styles. Damien Dempsey is known for his pop-influenced rebel ballads and bands like Seanchai and the Unity Squad and Beltaine's Fire combine Rebel music with Political hip hop and other genres.[citation needed]

Contemporary music[edit]

Irish rebel music has occasionally gained international attention. The Wolfe Tones' version of A Nation Once Again was voted the number one song in the world by BBC World Service listeners in 2002.[2] Many of the more popular acts recently such as Saoirse, Éire Óg, Athenrye, Shebeen, Mise Éire and Pádraig Mór are from Glasgow. The Bog Savages of San Francisco are fronted by an escapee from Belfast's Long Kesh prison who made his break in the September 1983 "Great Escape" by the IRA.

Music of this genre has often courted controversy with some of this music effectively banned from the airwaves in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s. More recently, Derek Warfield's music was banned from Aer Lingus flights, after the Ulster Unionist politician Roy Beggs Jr compared his songs to the speeches of Osama bin Laden.[3] However, a central tenet of the justification for rebel music from its supporters is that it represents a long-standing tradition of freedom from tyranny.[4]

Themes include "Arbour Hill", about the place; "Fergal O'Hanlon", about the man; "Northern Gaels"/"Crumlin Jail", about the prison; "The Ballad of Mairead Farrell", about the woman; "Seán Treacy", about the man; and "Pearse Jordan", about the man.

List of notable songs[edit]

Sunday Bloody Sunday (U2 song)[edit]

The 1983 U2 album War includes the song "Sunday Bloody Sunday", a lament for the Northern Ireland troubles whose title alludes to the 1972 Bloody Sunday shooting of Catholic demonstrators by British soldiers. In concert, Bono began introducing the song with the disclaimer "this song is not a rebel song".[6] These words are included in the version on Under a Blood Red Sky, the 1983 live album of the War Tour. The 1988 concert film Rattle and Hum includes a performance hours after the 1987 Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen, which Bono condemns in a mid-song rant.

In response, Sinéad O'Connor released a song with the title "This is a Rebel Song",[7] as she explains in her live album How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?


During the 1990s, Irish comedian Dermot Morgan lampooned both the Wolfe Tones and the clichés of Irish rebel songs by singing about the martyrdom of Fido, an Alsatian dog who saves his IRA master in the Irish War of Independence. During a search of the house by the Black and Tans, Fido hides his master's hand grenade by eating it. When Fido farts and the grenade explodes, the British comment: "Excuse me, mate, was there something your dog ate?!"[citation needed] In a parody of Thomas Osborne Davis' famous rebel song "A Nation Once Again", the song climaxes with the words: "Another martyr for old Ireland, by Britannia cruelly slain! I hope that somewhere up there I hope he'll be an Alsatian once again! An Alsatian once again! An Alsatian once again! That Fido who's now in ribbons will be an Alsatian once again!"[8][better source needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Millar, Stephen (2020). Sounding Dissent: Rebel Songs, Resistance, and Irish Republicanism. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. doi:10.3998/mpub.11393212. hdl:2027/fulcrum.9w0325104. ISBN 978-0-472-13194-5. S2CID 211582090.
  2. ^ "The Worlds Top Ten". BBC World Service. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  3. ^ "Wolfe Tones pulled from Aer Lingus flights". 24 March 2003. Archived from the original on 10 March 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  4. ^ "Irish Rebel Songs". Globerove. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Ballad Of Gerard Casey". 1989-04-04. Archived from the original on 2001-12-25. Retrieved 2012-12-22.
  6. ^ Thrills, Adrian (26 February 1983). "War & Peace". NME. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  7. ^ Rolston, Bill (2011). "Political Song (Northern Ireland)". In Downing, John Derek Hall (ed.). Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media. SAGE Publications. p. 415. ISBN 9780761926887. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  8. ^ Dermot Morgan performing "An Alsatian Once Again" in 1990
  9. ^ "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem". Archived from the original on 25 December 2008. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  10. ^ Christy Back home in Derry Archived 2009-12-16 at the Wayback Machine