The Town I Loved So Well

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"The Town I Loved So Well"
Songwriter(s)Phil Coulter

"The Town I Loved So Well" is a song written by Phil Coulter about his childhood in Derry, Northern Ireland. The first three verses are about the simple lifestyle he grew up with in Derry, while the final two deal with the Troubles, and lament how his placid hometown had become a major military outpost, plagued with violence. The final verse includes a message of hope for a "bright, brand new day", saying "They will not forget but their hearts are set / on tomorrow and peace once again".

Stuart Bailie has described the song as one of the few "nuanced" songs during the Troubles that both Unionists and Republicans could sing.[1]


While Phil Coulter had written several Top 10 pop songs in the late 1960s (including Eurovision entries Puppet on a String and Congratulations), collaborations as a producer with The Dubliners and Luke Kelly, led to him writing a number of folk songs with more "grown-up" themes including those with a political aspect.[2][3][4] The Town I Loved So Well was written against a backdrop of the Troubles in Derry, and released in 1973 on The Dubliners Plain and Simple album, which Coulter produced.[5]


In addition to its long association with Luke Kelly, Paddy Reilly also had some success with the song, charting for a total of 18 weeks at different times during the 1970s.[6][7] The song has also been covered by Dexys, The High Kings, The Irish Tenors, Johnny Logan (on his 2007 album The Irish Connection), and Nathan Carter (on his 2012 album The Live Show).[citation needed]

The song has also been translated and covered in other languages, including by Tri Yann, a Breton band, under the title "La Ville que J'ai Tant Aimée" with lyrics in French.[8][9] Dafydd Iwan recorded a translation in Welsh ("Y Dref a Gerais i Cyd", 'The Town I Loved So Long'), with Hannes Wader recording a German version ("Kleine Stadt") - a tribute to Wissembourg in Eastern France, favourite town of his -, and Lillebjørn Nilsen a Norwegian version ("Byen Jeg Kjente Som Min").[10][11]

In 1984, a performance of the song by Jim McCann was used as the theme music for the NBC made-for-television film Children in the Crossfire.[12]

Notable performances[edit]

An instrumental version of the song was played at the funeral of the Northern Ireland politician and Nobel laureate John Hume on 5 August 2020. Hume and Coulter were close friends, and the song was said to be a favourite of Hume's.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bailie, Stuart (2018). Trouble Songs. Belfast: Bloomfield. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-5272-2047-8.
  2. ^ "The songs he writes so well". Galway Advertiser. 7 February 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  3. ^ "With Luke Kelly badgering me, I had to write grown-up songs". Independent News & Media. 31 March 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  4. ^ Luke Kelly: Prince of the City (Television documentary). Ireland: RTÉ. December 2015.
  5. ^ "From the Music Capitals of the World - Dublin". Billboard. 15 December 1973. p. 42. Phil Coulter [..] also produced the Dubliners' latest Ram album, "Plain and Simple" which includes a version by Luke Kelly of Coulter's new self-penned single, "The Town I Loved So Well", which is about his native Derry
  6. ^ "RTÉ Archives - The Town I Loved So Well - 1985". RTÉ. Retrieved 16 November 2018. Paddy Reilly, who has had major success with his version of the song, introduces the performance [of The Town I Loved So Well]. The song is also long associated with the late Luke Kelly and was written by Phil Coulter
  7. ^ "Irish Charts - Placement Search - Town I Loved So Well". Irish Recorded Music Association. Archived from the original on 17 November 2018.
  8. ^ "tri yann La ville que j'ai tant aimé". Tri Yann. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  9. ^ "La Ville Que J'ai Tant Aimée". Discogs. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  10. ^ "Byen Jeg Kjente Som Min". Lillebjørn Nilsen. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Byen Jeg Kjente Som Min ("The Town I Loved So Well")". Lillebjørn Nilsen. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  12. ^ "Children in the Crossfire".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "John Hume funeral hears 'his life's vocation was to be peacemaker for the good of others'". Irish Examiner. 5 August 2020.