Story of a song: Belfast Graves

From Republican News, 12th January 1973.


That Jimmy Steele wrote the song was also recorded by Tarlach Ó hUid in Faoi Ghlas (he heard it sung in Crumlin Road in 1941). According to Billy McKee, a couple of others have claimed to have written it, but he remembered that it was widely sung at republican functions in Belfast in the late 1930s (before the time of later claimants). The sixth verse features in a key early scene in Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy (published in 1958).

As to the last line of the introduction:  “It is time that the Movement made arrangements for his life story to be written.” I don’t think it ever happened (although anyone who knows better can let me know). As far as I know, Chris McLoughlin (formerly of McCleery Street), published a biographical article in an Irish-American paper in the 1970s, although I’ve not tracked it down yet (his son, Chris Jr, has been a great help here but we can’t work out the paper or the date). It’s been 43 years since that suggestion in Republican News, hopefully I’ll get finished this year before it turns to 44.

And a recording of the song itself (the link isn’t currently working so I’ll add a recording instead):


3 thoughts on “Story of a song: Belfast Graves

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