Lovers of Irish folk music, particularly rebel songs, will be familiar with tunes such as The Men Behind The Wire and The Boys Of The Old Brigade. But how many will know who wrote them? It’s a sad fact that too often those who take the time to pen such great ballads are often overlooked. But not on Rebel Voice!
Patrick Joseph ‘Paddy Joe’ McGuigan was born on 8th December, 1939, just after the start of the Second World War. He was a Belfast man, raised under foreign occupation and acutely aware of the injustice meted out to his people. It was this compassion for the oppressed, and a desire to see the horrors of Unionist misrule acknowledged and recorded, that led McGuigan to write some of the best known songs in the Irish rebel repertoire.
When internment without trial was introduced into the Occupied Six Counties of Ireland (OSC) in 1971, Paddy Joe was motivated to write that rousing ballad, The Men Behind The Wire.
“Armoured cars and tanks and guns, came to take away our sons,
But every man will stand behind the men behind the wire.”
The British colonial forces imprisoned young men from the Nationalist and Republican communities in Long Kesh, Magilligan and aboard the Maidstone prison ship, moored in Belfast Lough. The song records the anger and defiance of a people who refuse to be intimidated or broken by the bully-boy tactics of the British state.
Paddy Joe McGuigan was instrumental in forming the ballad group, Barleycorn, in 1971. The first song they recorded was The Men Behind The Wire and it was released on 14th December of 1971 as tensions rose in the OSC. The song was a huge success, selling more editions than any other up to that time. It stayed in the charts for months and eventually reached the number one position on 22nd January, 1972, where it remained for 3 weeks. It returned to the number one spot again on 15th February of that year. All royalties from sales were donated to the families of internees.
Ironically, or perhaps poetically, McGuigan was himself arrested and interned for a time. Among his other well-known songs were Bring Them Home, Freedom Walk and of course The Irish Soldier Laddie. Paddy Joe McGuigan died on St Patrick’s Day, 2014. It is perhaps most fitting that a proud son of Ireland passed on during the national celebration of our nation. He left a fine legacy of rebel songs to be remembered by.
“Will you stand in the band like a true Irish man,
And go to fight the forces of the Crown?
Will ye march with O’Neill, to an Irish battlefield?
For tonight we go to free old Wexford town.”
The following video shows Paddy Joe singing two of his songs. The lyrics are enough to make you want to run out and attack a barracks (that’s not incitement as incitement would get Rebel Voice banned and all journalistic operatives lifted…)
This second video gives you a rendition of The Men Behind The Wire as performed by The Wolfe Tones. The imagery is a nice accompaniment and recalls the military conflict that took place within the OSC of not so long ago, between Irish militant Republicans and the myriad forces of British colonialism.
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