Lokashakti Library of Nonviolence, Peace, and Social Justice


The Barleycorn

The Barleycorn in AmericaWritten after the internment of 1971, this song propelled Paddy McGuigan and his group The Barleycorn to national fame in Ireland, where it spent five weeks at #1 on the Irish charts early the following year. Operation Demetrius, as it was termed by the British army, involved the arrest and internment of 342 people without trial, for allegedly taking part in Irish republican paramilitary activities. The number would later grow to almost 2000 by 1975. After the song’s release, the songwriter himself was arrested and placed in a prison camp for three months. The group went on to donate the royalties it earned from the song to families of the internees. This song features Brian McCormick on lead vocals, and although released as a single in December 1971, makes its first appearance on an album in 1973.

Type of audio resource: Protest song
Song title: The Men Behind The Wire
Composer: Paddy McGuigan
Genre: Irish rebel music
Year of composition: 1971
Performer: The Barleycorn
Year of performance: 1982
Album: Fields of Athenry
Label: Dolphin Records
Release date: 1982

Total time: 2:26

Song Lyrics:


Armored cars and tanks and guns
Came to take away our sons.
But every man must stand behind
The men behind the wire.

Through the little streets of Belfast
In the dark of early morn'
British soldiers came marauding
Wrecking little homes with scorn.

Heedless of the crying children,
Dragging fathers from their beds,
Beating sons while helpless mothers
Watched the blood poor from their heads.


Not for them a judge and jury,
Nor indeed a crime at all.
Being Irish means you're guilty,
So we're guilty one and all

'Round the world the truth will echo,
Cromwell's men are here again.
England's name again is sullied
In the eyes of honest men.


Proudly march behind our banners,
Firmly stand behind our men;
We will have them free to help us
Build a nation once again.

On the people, step together,
Proudly, firmly on your way.
Never fear and never falter
'Til the boys come home to stay.

(Chorus x2)

This recording is copyright 1982, The Barleycorn.

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