Belfast Brigade

Belfast Brigade

An Irish folk song (to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic)


It is about the Belfast Brigade, Irish Republican Army (and in particular the 1st, or West Belfast battalion) during the Irish War of Independence in the 1920s. Reference is made to James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland who is accused of sending the 'Specials' or Ulster Special Constabulary, to 'shoot the people down'. This is a reference to the large number of Catholics who were killed by the Special Constabulary in the conflict.

Reference is also made to Seaforde street in the Short Strand area of east Belfast, which was often the scene of armed encounters between the IRA, British forces and loyalist gunmen. Other lyrics specific to the 1920s are references to armoured cars and Crossley Tenders (armoured trucks) which were used by the Northern Ireland Security forces at the time. The British use of such heavy weaponry is contrasted with the poor arms possessed by the IRA, who are nevertheless, 'ready to defend ourselves no matter where we go'.

In some versions of the song, there is an allusion to the politics of the Irish Civil War of 1922-1923, 'We're out for our Republic and to hell with your Free State'. The Belfast Brigade in fact largely supported Michael Collins during the civil war, although many of them changed their opinion when it became clear that the Partition of Ireland would be permanent. In other versions of the song, this internal Republican disagreement is not mentioned, the words being changed to, 'Orangemen may live in dread'.

In the 1970s, with the onset of the Troubles, another version of the song emerged about the Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade. The lyrics were changed to 'the British Army came to Belfast to shoot the people down...'


Craigavon sent the Specials out,
To shoot the people down,
He thought the IRA were dead,
In dear old Belfast town,
But he got a rude awakening,
When with rifle and grenade,
He met the First Battalion,
Of the Belfast Brigade.

Glory, glory to old Ireland,
Glory, glory to the sireland,
Glory to the memory of the men
Who fought and died,
"No surrender" is the war cry of
The Belfast Brigade.

The Specials came from Holywood,
Equipped with English guns,
There were men by the thousand,
Ammunition by the ton,
But when they got to Seaforde street,
They were seriously delayed,
By the fighting First Battalion
Of the Belfast Brigade.

We have no armoured cars,
Not tenders for to show,
But we're ready to defend ourselves,
No matter where we go,
We're out for our Republic,
And to hell with your Free State,
"No surrender" is the war cry
Of the Belfast Brigade.

Come all you gallant Irishmen,
And join the IRA
We'll strike a blow for freedom,
When it comes a certain day,
You know your country's history,
And the sacrifice it made,
Come join the First Battalion
Of the Belfast Brigade.

External links

* Song performed on Youtube [] []

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