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The Men Behind the Wire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"The Men Behind the Wire"
Single by The Barleycorn
from the album Live at the Embankment
A-side"The Men Behind the Wire"
ReleasedDecember 1971
GenreProtest, republican
LabelRelease Records
Songwriter(s)Paddy McGuigan
Producer(s)Billy McBurney

"The Men Behind the Wire" is a song written and composed by Paddy McGuigan of the Barleycorn folk group in the aftermath of Operation Demetrius.

The song was recorded by the Barleycorn in Belfast (produced by Billy McBurney) and pressed in Dublin by Release Records in December 1971.[1] After its release on 14 December the song shot into the Irish charts, selling far more copies than any other single until then released in Ireland, and remained in the charts for months.[2] It reached #1 position in the Irish charts on 22 January 1972, where it remained for three weeks. After a gap of one week it returned to #1 for two weeks on 15 February. Royalties from the recording were donated to families of the internees.[3]

The song was subsequently recorded by many singers and bands in Ireland and abroad, including the Wolfe Tones, Liam Clancy and the Flying Column. British singer/songwriter Dido in her song "Let's Do the Things We Normally Do" from the album Safe Trip Home used a few lines from this song. This included the lyrics "Armoured cars and tanks and guns, came to take away our sons. But every man must stand behind, the men behind the wire."[4]

The song describes raids by British soldiers, and the "men behind the wire" refers to those held without charge or trial at Long Kesh prison camp, Magilligan prison camp and on board the Maidstone Prison Ship.[5][6][7]

McGuigan himself was picked up in a later round of internment, which was the British state's revenge for writing the song.[6]



  1. ^ 15 January 1972 issue of Spotlight magazine
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2014-03-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Sleeve notes of The Barleycorn in America (1973)
  3. ^ The Barleycorn
  4. ^ BBC News - Foyle and West - Dido slammed for republican riff
  5. ^ A History of Ireland in Song Archived 2013-03-24 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b Chapter 8, Internment, McGuffin G.
  7. ^ Irish History: Internment
This page was last edited on 25 April 2020, at 16:27
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