Wolfe Tones
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Wolfe Tones

The Wolfe Tones
The Wolfe Tones from left to right: Brian Warfield, Noel Nagle and Tommy Byrne
Background information
OriginBluebell Dublin 12
GenresIrish ballad music, Irish folk, Irish rebel songs
LabelsSkin Music
MembersNoel Nagle
Brian Warfield
Tommy Byrne
Liam Courtney
Derek Warfield

The Wolfe Tones are an Irish rebel music band that incorporates elements of Irish traditional music in their songs. They take their name from the Irish rebel and patriot Theobald Wolfe Tone, one of the leaders of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, with the double entendre of a wolf tone - a spurious sound that can affect instruments of the violin family.

Formation and early years

The origins of the group date back to August 1963, where three neighbouring children from the Dublin suburb of Inchicore, Brian Warfield, Noel Nagle, and Liam Courtney, had been musical friends from childhood. In August 1964 Brian's brother Derek Warfield joined the band, and in November 1964 Tommy Byrne replaced Courtney, creating the band's most recognizable line-up, which would last for nearly thirty seven years between November 1964 and January 2001.[1]

"The Split"

In 1989, a contract was signed by band leader, Derek Warfield, signing rights to an American distributor, Shanachie records. The contents of this contract were apparently misrepresented to the other members of the band, resulting in a clause that prevented them from recording any new material. Unable to reverse this agreement, they continued to tour, albeit without any new material.

In 1995, Derek Warfield released a solo studio album entitled Legacy as he was still eligible to record under his own name. With Derek on vocals and mandolin, the music on this album was performed by a new band, although he was still in fact touring with The Wolfe Tones. Derek's solo releases continued annually until 2006.[2]

In 2001, after a show played in Limerick, Derek Warfield departed the band to concentrate on his own career. Calling themselves "Brian Warfield, Tommy Byrne and Noel Nagle, formerly of The Wolfe Tones" the three would later go on to release "You'll Never Beat the Irish" and the more recent album "Child of Destiny".


The Wolfe Tones continue to tour, but as a 3-piece band comprising Brian Warfield, Noel Nagle and Tommy Byrne.[3]

The Wolfe Tones celebrated their 45th Anniversary with a special event at the prestigious Waterfront Hall, Belfast, on Sunday 26 October 2008, which was also filmed for their biographic documentary.

In 2014 they celebrated their 50th anniversary by performing at The Citywest Hotel and Conference Centre in a series of Easter weekend concerts

In 2018, they headlined the Féile an Phobail in West Belfast to a sell-out audience of over 12,000 people and were inducted into the Barrowlands hall of fame for their contribution to music.

Notable works

The song "Irish Eyes" was written as a paean of love by Brian Warfield for his mother Kathleen who died of cancer the year previous to its release. A song about emigration to London entitled "My Heart is in Ireland" became a number 2 hit for the band. The song "Celtic Symphony" was written by Brian Warfield in 1987 for the centennial of Celtic Football Club. Other famous songs written by the group include "Joe McDonnell", a song about the life and death of the Provisional IRA member who was the fifth person to die on the 1981 Hunger Strike, or "The Protestant Men", a song about some of the notable Protestant Irish nationalists. Other famous songs include their cover of "The Streets of New York" which Liam Reilly from Bagatelle wrote, inspired by stories of the Tones' friendship with NYPD. Brian Warfield also penned "The Helicopter Song" which stands as the fastest selling single of all time in Ireland, shooting straight to number one in 1974 as a result of the escape from Mountjoy Jail.

Footballer James McClean (of Sunderland at the time) attracted criticism when he tweeted that he listened to their song "The Broad Black Brimmer" before a match, a song in which a son learns of how his father was killed in fighting for the IRA. He was told by club manager Martin O'Neill to refrain from using Twitter.[4]

In 2002, after an allegedly orchestrated e-mail campaign by fans to "try and mess it up"[5][6] their rendition of "A Nation Once Again" by Thomas Osborne Davis was voted the number one song of all time in a BBC World Service poll.[7] The BBC has ironically been more welcoming of the band than many Irish broadcasters have been, hosting an artist's page that includes excerpts of their songs.[8]

Their 1982 hit "Admiral William Brown" pays homage to the renowned Irish-born Argentine naval hero.





Studio albums


  1. ^ https://www.irish-folk-songs.com/the-wolfe-tones-story.html
  2. ^ "Derek Warfield". Derek Warfield The Young Wolfe Tones. The Young Wolfe Tones. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ Rory Warfield. "Wolfetonesofficialsite.com". Wolfetonesofficialsite.com. Archived from the original on 29 August 2012. Retrieved 2014.
  4. ^ "James McClean closes Twitter account after Wolfe Tones song row". Northern Ireland: BBC News. 27 February 2013. Retrieved 2017.
  5. ^ Paterson, Michael (14 December 2002). "Late surge for Irish anthem in BBC poll". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2014.
  6. ^ Vivek Chaudhary, chief sports correspondent (3 December 2003). "Gaelic footballer's fans try to topple Jonny Wilkinson by rigging sport poll | Media". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014.
  7. ^ "BBC.co.uk". BBC News. 20 December 2002. Retrieved 2014.
  8. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/972821cc-a0c8-45bc-919a-a899190e740e

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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