In the spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day, the iconic song ‘Dirty Old Town’ will be constantly played in Salford on repeat.

But the seemingly Irish anthem is not actually based on an Irish town – it’s based on Salford itself.  

The song was originally written about Salford in 1949 by Salford-born James Henry Miller, better known by his stage name – Ewan MacColl, and sung by his American wife Peggy Seeger. The original version of the song had no connection to Ireland at all and the instruments used in the song have no Irish relations at all.  

Surprisingly, the song became massively popular in Ireland and led to Irish bands playing the song across the country. The biggest of which being from an Irish folk band called the ‘Dubliners’ who made a popular rendition of the song.  

The Irish instruments used by the Dubliners are the main reason for the Irish perception of the song as the instruments and melodies were still used for the most popular rendition by The Pogues. 

The most famous version of the song, performed by the British band – ‘The Pogues’, still rings around Salford today and in fact, is heard across the country. Shane MacGowan fronted the band and decided to record the song for their second album. 

The ‘Celtic Punk band’ used both iconic versions of Dirty Old Town in their rendition, from McColl’s lyrics to the Dubliners’ instruments. This explains why the song is still so recognised with Ireland, despite being about Salford.  

The ancient lyrics in Dirty Old Town show clear signs of its Salford origins. The Gasworks, the old canal and the docks – they’re all from ‘dirty old’ Salford. Despite being originally written over 70 years ago, the Salford landmarks are still here today but they have changed massively.  

The Docks. Image credits: mwmbwls from Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 – Creative Commons — Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic — CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 –


However, not all of Salford has forgotten the Song’s original meaningSalford City FC fans still chant the song at their games, and it has become a widely used Manchester football chant. FC United of Manchester, created by Salford’s Manchester United fans, have a huge connection with the song and they have made it their most iconic chant.  




Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *