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Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six

"Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six" is a political song by the Irish folk punk band The Pogues, written by Terry Woods and Shane MacGowan and included on the band's 1988 album If I Should Fall from Grace with God.

"Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six"
Song by The Pogues
from the album If I Should Fall from Grace with God
GenreFolk ("Streets of Sorrow")
Celtic punk ("Birmingham Six")
Songwriter(s)Terry Woods ("Streets of Sorrow")
Shane MacGowan ("Birmingham Six")
Producer(s)Steve Lillywhite


The song is divided into two parts, the first ("Streets of Sorrow"), written and sung by Woods, describes the pain and sadness on the streets of Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles. The song is told from the point of view of someone who is leaving the place due to the increasing violence and conflict and who vows never to return "to feel more sorrow, nor to see more young men slain".

The second part of the song ("Birmingham Six"), written and sung by MacGowan, is a demonstration of support to the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and the view that they were the victims of a miscarriage of justice and that their confessions had been extracted by torture at the hands of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, claiming "there were six men in Birmingham, in Guildford there's four, who were picked up and tortured and framed by the law, and the filth got promotion, but they're still doing time, for being Irish in the wrong place and at the wrong time". Although this was later admitted to be the case by the British courts, at the time the people involved were still convicted and imprisoned for carrying out the Birmingham pub bombings and the Guildford pub bombing during the 1970s.

The last couplet of the song reads, "While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead/ Kicked down and shot in the back of the head", which McGowan stated was a reference to the Loughgall ambush.[1]


"Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six" proved to be hugely controversial. The group performed the song on the Ben Elton Channel 4 show Friday Night Live on 15 April 1988, but the show cut to advertising before the song was finished. The song was subsequently banned from being broadcast by the Independent Broadcasting Authority under laws which were also responsible for a ban on the broadcasting of direct interviews with members of Sinn Féin and other groups. The IBA claimed the song alleged that "convicted terrorists are not guilty, the Irish people were put at a disadvantage in the courts of the United Kingdom and that it may have invited support for a terrorist organisation such as the IRA".

In 1991 the Birmingham Six were released after having their convictions overturned in the Court of Appeal and the allegations of torture at the hands of authorities were vindicated. The song's ban was subsequently lifted, yet when it featured on a Channel 4 documentary in the early 1990s the channel was still not allowed to play the song, only to show the words on screen.


  1. ^ Bailie, Stuart (2018). Trouble Songs. Belfast: Bloomfield. p. 202. ISBN 978-1-5272-2047-8.

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