Many bands used tune ‘before bigoted lyrics were written’

St Patricks Church on Donegal Street Belfast
St Patricks Church on Donegal Street Belfast

Bands across Northern Ireland had been playing a Beach Boys hit for many years before the sectarian lyrics were written for it which resulted in bandsmen being prosecuted, it is claimed.

Paul Shaw, spokesman for Young Conway Volunteers, made the claim last night after he and fellow band members were cleared of playing it as a sectarian tune.

The band had played the Beach Boys Tune, Sloop John B, on July 12 2012 outside St Patrick’s Chapel on Donegall Street. However critics complained that the tune was also used for the sectarian ‘Famine Song’.

But Mr Shaw protested: “The Famine Song lyrics were first introduced by some Rangers fans around 2008. However we first began playing the original music around 2003-7 – long before these lyrics were written.”

He added that the tune was played widely among bands for many years before the Famine Song lyrics were created.

Sinn Fein declined to offer any comment on Mr Shaw’s claims.

A court case in Scotland found the lyrics sectarian due to the line “The famine is over – why don’t you go home.”

But bands such as his do not limit themselves to sacred music because, unlike the Orange lodges they often march with, they are not religious organisations. His band plays up to 80 tunes of a wide variety of styles, he said.

And some tunes that they play, such as ‘Father’s Advice’, are played by republicans as ‘the Fields of Athenry’.

His band was also criticised for marching in circles outside the chapel. However he said this was a coincidence because it is common practise to march in circles when a large parade comes to a halt.

“We welcome this judgment today. It was the only possible outcome as we never ever set out to cause offence to anyone – especially outside a place of worship,” said Mr Shaw.