Belfast Child (Simple Minds, 1989)

Belfast Child is a song by British pop and new wave band Simple Minds. It was released in 1989, first appearing on an album titled “Ballad of the Streets” alongside anti-apartheid songs.

Belfast Child features lyrics written by Jim Kerr, Simple Minds’ vocalist. Kerr penned the song after watching news reports of the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen (1989), in which 11 people were killed.

Belfast Child opens with an ethereal melody drawn from an Irish folk song called She Moved Through the Fair. As the song progresses, the musical arrangement becomes more urgent and heavy, with the addition of drums and guitars.

Like many songs about the Troubles, Belfast Child conveys feelings of pain, frustration and grief, coupled with hope normality will soon be restored in Northern Ireland (“when the Belfast Child sings again”). The song received critical praise and reached number one in Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands.

When my love said to me
Meet me down by the gallow tree
For it’s sad news I bring
About this old town and all that it’s offering
Some say troubles abound
Some day soon they’re gonna pull the old town down

One day we’ll return here
When the Belfast Child sings again

Brothers, sisters, where are you now?
As I look for you right through the crowd
All my life here I’ve spent
With my faith in God and church and the government
Some say troubles abound
Some day soon they’re gonna pull the old town down

One day we’ll return here
When the Belfast Child sings again
When the Belfast Child sings again

It’s cold out, Billy, won’t you come on home
Come back Mary, you’ve been away so long
The streets are empty and your mother’s gone
The girls are crying, it’s been oh so long
And your father’s calling, come on home
Won’t you come on home, won’t you come on home

Come back people, you’ve been gone a while
And the war is raging through the Emerald Isle
That’s flesh and blood man, that’s flesh and blood
All the girls are crying but all’s not lost

The streets are empty, the streets are cold
Won’t you come on home, won’t you come on home
The streets are empty
Life goes on

One day we’ll return here
When the Belfast Child sings again
When the Belfast Child sings again