They originally consisted of the brothers Derek and Brian Warfield and their friend Noel Nagle, with Tommy Byrne joining soon after. It was then that three neighbouring children from a quiet working-class Dublin suburb, Inchicore, brothers Brian and Derek and a pal Noel Nagle started playing round the fleadhs of Ireland more for fun than anything else. They used to get together at weekends playing Fleadh cheoils or music festivals, mainly as a pastime. Thoughts of fame and riches were a world apart. Brian and Noel had taken tin whistle lessons at the Pipers Club in Thomas Street in Dublin, while Derek took up the mandolin for no better reason than his father played it. During the summer of 1963 the four of them had hitch-hiked across Ireland, from Dublin to Kerry, for a weekend at a Fleadh Ceoil, an annual gathering of traditional Irish musicians where there's lashings of drink and non-stop music.
The lads were really there for the beer although they did play and sing, but only for their own amusement. Brian Warfield recalls what happened next: "I remember arriving in Killarney fairly late at night and looking around for somewhere to bed down. It was two o'clock in the morning as we trooped through the streets of the town and probably, because we had a few drinks in us, we started to play and sing. It was August and there were still some people on the streets. A few of them gathered around us as we sang and after a dozen tunes a fella with an American accent came up and asked us if we knew some song or other.
We knew it - and played it for him." It was later that year while they were waiting in a pub in the village of Kilrush, County Clare to catch a ferry across the estuary of the river Shannon to play in Ballybunnion, County Kerry that they named themselves "Wolfe Tones". It was in honour of the 18th Century Irish Nationalist leader who was condemned to death by the occupying British forces but cheated the hangman the night before he was to be executed by cutting his own throat. The name and the symbol it evokes in Irish history and republicanism, has inspired them since. In 2002 Derek Warfield left the group to pursue a solo career but the rump of The Wolfe Tones still tour constantly, usually appearing at small function halls. However, 2004 was their last tour year doing that.
They will continue to tour, but only at select venues according their website. The well known rebel song, "Celtic Symphony" was written by Brian Warfield back in 1987 for the 100th anniversary of Celtic Football Club. It has been covered by countless bands around the world. Other famous songs written by the group include Joe McDonnell, a song about the life and death of the IRA Volunteer who was the 5th person to die on the 1981 Hunger Strike, which is also said to be their most popular stage song. The band achieved an honour in 2002, when their song "A Nation Once Again" was voted the best world music song of all time by an online BBC poll. Read more on Last.fm.
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