Brian Warfield


"I was born in Dublin on the 2nd.of April 1946.On that fatal day in The National Maternity hospital Holles street I first saw the light, a light I never forgot all my life because it plagued my nights in recurring dreams that frightened me to death. I often wondered what this round swirling greenish blinding light was that scared me so much. It was not until much later in life that I figured out it was the light in the delivery ward that had made a lasting imprint on my mind. When I would have this nightmare I would shake with fright and run into my mothers bedroom for comfort. Sometimes the feelings would not leave me for hours and I would sleep at the end of my parents bed until I recovered".........Brian Warfield


Brian Warfield, composer and songwriter, plays the five-string banjo and harp, and has written many of the group's best known songs. He also sings many of his own compositions with the Tones. Brian was born in Dublin of working class family, his father Harry Warfield from Inchicore was a coach painter with C.I.E. the national railway company. His mother Kathleen (nee Cunningham) also from the same area, was a shirt maker and machinist with Todd Burns an old established shirt manufacturer and retailers in Dublin. He was educated in the Oblates school Inchicore and then at the Christian Brothers' in St James Street, Dublin. “I left school at an early age because of economic pressure at home”, said Brian.

The 60's were exciting times in Ireland a new confidence was emerging among the young generation, the first to be born free of memories of British rule. A generation of war or post war babies started to rediscover Ireland, its history and its music. There was a rich tapestry of life in the Dublin of the period including a revival in literary arts and music. Brian was caught up in the resurgence of folk music and became involved in the Young Folk Song Society. He also went to whistle classes in the church street branch of Ceoltas and learned the dance music of Ireland under the guidance of Paddy Bawn O’Brin. Noel Nagle and Finbar Fury were also part of this class of 1960. There was a new pride in all things Irish and very soon a ballad boom grasped the country. The weekends during the Summer months saw an exodus from the cities to the small towns of rural Ireland were the fleadh ceoils took place. The county, provincial and then the all Ireland fleadh’s saw thousands converge upon these small towns to hear the best in the land perform their craft on the various instruments. The Mullingar fleadh of 1963 hit the newspaper headlines because of the vast crowds attending

But the organisers wrongly came in for criticism because there was rowdiness and drunkenness among some of the crowd present, mainly by those who had jumped on the bandwagon of the success and popularity of these events, and not by those who were music fans. Because of this some were calling for an end to these great festivals. This event is described in a song written by Brian entitled the Mullingar fleadh which tells the story humorously.

 The 60's were an era of protest and of the search for human rights across the world. Civil rights marches and the anti-apartheid movement were gaining the attention of the youth of the country. There was a mood of change and people were calling for equality, justice and freedom across the world. This had the result of focusing the attention of the youth on the problems of discrimination against Catholics of the six northern counties of Ireland, who lived under an oppressive bigoted regime.

Brian emmigrated to England in the early sixties and was accompanied by his friend Noel Nagle where they got caught up in the folk scene in London. They played as a folk duo and became very successful on the circuit they became resident group in various folk clubs at Brentwood, Romford and Chelmsford in Essex and were making quite a name for themselves. Some months later they were joined by Derek and another member of the original group, and spent some months working and playing in London. Easter 1964 they moved back to Ireland for a Fleadh in Elfin Go Roscommon where they met Tommy Byrne.  Later that year he cast in his lot with the Tones and the fab four have been together since then.

  Their music reflects the mood of the times. So Brian, his brother Derek, Noel Nagle and Tommy Byrne were caught in the tide of the sixties and created a folk band called the Wolfe Tones. Brian has had a successful career as an entertainer, writer, composer and notable songwriter with the group for over 34 years. He has composed most of the hits for the group; his songs reflect the history of our time and cover   most major events that occurred during the years. The Helicopter song was a clever satire on the spectacular escape from Mountjoy prison in Dublin of three political prisoners. "The ballad of Joe Mc Donnell" is much acclaimed and has received standing ovations wherever it is performed. It is probably the best song to come out of the troubles.

The Tones shot to number 1 in the Irish charts with "The Helicopter Song" which was the fastest selling record of all time in Ireland. "Rock on Rockall", rocked up the charts once again. "My Heart is in Ireland" and "Irish eyes" were major hits and have become standards in Irish ballad lore. "Padraic Pearse", "Plastic Bullets", "Women of Ireland" all beautiful poignant compelling songs of Brian's composition. "Celtic Symphony" has become a great favourite among audiences and performers all over the world and is another example of the talents of Brian as a major songwriter. The song written about the Guildford four played a part in highlighting the injustice of their imprisonment. "The Soldier's Return" tells of the plight of the Irish volunteers who were conned into fighting World War One; both Brian's grandfathers' brothers died in that senseless theatre of death. The song called “the Protestant Men” tells the story of the great hero’s of the periods between 1772 including1798 up to the Emmet rising of 1803. The song focuses on the part played by the patriots and leaders of the period who were of the Protestant tradition. From Napper Tandy, Henry Grattan, Wolfe Tone,Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the brothers Sheare’s ,William Orr Henry Joy and Samuel Neilson to the great Robert Emmet. Brian has written over 100 songs, many of which have become standards and are sung in sessions all over the world where ever the Irish Diaspora gather.


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