SAM Song

SAM Song

The SAM Song is an Irish Rebel Song, written by Gerry Ó Glacain. It refers to the IRA's acquisition of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) from Libya for their fight against the British forces in Northern Ireland, and their change of tactics. The song uses the melody and lyrical structure of the country song Ghost Riders in the Sky.


The song was written in a period of the late 1980s in which the IRA had imported large amounts of heavy weaponry from Libya. It was believed in Republican circles that these weapons would allow the IRA to intensify its campaign enough to force a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland. Republicans likened this plan to the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War. Especially important in this strategy were the SAM missiles, which, it was believed would shoot down British helicopters and make it impossible for them to move troops in the air or to observe IRA activities. In fact, the SAMs were rarely used, as they were out of date models and were countered by British use of anti-heatseeking missile technology. A small number of helicopters were shot down or damaged by heavy machine gun fire in this period however. A chopper was also amazingly brought down in the South Armagh village of Crossmaglen by mortar fire. The helicopter was leaving the base when a collapsing-circuit Mark-10 mortar attack was launched blowing off the choppers tail rotor. The South Armagh IRA brigade managed to bring down at least 4 British choppers and earned itself the nickname "The A-Team". For a variety of reasons, the IRA's "Tet offensive" never really got off the ground.

The SAM song is also an example of the Republican narrative of the Northern Ireland conflict. The narrator starts out as a stone throwing youth, presumably in the street disturbances of 1969-70. However he then realises that "Bricks and stones won't drive the Brits away", and he joins the IRA. He then spends eight years in prison, "they locked away a boy, but I came out a man". Some other landmarks in the Republican struggle are also referenced; for example the introduction of internment without trial in 1971, the hunger strike of 1981 and the killing of eight IRA men at an ambush at Loughgall in 1987. The overall tone of the song is expectant of military victory, earned by the suffering of IRA men over the years. The song opens with the remark that, "the Brits are looking worried - and they're going to worry more". It closes with the line, "I salute my fallen comrades, as I watch the choppers fall" (more explicit versions of the song replace the word 'choppers' with 'bastards' in reference to the British forces).

The performance of the song is conducted at a high tempo. The audience is sometimes encouraged to join in the last lines of each verse by the inclusion of rhetorical question, for example in verse two; "It wasn't very long before (who did I join?) I joined the IRA!". The chorus is accompanied by high pitched music from Irish tin whistles which are supposed to replicate the sounds made by SAM missiles.


Well I have been a Provo now for fifteen years or more

Of armalites and mortar bombs I thought I knew the score

Now we have a weapon we've never used before

The Brits are looking worried, and they're going to worry more

Tiocfaidh ár lá, sing up the 'RA (Ooh, ah, up the 'RA! Sing ooh ah up the 'RA!)

SAM missiles in the sky...

Well I started out with petrol bombs and throwing bricks and stones

There were a hundred more lads like me I never was alone

Soon I learned that bricks and stones won't drive the Brits away

It wasn't very long before (who did I join?) I joined the IRA

Tiocfaidh ár lá, sing up the 'RA (Ooh, ah, up the 'RA! Sing ooh ah up the 'RA!)

SAM missiles in the sky...

Then there came internment in the year of '71

The Brits thought we were beaten that we were on the run

On that early august morning they kicked in our back door

But for every man they took away (how many did they miss?) they missed a hundred more

Tiocfaidh ár lá, sing up the 'RA (Ooh, ah, up the 'RA! Sing ooh ah up the 'RA!)

SAM missiles in the sky...

I spent eight years in the cages had time to think and plan

Although they locked away a boy I walked out a man

There's only one thing that I learned while in a cell I lay

The Brits will never leave us (until when?) until they're blown away

Tiocfaidh ár lá, sing up the 'RA (Ooh, ah, up the 'RA! Sing ooh ah up the 'RA!)

SAM missiles in the sky...

All through the days of hunger strike I watched my comrades die

And in the streets of Belfast you could hear the women cry

I can't forget the massacre that Friday at Loughgall

I salute my fallen comrades as, I watch the choppers fall

Tiocfaidh ár lá, sing up the 'RA (Ooh, ah, up the 'RA! Sing ooh ah up the 'RA!)

SAM missiles in the sky...

External links

* [ Lyrics ]

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