The Songman

A Journey in Irish Music

By: Tommy Sands

Publication Date: April 2005

(4 customer reviews)


‘With a Fenian fiddle in one ear and an Orange drum in the other’, singer Tommy Sands was reared in the foothills of the Mourne mountains, where he still lives. As a child, he was immersed in folk music – his father played the fiddle, his mother the accordion. The kitchen was where Protestant and Catholic farmers alike would gather for songs and storytelling at the end of a day’s harvesting.

During the sixties and seventies Tommy was chief songwriter for The Sands Family, who played wherever they were welcome, from local wakes and weddings to New York’s Carnegie Hall; his songs have been recorded by Joan Baez, Dolores Keane, Dick Gaughan and The Dubliners. He tells of his family’s traditional way of life; of the turbulent days of the civil rights movement; The Bothy Band brawling in Brittany; encounters with Alan Stivell, Mary O’Hara and Pete Seeger; Ian Paisley on his radio show Country Céilí; and a ‘defining moment’ during the Good Friday Agreement talks, when he organized an impromptu performance with children and Lambeg drummers.

The Songman is a memoir replete with warmth and wit.

‘Tommy Sands’ words fairly ‘freewheel down the hill’ but they also have a great zest to ‘sow the seeds of justice’. You feel you can trust the singer as well as the song.’ – Seamus Heaney

‘Tommy Sands has achieved that difficult but wonderful balance between knowing and loving the traditions of his home as well as being concerned with the future of the whole world.’ – Pete Seeger

‘His fine mellow prose sparkles with humour and compassion.’ – Frank McCourt

‘There are passages of enormous humour in the book as well as of enormous pathos. It is wonderfully entertaining and anyone who loves music and Ireland will adore this beautifully written and easily read autobiography.’ Customer review


TOMMY SANDS was born in 1945 in Co. Down. He is a singer, folk musician, and broadcaster. Read more here.

Also available as an ebook

4 reviews for The Songman

  1. Lilliput Press

    “This is a very good read if the reader is interested in Irish music, irish tales, and fascinating “insiders” story about the Good Friday agreement. It is simultaneously humorous and sad in parts, things you would expect from an Irish folksinger/peace activist.” SRB

  2. Lilliput Press

    “He well relates his own life in rural Northern Ireland to the “Troubles,” writes about his songs about those times, and his own life as a performer. Many people probably have never heard of the Irish Tommy Sands, but often they have heard his song, “There Were Roses,” as sung by Americaan performer Kathy Mattea. I enjoyed this book, and appreciated the differences in his life compared to the better known Liam Clancy his book, The Mountain of the Women, I also highly recommend.”

  3. Lilliput Press

    “I had the pleasure of meeting Tommy Sands on a Folk ‘N Irish Cruise. What a wonderful Man, Songman and Storyteller. On the cruise he read an excerpt from his book and I immediately wanted to purchase it. With his stories and experiences of that era it takes me back too. Thank goodness there were people like Tommy who were “fighting through music” for their country’s future. I laughed out loud as well as shed a tear at the telling of his life. Thank you Tommy for a great read and trip down memory lane.” LESLEY G

  4. Lilliput Press

    “The book marketplace seems to be cramed with Irish memoirs of highly variable quality. Few if any will match Tommy Sands’ account of a lifetime’s involvement in folk music and his community. Not just the story of one of Ireland’s finest songwriters and performers, it is also the story of growing up and living in Northern Ireland during the troubled decades at the end of the twentieth century. Tommy Sands’ strong belief in human rights, and in the importance of forgiveness and respect, shines through the book.
    There are passages of enormous humour in the book as well as of enormous pathos. It is wonderfully entertaining and anyone who loves music and Ireland will adore this beautifully written and easily read autobiography.” HENRY JOY

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 230 × 155 mm
Publication Date

April 2005


Paperback, 280pp