Wild colonial boys

A Belfast punk story

By Thomas Paul Burgess

Wild colonial boys
Paperback -
  • Price: £16.99
  • ISBN: 9781526173379
  • Publish Date: Jan 2024
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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  • Price: £16.99
  • ISBN: 9781526173362
  • Publish Date: Jan 2024
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Buy Now £16.99

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    Book Information

    • Format: Paperback
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-7337-9
    • Pages: 312
    • Price: £16.99
    • Published Date: January 2024


    Ruefrex were one of Northern Ireland's most popular and uncompromising punk rock bands.

    Emerging from the Belfast street-gang culture of the late-1970s, the group, inspired by The Clash, enjoyed a turbulent, decade-long career. They played for millions on CNN and Channel 4, toured with The Pogues and recorded the controversial 'The Wild Colonial Boy', which attacked American donations to Northern Irish terrorist organisations.

    Throughout it all, founder member, songwriter and spokesperson Thomas Paul Burgess ensured the band remained faithful to their Protestant, working-class origins. This candid memoir takes us on a journey from the streets of Belfast to encounters with U2, Shane MacGowan, The Cure, The Fall and Seamus Heaney.

    From strife-torn 1970s Belfast to bohemian London, Wild colonial boys tells the story of a punk band who refused to give up and stayed true to their punk roots.


    'Unabashed, unapologetic and outspoken. Thomas Paul Burgess provides a refreshingly honest account of his experiences as a punk musician from the "wrong" side of the divide in Northern Ireland. Well-worn historical narratives are upturned in an engaging, beautifully written chronicle of identity, class and the politics of anti-sectarianism.'
    Russ Bestley, co-author of The Art of Punk

    'Not quite how I remember SLF, but still a very good read. Shows the determination one part of a band can have to make better the whole! If you are interested in the struggle to succeed, this is the book for you, no matter your type of music.'
    Henry Cluney, Stiff Little Fingers

    'An honest, articulate and no-bullshit account of a young songwriter/drummer and his band struggling to "keep it together" in the throes of impending success in the (still perilous) UK music scene. Paul enjoys the authority earned by having truly "been there".'
    Mick Glossop, producer for Magazine, Public Image Ltd and more

    'Wild colonial boys is a beautifully written account of the band Ruefrex and their bid for success in Britain at a time of changing political perceptions. Offering a fresh window on the history of Northern Ireland punk, it takes a few swipes at icons along the way. A compelling read.'
    Elvera Butler, founder of Reekus Records

    'This is a storm of a book. A rollicking account of the punk revolution in popular music, intersecting with the story of the maligning of the Protestant working class as innately fascistic and unimaginative. Outrage through music was a creative response to the sectarian corralling of young people and sectarian branding. Paul Burgess was at the heart of it.'
    Malachi O'Doherty, author of How to Fix Northern Ireland

    'This overdue account of a Northern Irish punk story flies by as quickly as a Ramones classic. Sprinkling his tale with rock star anecdotes, Burgess is not above settling a few old scores, though this is balanced with plenty of finger-pointing at his own band and indeed himself.'
    Eoin Brannigan, Editor-in-Chief, Belfast Telegraph

    'For a salutary tale outlined in an unapologetic take-no-prisoners style, Wild Colonial Boys is (as a Derry song goes) hard to beat.'
    Tony Clayton-Lea, The Irish Times

    'An engrossing memoir that captures Ruefrex's rollercoaster ride.'
    John Meagher, Irish Independent

    'Paul Burgess writes, as Ruefrex played, an absolute storm: from the head and the heart, with attitude and with truth. If you weren't there, this is the book you need. If you were there, this is still the book you need.'
    Glenn Patterson, author of Two Summers

    'It's detailed, immediate and fast-moving. And it's a great story.'
    Penny Kiley, Louder Than War

    'A human and genuine look at one of the most important punk scenes- a scene that managed to perform two seemingly contradictory roles for those who were part of it simultaneously providing a distraction and everyday escape from the violent turmoil around them whilst also being their main outlet to express opinions about it.'
    Molly Tie, Punktuation magazine

    'Wild Colonial Boys offers readers an insight into an often untold story in Northern Irish punk- that while the movement was propelled by working class catholics- it was also moved forward by working class protestants who often don't fit the punk narrative.'
    Niamh Browne, Hot Press

    'A candid memoir that serves as a cautionary tale. It provides a hard-hitting account of Ruefrex's rise and fall, highlighting the turbulence of the punk movement and the obstacles faced by those striving for success amidst chaos.'
    Roman Glogulski, Bez Kabli


    SIDE 1 | Origins: Belfast and Dublin (1974-84)
    Chapter 1 TC
    Chapter 2 'Pastures not greener but meaner'
    Chapter 3 Anderson, Kelly and Greene
    Chapter 4 The Pride of Ardoyne
    Chapter 5 Bad vibrations
    Chapter 6 The boy looked at Clarkey
    Chapter 7 Lousy body
    Chapter 8 If you go down to the Harp today .
    Chapter 9 GOT-8
    Chapter 10 Cross the Line
    Chapter 11 'Wasted Life'
    Chapter 12 The fly and the dandelion
    Chapter 13 The indignity of labour
    Chapter 14 A Sense of Ireland
    Chapter 15 The Black Catholics
    Chapter 16 Of giants and sandcastles

    SIDE 2 | Second coming: London and Manchester (1985-7)
    Chapter 17 'The Wild Colonial Boy'
    Chapter 18 'Change of Attention'
    Chapter 19 Our Tune
    Chapter 20 Home thoughts from abroad
    Chapter 21 Hot to trot
    Chapter 22 If it ain't stiff, it ain't worth a fuck
    Chapter 23 The fourth estate
    Chapter 24 It's too late to stop now
    Chapter 25 Sarm East is east, Sarm West is west
    Chapter 26 Brixton nights
    Chapter 27 On The Tube with Sonnie Rae
    Chapter 28 Shane McGowan's smile
    Chapter 29 Jumping the shark
    Chapter 30 Green and pleasant land
    Chapter 31 The return of the native
    Coda | Legacy issues and the perils of misremembering


    Thomas Paul Burgess is an academic, novelist and musician. His band Ruefrex achieved commercial and critical success in the 1970s and 1980s, releasing seven singles and three albums.

    Wild colonial boys

    By Thomas Paul Burgess

    Paperback £16.99 / $24.95

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