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Up the Provos (Song for Francis Hughes)
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After reading Ten Men Dead (great book) I had to write a song about one of the hunger strikers and this is what happened.
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david rovics
david rovics all rights reserved 2010
Ten New Songs
Sat Jul 10, 2010
Acoustic : Folk
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» highest in charts:   # 264   (151,592 songs currently listed in Acoustic)
» highest in sub-genre:   # 5   (13,487 songs currently listed in Acoustic > Folk)
About the song
After playing a gig at Roddy McCorley's on the Falls Road in West Belfast, spending the entire night after the gig singing rebel songs with members and relatives of a band called the Irish Brigade, and then reading an excellent book I bought at the Sinn Fein book store about the 1981 hunger strike in the prisons there (Ten Men Dead, great book) I had to write a song about one of the hunger strikers and this is what happened.
Lyrics
He grew up on a farm in a troubled Irish land
Under foreign rule and the British Crown's command
His father fought for Ireland fifty years before
But the Free State cut their losses and the English won the war
And when internment without trial was the order of the day
When his brother was arrested and his friends were blown away
When he was beaten near to death he decided come what may
He would throw his lot in with the Provos and he joined the IRA

In the Occupied Six Counties perhaps it never will be known
All the foreign soldiers in Armagh and Tyrone
Who decided to head back across the Irish Sea
So they wouldn't have to meet the man from south of Derry
He never wavered in his battle for Irish liberty
And the Crown would soon regret the day they made him their enemy
The Brits called it “bandit country” and it filled them all with fright
In the border lands, he who walked the hills at night

“Up the Provos,” that's what he said
Three little words that filled the British Crown with dread
With a rifle on his shoulder, a timer and a fuse
Long may we remember Commandante Francis Hughes

Once he was surrounded by the SAS
How he might escape was anybody's guess
In his boots and camouflage he didn't miss a beat
He walked right past the soldiers and out into the street
Once he came upon a checkpoint, the soldier didn't want to die
He recognized our Francis and the soldier waved him by
He didn't want to find out if he could take what he could give
He knew there'd be a shootout and the soldier chose to live

“Up the Provos,” that's what he said
And from this farmer's son better men had fled
With a rifle on his shoulder, a timer and a fuse
Long may we remember Commandante Francis Hughes

He was the North's most wanted man with his photo everywhere
But he eluded capture with his wit and dyed blond hair
For six years he was active, three times as long as most
He became a legend, north to south and coast to coast
He came upon two soldiers out one night on patrol
They shot him in the firefight and the bullets took their toll
He crawled off into the bushes but they found him the next day
Put him on a stretcher and they carried him away

“Up the Provos,” that's what he said
With a shattered bone and a body full of lead
With a rifle on his shoulder, a timer and a fuse
Long may we remember Commandante Francis Hughes

They beat him and they tortured him and they gave him eighty years
When they brought him to the H-Blocks he was greeted there with cheers
He went right onto the blanket and when the hunger strike began
He was the first to volunteer along with Bobby Sands
He was an Irish soldier and that's how he did his time
He knew he was no criminal when occupation was the crime
Bobby Sands had passed beyond us, where Francis soon would be
And although he couldn't stand and he could barely see

“Up the Provos,” that's what he said
As they carried him to hospital to lay in his death bed
With a rifle on his shoulder, a timer and a fuse
Long may we remember Commandante Francis Hughes