Dirty Old Town hornpipe

By Ewan MacColl

There are 20 recordings of this tune.

Dirty Old Town has been added to 9 tune sets.

Dirty Old Town has been added to 208 tunebooks.

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One setting

X: 1
T: Dirty Old Town
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:z2 D2 E2 G2|B4 B4|B2 A>G B2 G2|D4 D4|
D2 G2 B2 d2|e4 e4|e2 d>B A2 G2|B4 B4|
B2 d2 e2 d2|B4 B4|B2 A>G B2 G2|D4 D4|
D4 D>E G<B|A4 A4|A4 A>G E2|E4 E4:|

Eleven comments

Dirty Old Town

I saw this in the requests list so put it in. Ewan MacColl wrote this song and had it sung in a play of his performed in 1949, called “Landscape With Chimneys” (acc. Wikipedia, the song was brought in to cover an awkward change of scene); the song was inspired by Salford, where he grew up.
Before co-founding the folk club scene in England in the 50s, MacColl had been a prolific playwright as well as actor and producer. (I hadn’t known that.)

aha! our session leader always sings this sunday nights. so it IS an actual tune : P


Dirty Old Town

Thank you, Nicholas,
I only ever heard it by the Pogues.

Isn’t the tune still under copyright?

Dirty old town

can someone put the pogues uilleann pipes part on here? thanks…cheers.

Does any one know where it came from?

C: James Henry Miller / Ewan MacColl

C: James Henry Miller (25 January 1915 – 22 October 1989), better known by his stage name Ewan MacColl

“Dirty Old Town” is a British song written by Ewan MacColl in 1949 that was made popular by The Dubliners and has been recorded by many others since.

The song is written about Salford, Lancashire, England, the town where MacColl was born and brought up. It was originally composed for an interlude to cover an awkward scene change in his 1949 play Landscape with Chimneys, set in a North of England industrial town,[1] but with the growing popularity of folk music the song became a standard. The first verse refers to the Gasworks croft, which was a piece of open land adjacent to the Gasworks 53°28′50″N 2°16′36″W, and then speaks of the old canal, which was the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal.“

Ewan MacColl

The Dubliners

The Pogues


The Pogues - Dirty old town, live 2012

Dirty Old Town - The Pogues - Lyrics

I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
I Kissed my girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

Clouds are drifting across the moon
Cats are prowling on their beat
Spring’s a girl from the streets at night
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

I Heard a siren from the docks
Saw a train set the night on fire
I Smelled the spring on the smoky wind
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

I’m gonna make me a big sharp axe
Shining steel tempered in the fire
I’ll chop you down like an old dead tree
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
I kissed my girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

Re: Dirty Old Town

Hi Folks,
Just wondering if someone could explain a few things to me regarding the notation of Dirty Old Town. Firstly I’m pretty new to playing an instrument just started to learn about 3 months ago so go easy, please.
On the very first line, it has z2 D2 E2 G2 what does the number represent or what is it instructing me to do? Then B4 B4 whats the number 4 for? Then the A<G what is the < symbol telling me to do? and finally, some of the letters are capitals are some are the lower case does this mean anything?
hopefully, sombody can educate me as it would be very much appreciated.

Re: Dirty Old Town

1st line z2 = a rest ; the D2 etc “2” means they are 1/4 notes (crochets) all the same length.

B4 ; “4” means they half 1/2 notes (minims) twice the length of “2” as above.

A<G ; this I forget but i know that A>G means a dotted rhythm, triple length note followed by 1/8 note. NB The 1/8 note is the ‘basic’ in this abc notation on TheSession.

Interesting history this tune has.