- 25 Jan 24
Burgess' new book takes its name from Ruefrex single and the Irish-Australian ballad that inspired the song
Punk, Ruefrex drummer, and now retired UCC academic Paul Burgess has published a book on the Belfast punk scene which details stories about figures like Bono, Shane MacGowan, Elvis Costello and of course, the man often credited with putting Belfast's punk music scene on the map - Teri Hooley.
Belfast- a UNESCO designated World City of Music (the only place on the island to receive such an honour) is known for such musical exports such as Van Morrison, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers and recently the likes of Two Door Cinema Club and Kneecap. When listing out the cities' impressive musical exports, few would name Ruefrex – however Burgess' Wild Colonial Boys aims to change all that.
Published through the Manchester University Press, Wild Colonial Boys tells the tale of how Ruefrex emerged from the Belfast street culture of the late-1970s and how the group, inspired by The Clash, enjoyed a turbulent, decade-long career.
Ruefrex were one of the most popular Northern Irish punk bands of their era, playing for millions on CNN and Channel 4, touring with The Pogues and releasing their track 'The Wild Colonial Boy', which attacked the idea of American donations to what the band – and many more besides – saw purely as terrorist organisations.
Throughout it all, founder member, songwriter and spokesperson Thomas Paul Burgess ensured the band remained faithful to their working-class origins, in the local Protestant community.
Indeed Burgess has even stated that he had quite an antagonistic relationship with Belfast punk music icon Teri Hooley, saying that Hooley promoted a non-sectarian message, while Ruefrex were strictly anti-sectarian in their persuasion.
Another particularly biting criticism is reserved for Elvis Costello who Burgess met while the band was supporting The Pogues on tour. Burgess claims in the book that Costello referred to Ruefrex as "orange bastards".
Wild Colonial Boys offers readers an insight into an often untold story in Northern Irish punk – Burgess insists that while the movement was propelled, in the main, by working class musicians of Catholic background, it was also moved forward by working class Protestants who often don't fit the punk narrative.
Ruefrex' anti-establishment punk sentiment, combined with the band's own particular sense of Britishness did not necessarily gel with the musical milieu of the time, and this memoir aims to assert Ruefrex's place in the Belfast music scene.
In spite of his upbringing on the Shankill Road, Burgess has now called Cork his home for the bones of 20 years, has a wife from Kerry and holds an Irish passport as well as a British one. He was a faculty member at the University College Cork school of applied social studies, a post from which he has retired, giving him the space to write Wild Colonial Boys. However you view its more contentious elements, it makes for a fascinating read.
Wild Colonial Boys is available in bookstores nationwide.