They’re Voting For Fittsie – The Kinsfolk OUT

Song first published in 1967
Submitted by Stephen McCann

They’re Voting For Fittsie – The Kinsfolk[1]

OUT 005

They’re voting for Fittsie’, written and performed by Eugene McEldowney alongside The Kinsfolk, is listed as the fifth single released on Billy McBurney’s Outlet Records and the last before a design change saw the introduction of white and green labels. The record’s B-side features ‘Wrap the Green Flag Round Me Boys’ written by Caoimhighin O’Raghallaigh.

The single is based on the election of Republican Labour Party candidate Gerry Fitt to the Westminster seat for West Belfast in 1966. Fitt, who defeated the incumbent unionist MP James Kilfedder, became the only sitting Irish nationalist M.P. at Westminster and the first non-unionist M.P. elected in a Northern Ireland constituency since 1955. His early tenure as MP also saw guest of honour appearances at several concerts throughout West Belfast, including alongside Glen Daly who had recorded popular works such as ‘The Celtic Song’ and ‘Sean South of Garryowen’ on the Piccadilly label.[2]

The election itself was replete with political song and young nationalists were said to have worked the new M.P.’s name ‘into almost every party song’ during their victory parade through West Belfast.[3] In an earlier occurrence, outside the count centre in May Street, a group singing ‘The Sash’ were subsequently conducted in a rendition of Dolly’s Brae in which particular emphasis was placed upon references to the Pope. The ‘conductor’ was later sentenced to six weeks imprisonment at Belfast Magistrate’s court with police claiming they had also witnessed him accosting Fitt and attempting to lead a crowd up Divis Street.[4]

Eugene McEldowney, who had returned to Belfast to study at Queen’s University following a stint in the Civil Service in London, was heavily involved in the local folk scene of the mid-1960s. During the 1966 election he volunteered with Fitt’s campaign and was appointed as a personation agent operating in the unionist district of Sandy Row. McEldowney recalls that this caused some controversy at the count centre due an unspoken rule that personation would be tolerated so long as it remained within the confines of segregated districts. Furthermore, his role at the count centre served as a direct influence on the song’s composition:

There was a man came in to vote and he couldn’t remember. You were allowed if somebody was elderly, the two personation agents were brought together, and the person was allowed to declare who they wanted to vote for and then they would fill in the form for him. So, this guy came in, an old man, and they said, ‘Who do you want to vote for?’ And he said, ‘The labour man.’ And the unionist guy, I could see him looking at me, and I said ‘What’s his name? You have to give us his name.’ And jeez he couldn’t remember the name, he was thinking about it for a while and said, ‘You know, the labour man.’ ‘Oh!’ he said, ‘yes I remember his name now, Gerry Fitt!’

Now afterwards I went away and I thought, you know, well Gerry got at least one vote out of Sandy Row! And I sat down and I wrote a song ‘They’re voting for Fittsie down Sandy Row Way,’ and I took it to Billy McBurney.

He had a record studio underneath St Mary’s Hall, at the back of St Marys Hall which is right beside Kelly’s Cellars. I brought this record to him and asked him would you be interested in this… and I could see him think ‘this could do ok’ you know? So, we recorded it… and it took off like a rocket, I think it became Number One in, there used to be a little chart they’d be the top 5 songs or records in Northern Ireland. It just caught the imagination I suppose.

Despite the song’s optimism, support for Fitt would likely have been sparse in Sandy Row. Reports from the period note predominantly loyalist celebrations in the area, including an instance of loyalists dancing around a bonfire and singing We Shall Not Be Moved to celebrate the release of Ian Paisley form Crumlin Gaol.[5] Meanwhile, contemporary reports note catholic families being forced from the nearby Utility Street.[6]

By the time of the single’s release, on St Patrick’s Day 1967, Fitt was preparing to defend his seat on Belfast Corporation. The associated publicity offered ample opportunity to benefit electorally from the release and Fitt was more than happy to participate in its promotion, even promising to play the song from his election vehicle.

[1] Image from

[2] Irish News 17 Sep. 1966

[3] Belfast Telegraph 2 Apr. 1966

[4] Belfast Telegraph 18 Apr. 1966. Instances of political singing, whether isolated or as part of intergroup contestation, was a common dynamic of election rallies and counts throughout the 1960s. Concerns over their influence also dated back several decades.

[5] Irish News 20 Oct. 1966

[6] Irish News 12 Sep. 1966

[Gerry Fitt (third from left) being presented with copies of ‘They’re Voting for Fittsie’ by members of The Kinsfolk]


Come gather round boys now and give me an ear
I’ll sing you a song that will fill you with cheer
For this daring story has not been told yet
It concerns our own hero the bold Gerry Fitt

1966 being the year of renown
An election was coming in old Belfast town
But the boys in the West there were still in great doubt
For to find the right man to put Kilfedder out

Too Ra Ay, Too Ra Ay
Well they’re voting for Fittsie down Sandy Row Way

15 years had passed since the seat had been lost
And manys the heart with sad grief had been cursed
But one man remained who could win it back yet
‘Twas the people’s own champion the bold Gerry Fitt

Now Gerry was a stalwart, from the docklands he came
And over the years he’d been rising in fame
He followed brave Connolly, a hero indeed
And he fought for all workers wherever in need

Too Ra Ay, Too Ra Ay
Well they’re voting for Fittsie down Sandy Row Way

When Fittsie came over he said gentlemen
I stand by old Ireland but I’ll tell you again
If you come from the Shankill, the Row, or the Falls
When I go to Westminster I’ll fight for youse all
I’ll fight for youse all and I’ll tell you for why
If you want to succeed all together must try
I want to see bigotry led down the drain
And Ireland a nation ‘mongst nations again

Too Ra Ay, Too Ra Ay
Well they’re voting for Fittsie down Sandy Row Way

The day it came round and the fight it was had
And Gerry’s supporters were true to the last
From the Whiterock, and the Loney, and Sandy Row too
The votes for bold Fittsie came all piling through

They took them for counting in the big city hall
And they say in the silence you could hear a pin fall
The up spake the Lord Mayor from where he did sit
Youse have got a new M.P. his name’s Gerry Fitt!

An early/alternative draft of the song, kindly donated by Eugene McEldowney:


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