Dirty Old Town

The wife of the late legendary folk singer Ewan MacColl will perform a new version of ‘Dirty Old Town’ this June in the city which inspired its lyrics. 

Peggy Seeger, 88, whose late husband wrote the famous song about Salford, has recorded the track more than 70 years on with an accompaniment from the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. She is set to perform an abandoned verse from the track at the We Invented the Weekend festival in MediaCity.

Seeger, an American folk singer, said it was the first of MacColl’s music she heard him perform, after they met when she came to the UK in 1956.

She said: “I think he was infatuated with me at the time. He was 41, I was 21. And he brought me to Salford to show me where he had grown up.

“So I tied Dirty Old Town to Salford in an indissoluble knot. It told me about where he’d been brought up.”

The original version of the song had no connection to Ireland at all however the song, first released in 1952, became massively popular over there. Irish bands played the song across the country, the biggest of which being from an Irish folk band called the ‘Dubliners’ who made a popular rendition of the song.

Seeger recently returned to Salford to record the orchestral version of Dirty Old Town for a BBC Radio 4 documentary.

She said the area was completely different to her first visit.

She said: “It was out of Dickens back then. Cobbled streets and gaslights and little urchins playing in the streets.

“But there are still dirty old towns in this country, still back in the Victorian era, they do exist.”

Seeger described it as an “honour” to work with the BBC Philharmonic, along with her son Neill MacColl and his wife, musical director Kate St John.

An extra verse was included when MacColl first wrote Dirty Old Town for his play Landscape With Chimneys, but he later removed it.

Seeger will perform the abandoned verse at the We Invented the Weekend festival in MediaCity on June 16.

Featured image credit: University of Salford Press Office

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