“The Shankill Butchers” by The Decemberists

As the title of this song (“The Shankill Butchers”) implies, the lyrics primarily center around the horrendous atrocities of the Shankill Butchers.

The Shankill Butchers was a group of violent murderers who terrorized Northern Ireland for several years, abducting and killing people at will. Their activities began somewhere in the mid 1970s and ended in the early 1980s.

It is the evil activities of these Butchers that The Decemberists cleverly capture in this song.
In one interview, the leader of the band (Colin Meloy) revealed that he was inspired to compose this song while visiting Ireland.

According to him, while in that country, he was reading a biography about Van Morrison when he stumbled across the horrible activities of the Shankill Butchers for the first time. He was instantly fascinated by the story that he decided to dig deeper. And in digging deeper, he went as far as interviewing the locals about the incident. It was during one of these interviews that he uncovered even more scary stuff. He discovered that one of the killers’ victims was actually skinned alive in the most horrific way possible!

“The Shankill Butchers” Lyrics

“The Shankill Butchers” Facts

Band/Group: The Decemberists
Album/EP: “The Crane Wife”


The song was written entirely by Colin Meloy. It’s production was afterwards handled by the following music producers:

  • Tucker Martine
  • Chris Walla


This Decemberists song can be placed into any of the following categories:

  • Alternative/indie
  • Rock

When was “The Shankill Butchers” released?

Officially, the song’s date of release is October 3rd, 2006. It appears on The Decemberists’ “The Crane Wife” album.

Are there any Covers of this tune?

Yes, there are quite a few of them out there. However, the one that instantly crosses our mind is one by an American singer named Sarah Jarosz. Sarah came out with the aforementioned cover in 2009.

The Shankill Butchers

The Atrocities of the Shankill Butchers

The notorious gang, Shankill Butchers, were a 12-member British Ulster loyalist gang under the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). UVF was active from 1975 to 1982 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Shankill Butchers were based in the Shankill area of Northern Ireland and were responsible for the several murders, tortures, and kidnaps of many Catholic civilians. The gang roamed the streets of Shankill with knives, axes, hatches, and many other weapons. Their primary mission was to kidnap, torture, or murder any person suspected to be a Catholic.

They mostly killed their victims by hacking their throats with their weapons. The gang murdered at least 19 Catholics.

However, they wrongly killed two Protestants mistaken as Catholics and murdered six Ulster Protestants over gang disputes. The gang also conducted a bombing attack on the Falls Road that led to the death of a ten-year-old boy on April 10, 1977. The Butchers are considered to have carried out the most terrifying killing spree in Northern Ireland.

Most of the gang members were eventually arrested in 1979. They subsequently received the longest combined life and prison sentences in the legal history of the U.K. However, their gang leader, Lenny Murphy, escaped prosecution. He was later murdered in 1982 by the Provisional IRA.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like...