The Flowers of Manchester

One cold and bitter Thursday in Munich, Germany,

Eight great football stalwarts conceded victory,

Eight men will never play again who met destruction there,

The flowers of English football, the flowers of Manchester

Matt Busby’s boys were flying, returning from Belgrade,

This great United family, all masters of their trade,

The pilot of the aircraft, the skipper Captain Thain,

Three times they tried to take off and twice turned back again.

The third time down the runaway disaster followed close,

There was slush upon that runaway and the aircraft never rose,

It ploughed into the marshy ground, it broke, it overturned.

And eight of the team were killed as the blazing wreckage burned.

Roger Byrne and Tommy Taylor who were capped for England’s side.

And Ireland’s Billy Whelan and England’s Geoff Bent died,

Mark Jones and Eddie Colman, and David Pegg also,

They all lost their lives as it ploughed on through the snow.

Big Duncan he went too, with an injury to his frame,

Johnny Berry and Jackie Blanchflower will never play again,

The great Matt Busby lay there, the father of his team

Three long months passed by before he saw his team again.

The trainer, coach and secretary, and a member of the crew,

Also eight sporting journalists who with United flew,

And one of them Big Swifty, who we will ne’er forget,

The finest English ‘keeper that ever graced the net.

Oh, England’s finest football team its record truly great,

Its proud successes mocked by a cruel turn of fate.

Eight men will never play again, who met destruction there,

The flowers of English football, the flowers of Manchester


History of The Flowers of Manchester

The Flowers Of Manchester was sent into a folk magazine, Sing, anonymously in October 1958. The words were printed, but no music accompanied it, apart from a note saying it was to the tune of High Germany. It later transpired that the lyrics were actually written by Eric Winter, the editor of Sing.

The first known musical recording was by The Spinners, a North-West based folk group, on their album ‘Quayside Songs Old and New’ on an old HMV-CLP1500 educational label issued in 1962. It was recorded at Cecil Sharp house by Peter Kennedy.

Phillips issued an EP on it’s Fontana label TE17493 in 1967 titled ‘Flowers of Manchester’. This EP also contained Manchester Rambler, Droylsden Wakes and Sunshine( a song for Lancashire CC ).

This was a live version, different to the earlier studio one and was the record that Mick Groves, a Salford lad and one of the five members of the original Spinners, has donated to the museum at Old Trafford.

It was re-released by The Spinners on their album “Black & White” ( Philips International 6382 047) where it was sung solo by Mick Groves. You can download a copy of Mick’s solo version here (with Mick’s permission).

Hanky Park, a Lancashire-based folk duo, recorded a version and this can be downloaded from their site. This version has been played at Old Trafford over the PA in recent years at the match nearest the anniversary.

In 2008 Mick Groves released a charity version of the record to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the crash.

In October 2020 following a request from a United fan, the line “and Ireland’s brave Jack Blanchflower will never play again” was officially changed to “Johnny Berry and Jackie Blanchflower will never play again” in recognition of the fact that Johnny Berry also never played again. At the time the song was first written Berry’s career wasn’t officially over.

Also in October 2020, “Big Duncan he went too with an injury to his brain” was changed to “Big Duncan he went too with an injury to his frame” as he didn’t die from a brain injury


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