Wolfe Tone (Smith) Irish revolutionary figure


I understand that Morrissey has said that the band name "The Smiths" was chosen "because it was the most ordinary name". Apparently it is or at least was the most numerous surname in the UK, so his explanation makes sense.

Yesterday I was reading Robert Lindsay's autobiography and was musing on the name "Citizen Smith", a character he played in a BBC TV sit-com of the same name (1977-1980). Wolfie "Citizen" Smith was a Marxist revolutionary from Tooting, London. I had always considered that the name "Smith" in that context was also chosen because it was an 'ordinary' or most common name, but apparently 'Smith' was a pseudonym used by Wolfe Tone (1763-1798) who was a leading Irish revolutionary. And therefore 'Wolfie' was a reference to Wolfe Tone. I'd heard of the folk band the Wolfe Tones but I wasn't aware where their name came from.

Which makes me wonder whether 'The Smiths' was actually a sly reference to Wolf Tone, or it is a coincidence? I'm probably over-thinking this though.

Smith's was a popular brand of potato crisps in the UK in the 1970's too, but I don't think that had any influence on the choice of name for the band.

Young And Alive

Senior Member
I always thought he chose The Smiths as a sort of placeholder name, in other words he called them that simply because they had to have a name, and that the name wasn't important, it was all about the songs.


Young and Alive, that sounds the sort explanation that has been given, and it's probably accurate. I think Morrissey's said didn't want the name to have any possible meaning or interpretation. I only raise this thing about Wolfe Tone (aka Smith) because I thought it plausible with the band members all having Irish roots.

Then again, the man that was the main witness against the Moors Murderers was David Smith. Being such a 'common' surname I suppose there are bound to be these coincidences if the choice of band name wasn't a deliberate association. Obituary of David Smith
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