Tuesday 27 September 2016

Poetry... Twelfth man: sorry tale of the Shankill Road

Ulick O'Connor

Published 12/07/2015 | 02:30

Orange Order
Orange Order

Tomorrow is the 12th of July. This means once more you can hear the boom of the Lambegs and the screech of the pipers at full blast in the Ulster countryside.

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Attired in his attractive bowler hat and white gloves, the Orangeman believes himself superior to any who, at that moment, are not similarly attired.

They march very well indeed. No sloppiness here. But the whole drama has been put together for one purpose - to show who is on top.

This is what makes it difficult for anyone not involved in this spectacular display to fully admire it.

There is a superb ballad written by Raymond Calvert, a Queens University Graduate, in the 1930s which has caught perfectly the spirit of this essentially Irish event.

It is so good that I think that no contemporary book of Irish verse should leave it out.

It catches the spirit of unredeemed Orangery, and at the same time touches on the sympathy you feel for your own countryman when they are not coming up to scratch.

When you see the marchers on television tomorrow, their heads held up as if they were going to battle, think of William Bloat, the hero of Raymond Calvert's wonderful literary portrait, and feel that you understand things up North a little better now.

The Ballad of William Bloat

In a mean abode on the Shankill road

There lived one William Bloat

The bane of his life was a nagging wife

Who continually got his goat

Till one morn at dawn with her nightgown on

He cut her bloody throat

He settled her hash with a razor gash

There never was crime so slick

But the constant drip on the pillow slip

Of her life's blood made him sick

And to finish the fun so well begun

He decided himself to kill

Then he tore the sheet from his wife's cold feet

And he knotted it into a rope

And he hanged himself from the pantry shelf

'Twas an easy end, let's hope

In the jaws of death with his final breath

He cried "To hell with the Pope".

But the queerest turn of the whole concern

Is only just beginning

For Bill's in hell, but his wife got well

And is alive and sinning

For the razor blade was Dublin made

But the sheet was Belfast linen.

Raymond Calvert

1906-1953

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