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