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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A folk story

The folk revival was firmly established when I started college.  Heck, I even knew about Pete Seeger.  My dad didn’t agree with his politics, but he agreed with McCarthy’s even less.  Around the house mom sang the big band tunes.  Dad played Latin stuff like Tico Tico.  I listened to WAKR on my red transistor radio and didn’t have an opinion on either Pat Boone or Elvis.  But when I went to college I went right down the folk rabbit hole. 

I saw the Lettermen, the Kingston Trio and more.  Folk music was the topic among the kids I hung with.  We spent afternoons playing albums.  I don’t remember the first time I saw the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, but I did, and they went straight to the top of my chart.  They had two or three albums available in the very early sixties, and I played the vinyl off them. 

When I married my folk albums were packed away.  My husband hated them.  But they were unpacked and back on the stereo when we divorced, nine years later.  Along came the magic of 8 track tapes and recording equipment, and I was in business; all my albums could be played in the car.  The drive to work was a lot shorter.

My girls liked the music, too.  I guess.  It was all they heard.  But they didn’t complain.  There often was a third girl in the car, too, Chrissy, who lived next door and was Beth’s good friend. Here’s an old 110 film snap.  You can see Beth’s black Irish hair, Shelly’s Teutonic blond hair, and almost make out that Chrissy and her brother Mark have beautiful red hair.  I turned heads when I walked through a store with those three girls!   I could hear minds turning and opinions forming.

The girls each were a year apart and their average age was about eight when Chrissy’s mother dropped by one day to tell me I was enabling the girls to form good opinions of reprehensible behavior.  The three of them were enamored of the Clancy Brothers version of William Bloat and could be found and heard singing it in both back yards and out on the street.  “It glorifies murder and suicide,” she told me. 

I told her I’d heard worse versions that included clotted blood and thought it could even be considered an early advertising jingle.  Or, heavy handed chauvinism.  In any event, the girls didn’t unlearn the song and Chrissy was still allowed to come over.

In a mean abode

On the Shankell road

Lived a man named William Bloat

And he had a wife

The bane of his life

Who always got his goat

And one day at dawn

With her night dress on

He slit her bloody throat

Now he was glad

He had done what he had

As she lay there stiff and still

Till suddenly all of the angry law

Filled his soul with an awful chill

And to finish the fun

So well begun

He decided himself to kill

Then he took the sheet

From his wife’s cold feet

And he twisted it into a rope

He hanged himself

From the pantry shelf

Was an easy end let’s hope

With his dying breath

And he facing death

He solemnly cursed the pope

But the strangest urn

Of this whole concern

Was only just beginning

He went to hell

But his wife got well

And she’s still alive and sinning

For the razor blade

Was German made

But the rope was Belfast linen


  1. I don't believe I have ever heard that before. Quite the song.

  2. Love the song! Had to go and google it. A little more learning this morning! Thank you!

  3. only joanne would recollect this...Thank you..

  4. only joanne would remember this...Thank you..