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Monday, March 17, 2014

Nothing changes

My daughter sent me a link to a Plain Dealer piece; a grandmother whose still illiterate grandchildren could bellow the lyrics of any Irish song from the back seat. She tried to steer them off the whiskey, onto ships and love songs, threading her way through the minefield of the implications of “bottom of the sea.” To quote Sheridan, the land of happy wars and sad love longs. Or Freud, with whom this grandma ended her piece, one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.

“Sound familiar, Ma?” my daughter asked. I wrote it up a couple of years ago; here it is again.

I unpacked my folk albums when I divorced, and the girls and I did a lot of Saturday morning housework to the beat of an Irish group downstairs on the stereo.  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, apparently. At least 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,” Mary said.

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 turn
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. Oh, you have to love Irish music. They usually involve death, wars (the troubles), and drink. The Clancy Brothers, along with the Irish Rovers were played constantly in my house. I did not realize till I was much older that the themes of their music was the reason that Irish drank. Depression and guilt are are part of our DNA, but my, oh my, we know how to celebrate it.

  2. What a hoot. And folk songs, and folk stories have always dealt with the big (and all too often) hidden issues. Which is as it should be.

  3. Hari OM
    ...and begorrah, but that's a testament to quality cloth! Hope you're having a bright one. YAM xx

  4. On St Patrick's Day, I love Irish music too.

  5. Oh my...that is some song.

  6. Well, well, I have not heard that song since I was a teenager in Northern Ireland. I had quite forgotten it till I read it here ! :)

  7. Only marginally more graphic than the nursery rhymes we all learned!
    Jane x

  8. Never heard that one. The ending is great. Irish humor - good craic

  9. I love those lyrics. They're hilarious. Today is (was) my dad's birthday, and my children have Irish red hair. When The Hurricane lived in England, everyone assumed she was Irish. She said even when she opened her mouth and an American accent came out, they still thought she was Irish. Happy St. Patrick's Day!


  10. My mom and sister got the red hair... but I got the Irish temper ;-) Happy St Patrick's Day to ye!

  11. Loved the ending and the last two lines.

  12. The last two lines are priceless, Joanne.

  13. love and hate all in one; are those iceles in the top photo?

  14. My dad was Irish and 2 of my 3 children have the red hair. The third got the dark hair and blue eyes. We love Irish music, but have never heard those lyrics. And they are certainly no worse than some around now.

  15. and I have on my green Irish thigh socks with the lace tops-under my long underwear. I thank you for both Joanne and am thinking of having a green beer right now.

  16. And I thought I knew all the dark drinking songs. Now to dig up our boxes of every Irish song going.

  17. One summer when the kids were still young, somewhere between 7 and 10 and the neighborhood kids as well, we had a maid come in to clean house and cook dinner as we were very busy in the shop. They were watching a movie we had rented, I don't really remember what now, but the maid took me aside to tell me that she didn't think it was appropriate got the kids. I disagreed, especially since they had already seen it, and the show went on.

  18. When the oldest was around 5, I remember the sinking feeling when once we had guests and she started singing "Who's that knocking at my door, who's that knocking at my door....."

  19. Some kids grow up quicker than others :)

  20. Irish music gets often right into the legs. Hahaha - what a song! Children love cruel ballads (more than once I had to listen to the complete "The little Mr. Ranunkel from Brabant" by Francois Villon - declaimed by heart by son...)
    The film picture is lovely - I can imagine that people were - surprised - to see three different beautiful hair colours.

  21. Ah, Joanne. You've made me very happy. :-)


  22. Ha! What a righteous piece! And the end! Perfect!