I came across "William Bloat" in The Clancy Brothers
's The Irish Songbook
. This song is, in my opinion, one of the finest ever written. It demonstrates perfectly, for me, how the Celts/Ulstermen (pace dwellers of the Emerald Isle, regardless of confession) are masters of the English language, as if there weren't examples enough. This song has only four verses and a mere 172 words (believe I have counted and re-checked). But what a story! What strength! At no time until the punch-line comes does the first-time listener know how the tale will end. Such economy and wit! Because of its content, the singer has to take it slow, even for English-speaking audiences, in order to let the story sink in. The punch line is so unexpected, a sort of commercial, that even native first-time listening Ulstermen and Ulsterwomen, if they belong to the dominant confession that is, will break into gales of laughter.
I take my metaphorical hat off to those fine, unbigotted men, the Clancy Brothers who were big-hearted enough to include this song in their repertoire. In saying that I recall how a fellow Englishman, a certain Dave Hissurnamemustbekeptsecret who also enjoyed and admired this song as much as I, told me of his experiences of singing this song whilst in Eire. He said that on the few occasions he was interrupted with, "Hey, we don't sing that song here!" when the song starts with "In a mean abode in the Shankhill Road ..", he always enjoyed making the rejoinder that this was a Clancy Brothers song.