The Ballad of Billy Kershaw


Words & Music: Jake Thackray

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He was small and baggy-trousered, he was nondescript and shy,
But in his breast there burned a sacred flame,
For women melted and surrendered when they looked into his eyes.
(Little Billy Kershaw was the name, by the way,
He worked as a country ploughman, so they say.)

Oh Lothario and Casanova, mighty Don Juan,
Those legendary goats of days of yore -
Billy was better, with his eyes closed, on one leg and with no hands!
(A trick which he could actually perform, by the way,
Spectacular, but dodgy, so they say.)

He never did it for the profit of it, never for applause,
Only the silvery laughter that it caused.

There was a difference in that Billy Kershaw never picked the best,
The beautiful, the golden ones that most men would,
But the ugly ones, the poorest, the despised, the dispossessed.
(Where else would a hunchback get a cuddle, by the way?
Harelips can kiss, or so they say.)

And so the shop-girl with the whiskers, or the limping shepherdess,
The squinting barmaid (her with the pocky skin),
Even the horse-like countess with the teeth and meagre breasts
(Which in fact had often harboured Billy's chin, by the way,
Haughty but snug, so they say).

He never did it for the profit of it, never for applause,
Only the common comfort that it caused.

Many a poor distracted Catholic, rating Billy over Lourdes,
Came smiling down his staircase, all her frenzy gone.
And the husband, far from angry, would be chuffed that she was cured
(And buy him a pint in the local later on, by the way;
Horses for courses, as they say).

He responded to the colonel's widow's desperate appeal
In the colonel's house upon the colonel's tiger skin,
And in the potter's shop, the potter's wife upon the potter's wheel
(Which was steadily continuing to spin, by the way,
A right tour de force, so they say).

But never ever for the profit of it, never the applause,
Only the passing happiness it caused.

But soon the news of Billy Kershaw and his life-enhancing powers
Became across the county widely known,
And by his cottage gate the coachloads waited patiently for hours.
(The drivers made a bundle going home, by the way,
Their caps were full of silver, so they say.)

And the village did a roaring trade in teas and souvenirs,
In ash trays and the local watercress.
Until Billy, disillusioned, simply ups and disappears.
(Leaving no forwarding address, by the way,
Could be anywhere at all, or so they say.)

But it was not for the profit of it, not for the applause,
Only the consolation that it caused.

If there should be a sad, neglected, wretched woman in your life,
It could well be that Billy's near at hand;
Perhaps your auntie or your daughter, or your mother or your wife.
(And when did you last see your grandma, by the way?
No genuine case is ever turned away.)

He's no rascal, he's no charlatan, no mountebank, no snob;
Whoever you are, he'll treat you just the same.
He is small and baggy-trousered, and he does a tidy job.
(Little Billy Kershaw is the name, by the way;
He worked as a country ploughman, so they say.)

But never ever for the profit of it, never the applause,
Only the common comfort that it caused.

If you find that Billy's ballad is extravagant, or trite,
Offensive, irrelevant, or untrue,
That may well be, but here's a moral which will make us feel all right
(A moral which may well apply to you, by the way;
Takes one to know one, as they say).

If you're ugly, if you're weak, or meek, or queer, form a queue
And the rest of us will travel from afar
And systematically we'll do to you what Billy used to do -
But more regular and always twice as hard, by the way,
Mea culpa, mea culpa, as they used to say.

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