Theresa O’Connor

Shankill Butchers — Irish History in Song

It seems that every time and place has bogeyman stories parents tell their children to frighten them to behave. Often the bogeymen in such stories were real, at some point in the past, but have become a folktale fright over time. In the The Decemberists’ “Shankill Butchers” — which appears on their recent album, “The Crane Wife” — the bogeymen are most certainly real, and recent.

The Shankill Butchers ride tonight
You better shut your windows tight
They’re sharpening their cleavers and their knives
And taking all their whiskey by the pint

’Cause everybody knows
If you don’t mind your mother’s words
A wicked wind will blow
Your ribbins from your curls
Everybody moan, everybody shake
The Shankill Butchers’ wanna catch you awake

They used to be just like me and you
They used to be sweet little boys
But something went horribly askew
Now killing is their only source of joy

The Shankill Butchers on the rise
They’re waiting ’til the dead of night
They’re picking at their fingers with their knives
And wiping off their cleavers on their thighs

The Shankill Butchers’ wanna cut you
The Shankill Butchers’ wanna catch you awake

Several of the Butchers are free men after being released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

This song officially gives me the jibblies.