In the lyrics, a man looks back with regret and pain for having lied to the woman he can't forget ("...and now as I wander, my thoughts ever stray...") and returned far too late, to discover she had become a nun.
The song was a hit in 1939 for Shep Fields followed by many others like Gene Autry: Fran Sinatra: Aker Bilk: Bing Crosby: Chuck Berry: Dean Martin: Engelbert Humperdinck: Fats Domino: Frankie Laine: Herb Alpert: Patsy Cline: Don Mclean: Patti Page: Perry Como: Russ Conway, The Shadows: Slim Whitman and Willie Nelson ( almost all of the favourite singers of mine).
Irish people, like most nationalities, have the tradition of emigrating to another country for a better life with greater prospects. Once established in their new country, often younger members of the original family follow suit and emigrate to the same country as their siblings. When this happens, most are put up by other family members already established in their new country, until they have sufficient resources and a firm foot holding in their new land.
My mother was (like me) the eldest of seven siblings. After she married my Irish father, they and their three children emigrated to England where my father obtained regular employment in the Yorkshire coal mines. This job also came with a small tied-cottage (owned by the National Coal Board) for the family to live in. These were happy but cramped years with parents and three children sleeping in the one bedroom. This experience covered the 4th to 9th year of my life.
At the age of 9 years, the family had increased by two more siblings and we all moved into a brand-new council estate which had been built nearby called Windy Bank Estate. We were over the moon! We had three bedrooms, two toilets (one inside and one outside the back door to the house (neither of which we had to share with the neighbours). We also had a bathroom. I was amazed to learn that there was one room that was solely allocated to house a bath. This was a sacred place, where we could bathe within an enclosed private area and in a ceramic bathe with hot and cold running water instead of a tin tub that had to be filled with buckets of cold and boiling pots in front of other family members.
When we bathed in the old tin bath, my sisters Mary and Eileen would use the opportunity to rile me. Being younger than me, they were expected to fill and top up my tin tub. They would deliberately make the water too hot when they topped up the tin bath (when I was in it), in the hope that I’d scream in pain, jump up and chase them around the room naked while they laughed at the sight of Billy’s willy.
When I was 10 years old, the second eldest sibling of my mothers’ (Uncle Willie) emigrated to West Yorkshire and landed on our doorstep requesting to be accommodated in our new council house until he got his place. Having just got a bed of my own to sleep in for the first time in my life, I had to relinquish it to Uncle Willie and share a bed with my sisters Mary and Eileen.
Willie stayed living with us for three years, and when he left, he was immediately followed by his brother (Uncle Johnny) who also lived for three years with us. Uncle Johnny was followed by his younger brother (Uncle Tom) who stayed four years until he married. I was surprised when he returned to his own house after his honeymoon and didn’t request to stay on at our house until he had saved enough money to buy his own bed outright!
Between the ages of nine and twelve, I slept in between my sisters Mary and Eileen in the same bed. Think of the fuss that the Social Services would make of that today? Before dad could remove his miner's clogs at the end of a hard shift, me and my two next sisters, Mary and Eileen would have been quickly dispatched to Children's Homes 100 miles apart! Between the ages of twelve and going to Canada at the age of 21 years, I shared a room with three brothers and even had my own bed to sleep in.
Uncle Johnny was a likeable rogue of a man, who never looked like he would settle down into a married life until he met a beautiful young woman called Susan who was the only daughter of a wealthy mill owner. From having robbed me of my bed for three years, he moved into the bed of the most beautiful woman in West Yorkshire as he moved up a social class that he was never born into and never quite fitted into.
Uncle Johnny had a well-paid job, he dressed impeccably and he was one of the first commoners to drive around in his own car, which essentially doubled as his magnet for attracting the good-looking women into the back seat during his courting days. He was always cheerful, highly handsome and with an opinion of himself that would have made Simon Cowell blush. Uncle Johnny could be daily heard singing in the bathroom as he got ready for going out wining and dining with the socialites of middle-class society.
He only had one song in his repertoire; the same song. It was ‘South of The Border’, but I very much guess that it wasn’t Mexico that his mind was on as he prepared for his romantic nights out? I have no doubt whatsoever, that where my womanising uncle was always thinking of travelling to nightly was south of some stunning-looking woman’s border of least resistance.
Love and peace Bill xxx