HIRING FAIRS OF ULSTER
Words & Music: Trad.
LONG AGO, HIRING FAIRS WERE A FEATURE OF RURAL LIFE IN IRELAND, AND WERE STILL PREVALENT IN SOME PARTS EVEN UP TO THE EARLY PART OF THE LAST CENTURY. STRANGELY, NOT MANY BALLADS WERE WRITTEN TO REFLECT THEM, THIS IS ONE I COLLECTED SOME YEARS BACK.
Good people all attention pay
To these lines that I relate.
Concerning Ulster’s hiring faire
Where people are so jovial.
The servants all are out of place
About the merry month of May.
The all approach the hiring fairs
To seek for better wages.
The ploughboy with a steady hand
Is well engaged to plough the land.
The dairymaid is well prepared
To mind her milk and dairy.
The cowboy with a staff and stave
Will mind his cows by brook or brae.
The shoe boy too is wanted there
To polish boots for ladies.
The labouring boy is well engaged
To till the soil and sow the grain
Great natures cause for the maintain
I n every rank and station.
The king and queen, the lord and Mayor
The jolly crew that ploughs the main,
The gentle folk, the clown and rake
Are supported by his labor.
The kitchen maid can work or play
At certain times she’s not engaged.
Sometimes she puts the hens to lay.
More times she rocks the cradle.
Sometimes she puts the geese to hatch,
Other times she’s cleaning the flax
She’ll dress the bed both soft and flat
And sleep till day is breaking.
The farmer like noble squire
Will comb those servants for to hire
And ask them what they do require
With board and entertainment.
They’ll feed you well with bread and tea
I you comply to work sincere,
Your dinner will have no delay
Of butter spuds and bacon.
The servants wages now should rise
As beef and butter are so high.
There’s ten eggs sold at pence a price
Turkey eggs three ha’pence.
The paper states the London price
Of beef and oats and barley dry
And Gladstone seeking tenant’s rights
It’s now in contemplation.