20 Jun

Hiring Time

My chum and I we left Belfast for Dubilin town we took our way,
And all along the road was strewn with lads and lassies fair and gay,
‘Til drawing nigh one did I spy as she walked slowly by hersel,
And for fear the rain her clothes would stain I did display my umberel.

“Where are you going my pretty fair maid how far do you intend to stray?”
“To Antrim’s town sir I am bound for this they say is hiring day,
The clouds they do look something wet although the morning did look fine,
I fear my love” she then did say, “we won’t be in for hiring time.”

“O cheer your heart, my pretty maid for by and by the rain will pass,
And don’t be sad when with a lad, a roving baker from Belfast,
Then if you will accept a drink of whiskey, brandy, ale or wine,
We’ll have a drink and then be there to Antrim’s town by hiring time.”

She gave consent and in we went to an alehouse that stood by the way,
Glass after glass around did pass and we both forgot it was hiring day,
The clock struck three she smiled at me saying “Roving baker the fault is thine,
For the day’s far spent, night’s coming on besides I’m late for hiring time.”


We have another song this month from the wonderful repertoire of Charles Finnemore of Bridgewater, Maine as recorded by Helen Hartness Flanders in the 1940s. I have found versions of “The Hiring Time” (aka “The Hiring Day” or “The Strabane Hiring Fair”) sung by Eddie Butcher of Co. Derry, Michael Gallagher and John Maguire of Co. Fermanagh and Dick Flynn of Co. Wexford (also Jimmy Grant). It seems to have been a well-travelled song in Ireland. In Scotland, it was “The Feeing Time” and versions show up printed on broadsides there as early as the 1840s.

Finnemore’s version leaves off the ending typically sung in Ireland where the couple gets married in the morning and lives happily ever after. Finnemore also sang the song twice for the Flanders collection and did a different second verse each time. His drifting second verse split well into two verses with some help from one of the Scottish broadsides I found online through the National Library of Scotland so this is what I have printed above. To hear Finnemore’s varying versions, visit the Flanders Ballad Collection on archive.org.

The pattern of attending seasonal hiring fairs in Ireland and Scotland persisted in new forms in Maine and other north woods communities where lumber companies would send out agents, (“preachers of the gospel” one Michigan song calls them) each fall to hire enough men for their crew.

20 Jun

Jessie Monroe

As I went a-walking one fine summer’s morning,
Down by Leinster market I happened to go,
I spied a young female that pleas-ed my fancy,
I’ll tell you about her as far as I know.

Cho:     Right fol duh die ay, right fol duh die addee
             For she is my darling wherever I go.

I stepp-ed up to her saying “where are you going?
Who is your father I feign would know?”
“My father’s a blacksmith in the village of Leinster,
And I am his daughter young Jessie Monroe.”

I said now “miss Jessie it’s I have fine buildings,
They’ll all be on your side as well you know,
If you will consent for to lie in my arrums,
A lamb of my bosom young Jessie Monroe.”

Oh she said “Now young Johnny go away with your flattering,
For you have a sweetheart wherever you go,
Your buildings are haunted likewise they’re enchanted,
There’s a handsomer young man for Jessie Monroe.”

Oh I said “now miss Jessie since you’ve been so saucy,
Once more to my lovely Maggie I’ll go,
She’s ne’er quite so bonnie, she’s better for Johnny,
So go your way wandering young Jessie Monroe.”

We have a nice lilty story song of unrequited love this month that, again, comes from the wonderful repertoire of Charles Finnemore of Bridgewater, Maine who was recorded by Helen Flanders. The 1941 recording of Finnemore singing “Jessie Monroe” is freely available to listen to online as part of the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection on archive.org.

Finnemore’s melody here resembles the air sung in Ireland for the song “Bold Doherty.” Jessie Monroe (Munroe or Munro in other transcriptions) was collected from a handful of other singers around the Canadian Maritimes. Other versions have the place name Leicester instead of Leinster.

13 May

The County Tyrone

My parents oft times told me, they never could control me,
That a weaver they would make me if I’d stay at home,
But I took another notion of a higher promotion,
To try other countries as well as Tyrone.

When I came to Newry, it was there I fell a-courting,
A charming young girl for a wife of-a my own,
But when I came to view her she would not endure me,
For oft times she told me I was married at home.

Continually weaving I spent that whole season,
Oh thinking my true love, she would change her mind,
When at last I contracted, she instantly asked me,
“Kind sir, your character?” from the County Tyrone.

It is for my character you need never ask me,
For married or promised I never was to no’one,
She swore by her conscience that she would run all chances,
And travel along with me to the County Tyrone.

Oh early next morning, as the day was a-dawning,
We took a short ramble down by the mile stone,
A guard did pursue us, but they could not come to us,
I was wishing in my heart I had her in Tyrone.

With great toil and trouble our course we did double,
We met an old man that was walking alone,
He told them where he met us and where they would get us,
And that we were still talking of the County Tyrone

The canal it was near us where vessels were lying,
I jumped onto one and my case I made known,
They threw a plank to us, and on shipboard they drew us,
And told us the vessel was bound for Tyrone.

Now I am landed in my own native country,
And in spite of her parents I’ve got her at home,
Now my song for to finish she’s my love Jenny Innes,
And I’m bold McGuinness from the County Tyrone.

Beaver Island, Michigan singer John W. Green (1871-1964) learned “The County Tyrone” from his uncle (probably Peter O’Donnell, another singer born on the island). Song collector Ivan Walton recalls the night he, his son Lynn, islander Dominick Gallagher and collector Alan Lomax commenced their recording session with Green in August 1938 this way: “Lomax, Dominick Gallagher, Lynn and I and some beer drove out to John Green’s and found him quite talkative. We set up the recording machine and didn’t take it down until about 1 a.m.” My transcription of Green singing “The County Tyrone” for Lomax’s recording machine is above. The recording is accessible here on the loc.gov site.

Green’s is the only version of this song collected in North America. It is known in the north of Ireland and appears in Sam Henry’s Songs of the People as well as in the repertoires of Robert Cinnamond, Joe Holmes, Brian Mullen and others. The sweet melody, internal rhyming and detailed story of a successful elopement make it a song worth singing!