The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #273   Message #5862
Posted By: LaMarca
28-May-97 - 02:31 PM
Thread Name: ADD: Hiring Fair (Ralph McTell)
Subject: RE: The Hiring Fair
Ralph McTell's "Hiring Fair" is a completely different song than the one mentioned above. It's about a young man and a young woman who both hire to the same farmer, work side by side for the harvest season and fall for each other(both figuratively and literally). It's a moody, fairly erotic song.

The Clancy Brothers/Irish Rovers song given above sounds like one of a large class of "bothy ballads" from Scotland and Ireland. Itinerant farm workers would gather at a hiring or "feeing" fair. Neighboring farmers/landowners would come to the fair and hire a work crew for the season for a set fee, usually with a verbal "contract" and handshake; this was called "feeing on".
The farmer was supposed to provide housing and food for the workers for the season. Housing was usually in poorly kept shacks called "bothys", hence the name "bothy ballads". The workers lived under very strict rules; they were usually forbidden to leave the property or fraternize with the opposite sex. A lot of songs sprang up about various landowners in the area, telling other workers about the food and lodgings at a particular farm, how strict the rules were, etc. Songs were also composed about adventures a worker had had in evading the rules of the place. Brady of Strabane would have been one of the local land-owners; the song was a funny warning to other workers that good ol' Brady wasn't a particularly generous boss to work for.