Author: May Blair
Hiring Fairs and Market Places
When Mounthill Fair was like a show;
Hiring Fairs and Market Places is a revealing look at the Hiring Fairs and market places of the past.
Author May Blair explains: "Research for this book began around twenty years ago and many of the people who I interviewed for this book are no longer with us. They were just ordinary country people who gathered potatoes, milked cows by hand, threshed corn and churned butter. All of those jobs can be done by machine and the memories of the people who did it in the old way needed to be recorded before they disappeared completely. I am so glad to have met all these people – both those who hired and those who employed them – and to have told their story. Many of the people I met gave me photographs from their own albums and collections and many have never been published before."
Much of the atmosphere of the old-time fairs is captured in the songs and poems of the age and many of these have been published for the first time in Hiring Fairs and Market Places. May continues: "The people I interviewed would start to recite the poems and songs that they remembered hearing at the hiring fairs and markets or which family members had written. People tend to forget that fairs were a source of major entertainment as well as commerce in the country and the songs reveal a lot about the times. I particularly liked a poem by John Clifford describing Mounthill Fair and the people who attended and the animals which were for sale."
Having discovered so much about the old-time markets and hiring fairs would May have liked to have seen or experienced them? Her answer is empathic and immediate: "No. Definitely not! No one had it easy in those days but one story I heard from County Londonderry did make me smile. A farmer discovered his hired man lying fast asleep on the broad of his back when he should have been working. In despair he woke him up and said, 'It just takes me the half of my time watchin' you Jimmy.' The luckless Jimmy replied: 'You're lucky. It takes me all of my time watchin’ you!'"
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