The Illustrated London News - Nov 2nd 1872
A Warwickshire Hiring Fair

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This image and text was published in the Illustrated London News on 2nd November 1872

A Hiring Fair

An institution in English and Scottish rural life, which has been frequently discussed by social reformers, is the custom of holding stature fairs, as they are called in most parts of the country, for the public offering and hiring of men and women to service. Clergymen have borne testimony against this practice, as exposing the young of both sexes to much danger of moral contamination, while standing idle together in the street of a market town or village, where the beershops were doing a brisk trade, and reckless visitors with money to spend were disposed of to treat Sally and Molly, or to close a bargain with Tim Bobbin over the third quart of ale at the Dukes Arms, leaving an impression on their minds that was, perhaps not favourable to virtuous conduct. There is great reason to believe that sad mischief has often been done in this way; and it might be well to supersede the open assemblage of labourers for hire, which looks, indeed, rather like a slave-market, by establishing a system of local registration, with advertisements and correspondence between the several parishes of a district, and with appointed houses of call, separately for men and women, where they could meet their expected employers. Magistrates, farmers, and clergy, with the cooperation of farmers and tradesmen in their neighbourhood, would surely not find it difficult to contrive such as system, and to set it in regular operation. But it is not for us to dictate schemes of moral and economic improvement to the agricultural classes, who ought to know their own business and take care of themselves. We can only refer to the scene in a Warwickshire town, which our artist has faithfully delineated, and which our readers opening the two-page Engraving, will regard with considerable interest. It is all the more pleasing, because the figures here grouped in eager conversation are the trim damsels and thrifty housewives of that Heart-of-England shire. Few specimins of the male farm-labourer, whose grievances were the notorious theme of public controversy in the spring of this year are to be seen in the present Illustration. Of him and his affairs we have nothing fresh to say, but will simply quote his own speech, from a clever little book called "The Life and Experiences of a Warwickshire Labourer", published by Routledge and Sons :- "Yo ask ma, lads, about the strike, I´ll tell tha, an´ I´ll tell tha true. I ha´ an opinion of my own, though I am neither a farmer nor a Methody Preacher; but I can howld a plough, pleach a hedge, thatch a rick, and do an honest day´s work wi´ any man. In my life I´ve carried a milking-pail, I´ve frightened cows, and I´ve seen summut of the world. I know what it is to carry a faggot at my back after a hard day´s work, wi nawt in my stomach and but little to put there when I got home, but ´bread and pull it;´ or, as Tommy Clews the stokinger, used to say, ´bread and point.´ We had a little bread, and used to point where the meat and the butter ought to be. I hev, as you say, not much to gain by the strike, and I´ve not much to lose, for I´m getting owd and unked like. It might ha´ been better years ago for me and mine; but we´ve pulled through for all that."

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