The daysman, song

Eddie Butcher, singing in English
© Item in copyright  (contact for information on re-use)
Downloads: PDF |  Metadata (Dublin Core)


I once was a daysman, I wrought cause anent 
And a day in the week was kept off for the rent, 
We had a row o’er the hours, my blood being on fire, 
So I packed up my bundle and I started to hire.

My mother with fleeching she near made me curse,
She says, – You’ll go further and maybe fare worse.
I had a fiver saved up, it was hid in the byre,
So I broke up the bank and set off for to hire.

I stood in the fair from morning till eve,
Not a bid for my body did I e’er receive;
Says I to myself, – It’s a glass you require
And stretch away home for you’re not going to hire.

I just had resolved when two lassies came by 
And the one was well featured on me cast her eye; 
Says she to the other, – Jean, here’s our desire, 
This man with the bundle he’s wanting to hire.

I knew by the joke and the way they were dressed 
They were two servant lasses, no more nor no less, 
Though their impudent cheek I was forced to admire 
The well featured one that had asked me to hire.

Ten pounds I was offered for to milk night and morn, 
From all sorts of drink to be teetotal sworn,
On my nights with the neighbours to no call and pass 
And then keep my hand off the young servant lass.

I was to be fed on the best of strong tea,
A duck egg to my breakfast and that every day; 
But in case that the servant no courting might stand
Says I, –  On the mistress I’ll first try my hand.

I threw my arm round her, she struggled and fought,
She seen that I had her, she knew she was caught;
So I split up the fiver and a drink I did share
And I courted her home the night of the fair.

But still I’m a daysman and I work cause anent
And the day in the week’s aye kept off for the rent,
But I have no fiver now to hide in the byre
For the bank is the wee lass that asked me to hire.


This recent song is the Ulster equivalent of a ‘bothy ballad’. ‘If you’re working cause anent,’ said Eddie, ‘you’re feeding yourself and you’re getting the money but no meat . . . you’d be paid so much a week. You’re no fed nor clad nor naething . . . you get something extra when you’re cause anent.’ – 6919. The expression, properly ‘cost anent’, is Scots in origin and common in Ulster: see UFL VIII (1962) 41. Hiring fairs were held twice yearly in May and November (see p. 11): this amorous skirmish with consequences no doubt took place in May. In 1961 Eddie left out v. 5 with its explanation that the ‘lassies’ were two servants; without this verse the story is altered, with it a kind of rural irony adds relish to the good ‘offer’ made in v. 6–7. During Oct.–Nov. 1932, correspondence in the Northern Constitution revealed widespread discontent among farm workers hired for the season; boys were said to have emigrated to Canada because they were being offered £6–£8 for six months (5 Nov.).