THE DALTON HIRING FAIR
The annual Dalton Hiring Fairs for reapers were described by William Fleming* of Pennington (writing in 1806) as follows:
"It has been the Custom from Time immemorial for Reapers to offer themselves in the Market Place at Dalton in Furness Every Sunday Morning during Harvest, to be hired by the Farmers not only in the Neighbourhood but by those from Cumberland who constantly repair thither for that purpose. This day (August 17), being the first of the season, great Numbers of Irish came over to reap, who caused the Prices to be lower than usual . . ." Some strict observers of the Sabbath regarded the Hiring Fairs as a desecration of the Lord's Day. A Sabbatarian wrote this tract:
"Some three or four hundred men, some sober, some partially and others wholly drunk, sitting, standing, cursing, reviling and committing all manner of abomination, and here and there a sickle merchant and applewoman vending their respective wares in the narrow part of the long straggling town, directly between two of Satan's Temples". ("The Red Lion" and "The Cavendish Arms). "The Barrow contingent on returning home indulged in al manner of sports. A considerable contrast to an observance of the Sabbath in our day". (W E Roberts).
* The William Fleming Furness Diary is a collection of ten volumes, seven of which are on microfilm in Lancaster and Liverpool Universities, and in Barrow Library.