FolkWorld #55 11/2014
© Seán Laffey

The Next Market Day

A maid going to Comber her markets to larn
And to sell for her mammy three hanks of fine yarn
She met with a young man along the highway
Which caused this young damsel to dally and stray.

“O Sit down beside me I mean you no harm
Come sit down beside me this new tune to larn
And here is three guineas your mammy to pay
So lay by your yarn till the next market day.”

She sat down beside him, the grass it was green
The day was the fairest that ever was seen.
“The look in your eye beats a morning in May
I could sit by your side till the next market day.”

So they sat down together and the valleys did ring
And the birds in the bushes so sweetly did sing
He took out his fiddle and well he could play
And he played her the tune called The Next Market Day     

So this sweet bonny lass she did laugh and did say
I love that wee tune called The Next Market Day
The Next Market Day is a great tune ‘tis plain
So play that tune over again and again and again…

Now as she went homeward, the words he had said
And the tune that he played her still rang in her head.
“I’ll search for that young man by land or by sae
Till he larns me the tune called The Next Market Day.”

O Sit down beside me I mean you no harm ...

So she went back to Comber and searched for him long
And she found this young man and it’s well they got on
And now they are married in sweet Killyleagh
And he plays her the tune called The Next Market Day.

Songs That Made History: Seán Laffey writes that the song The Next Market Day (aka The Maid Going to Comber) appears on CRAN's new album Dally and Stray.


Artist Video Cran @ FolkWorld:
FW#4, #55

Ronan Browne @ FolkWorld:
FW#21 #24, 24, #45

Desi Wilkinson @ FolkWorld:
FW#40, #41, #51

Cran: Dally and Stray

The Next Market Day

Bardic, Ceilí Moss, Fling, Jim McCann, More Maids

Barbara Cassidy, Chris Jones, Chloe Matharu, Sarah McQuaid

The story has also been recorded by Oisin and Charlie Piggot. The theme of the story is casual romance in a rural setting, there is no doubt it has some basis in truth, if not in the exact locality. May Blair has written a well-documented account on the Fairs of Ulster in the Appletree Press Publication Hiring Fairs and Market Places (2007). During the 18th and 19th centuries Comber [in County Down] had at least four markets per year, but no market place nor market hall.

In the first half of the twentieth century the town held monthly markets. Land around was uncommonly good for flax growing, a fact reported on as early as the 1820's. The maid in the story is off to sell yarn, regular traders would sell from temporary market stall, which cost between four pence and six pence a day, the more expensive ones having a cover over them.

Comber is the Planter's spelling of the Irish Commar, meaning a confluence of rivers, in this case the Enler and Glens rivers which join to form the Comber. The name is first noted in 890, the river flows into Strangford Lough.

The song over-glamorises the often desperate plight of the Spáilpín or seasonally hired labourer, which was the back bone of Irish rural economy for centuries. In the song I Once was a Days Man, Eddie Butcher tells of a youth who having had enough of his mother's scolding and the poor quality food at home, he goes off to hire, with a fiver in his pocket he's saved up and hidden in the cow byre. The classics Spáilpín Fánach and Darby O'Leary tell of the harsh treatment served out on the hirelings.

He worked me by day and he worked me by night
While he held an old candle to give me some light
I wished his potatoes would die of the blight
Or himself would go off with the fairies
'Twas on this old miser I looked with a frown
When the straw was brought in for to make me shake down
And I wished that I'd never seen him nor his town
Nor the sky over Darby O'Leary

When I Once was a Days Man was printed in the Northern Constitution in the 1920's, the paper received a number of letters complaining of the hiring arrangements, citing wages as low as £6 for a six month contract. Hiring fairs in Comber were held in October.

The Maid Going to Comber was recorded by John McCormack in 1920, he had collected it with Herbert Hughes in 1905. Seán Corcoran has re-worked the old traditional song of dalliance and straying which was collected and then printed by the Belfast composer Herbert Hughes. CRAN's album title Dally and Stray is a quote from this song. Some versions have the phrase as tarry and stray, implying idleness, dally on the other hand puts an entirely different complexion on the sojourn.

First published @ Irish Music Magazine #231, August 2014 (

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Cran (unknown/website).

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