hired man

The Hired Man

The Hired Man is a novel by Melvyn Bragg, first published in 1969. It is the first part of Bragg's Cumbrian Trilogy.

The story is set predominantly in the rural area around Thurston (Bragg's name for Wigton), from the 1890s to the 1920s, and follows the life of John Tallentire, a farm labourer and coal miner. John is the father of Joseph Tallentire, the central character of Bragg's A Place in England, whose son, Douglas Tallentire, is the central character of Kingdom Come.

The Musical

The Hired Man is not just a novel. In 1984 it was also made into an award-winning musical when Bragg collaborated with Howard Goodall. The musical has been refined over time, including a new song Day Follows Day which was introduced for the 2003 revival at the Salisbury Playhouse. It features characters John and Emily Tallentire, and two periods in their lives. The first opens with a Hiring Fair, where John is employed by Pennington, a local farmer. Emily also has an affair with Pennington's son, Jackson. John finds out while on a hunting trip with his brother, Isaac, and returns and knocks out Jackson. Emily is torn between the two men. Act 2 begins with May and Harry (John and Emily's children). May is a very naïve 16-year-old and Harry is a brave and sometimes foolish 13-year-old. Time passes, and World War I disrupts the country, John, Isaac and Jackson all serve in the armed forces. Isaac loses his leg and his life is saved by Jackson. After Isaac's return, Harry also enlists. He dies in the war, along with Jackson. Emily finally declares her love for John in a beautiful duet. John goes to work in the mines, and Emily dies during a pit accident. May finds her dead mother, and John walks in to find his wife dead. The company re-assemble and sing the haunting finale sequence.

Act 1

1898 - Cockermouth and Crossbridge
Song of The Hired Men - Ensemble
Fill It To The Top - John, Seth and Isaac
Now For The First Time - Emily and John
Song of The Hired Men (Reprise) - Ensemble
Work Song: It's All Right For You - Ensemble
Who Will You Marry Then? - Emily and Sally
Get Up and Go, Lad - Isaac and Ensemble
I Wouldn't Be The First - Emily and Jackson
Fade Away - Emily and John
Hear You Voice (i) - Jackson
What A Fool I've Been - John
If I Could - Emily, John and Jackson
The Song of The Hired Men: the rehiring (Reprise) - The Men

Act 2

1914 in Crossbridge
You Never See The Sun - May
1914 in Whitehaven
What Would You Say to Your Son? - John
Men of Stone - The Men
Farewell Song - Ensemble
War Song - The Men and Emily
1920 in Crossbridge
Day Follows Day - The Women
No Choir of Angels - Emily and John
Hear Your Voice (ii) - Jackson and Emily
1922 in Whitehaven
The Re-Hiring: Song of The Hired Men Ensemble


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