Image by Caroline Forbes

The Lammas Hireling

Ian Duhig


The Lammas Hireling

Ian Duhig


Poem introduction

This poem is called 'The Lammas Hireling'. It's based on a story I heard when I was in Northern Ireland, out for a very late night walk, a local person pointed out a house he told me was where the local witches used to live, and in their tradition witches would change into hares, and when the father was dying, his family was very embarrassed because the father's body was turning into a hare's and this bloke told me the story said he attended the funeral and the last thing you could hear was the hare's paws beating the lid of the coffin as they lowered it into the ground. Hare stories are sort of found all over England and Europe in fact. There's one rhyme in this that I suppose it might be helpful for people to have pointed out, and that's the one "to go into the hare gets you muckle sorrow, muckle care"- that's from the Annals of Pursuit which is a North Country witches' chant, restored by Robert Graves. "A cow with leather horns" is another name for a hare - if you think about it you'll see why. The story is: a farmer gets a young man from a hiring fair, which is how labour was engaged well into the last century, and takes him home with him, and finds he's got more than he bargained for.

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