In Ireland, it is common for political parties to provide private observers when ballot boxes are opened. These tallymen keep a tally of the preferences of visible voting papers and allow an early initial estimate of which candidates are likely to win in the drawn-out single transferable vote counting process. Since the public voting process is by then complete, it is usual for tallymen from different parties to share information.
Another possible definition is a person who called to literally do a head count, presumably on behalf of either the town council or the house owners. This is rumoured to have occurred in Liverpool, in the years after the First World War. Mechanical tally counters can make such head counts easier, by removing the need to make any marks.
In poorer parts of England (including the north and the East End of London), the tallyman was the hire purchase collector, who visited each week to collect the payments for goods purchased on the 'never never', or hire purchase. These people still had such employment up until the 1960s.
The title tallyman extended to the keeper of a village pound as animals were often held against debts, and tally sticks were used to prove they could be released.
"'The tallyman,' Mum told me, 'slice off the top of the stems of the bunches as they take them in. Then him count the little stubs he just sliced off and pay the farmer.'" explains a Ms. Wade in Andrea Levy’s novel "Fruit of the Lemon". Harry Belafonte addresses the tallyman in his Banana Boat Song.
- "Art of the tallyman extolled at columnist's book launch". The Irish Times. 2011-02-02.
- "Tallyman". Experian Decision Analytics.
- Experian Acquires Tallyman Collections Software. Retrieved on 2009-01-23