The Hired Man

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The Hired Man
Author Melvyn Bragg
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Cumbrian Trilogy
Genre Family Saga
Publisher Secker and Warburg
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 220 pp
ISBN 0-436-06705-6
OCLC 70821
LC Class PZ4.B8125 Hi PR6052.R263
Followed by A Place in England

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, his home town), 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.

Musical adaptation[edit]

In 1984[1] The Hired Man was turned into an award-winning musical with Bragg collaborating 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.

In 2011 The Hired Man was revived at the Landor Theatre, London, directed by Andrew Keates, with a cast of 17. The production won "Best Musical Production" in the 2012 Awards. It has also been performed far from home in Briarcliff Manor, NY. It was revived by the local High School, and gained attention from Melvin Bragg himself.

In September 2016, a concert production was presented at London's Cadogan Hall, starring Jenna Russell and John Owen-Jones in the roles of Emily and John, and narrated by Bragg himself.