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WANTED: STEADY SOBER MAN & STRONG CAPABLE GIRL - 1907 NEWSPAPER ADVERTS AND VACANCIES

Leinster Leader 21 June 2007
 
Wanted: steady sober man & strong capable girl!
by
LIAM KENNY
 
 
The role of the newspaper as a marketplace for all kinds of goods and services is well acknowledged but there is no better snapshot of the quality of life of a given era than the recruitment advertisements in the paper.   Behind each advertisement there is a human story – an employer wanting a recruit to fill the needs of the position and a number of applicants anxious to improve their lot or get a first foot on the employment ladder.
 
Back in June 1907 the Leinster Leader carried a strong line up of classified advertisements for various positions generally to do with domestic, farm labouring or shop assistant vacancies. By today’s standards of phraseology the advertisements echo a time when employers were allowed to be somewhat paternalistic about the kinds of candidates which they sought. In addition the advertisements specified age and gender criteria in a way that would be outlawed by 21st century codes of strict equality legislation. Take the following examples which appeared in the issue of 15 June 1907 – it might be noted that some advertisers gave their names but others preferred the anonymity of a box number:
 
‘ WANTED: Steady, Sober man who can read and write, and accustomed to horses. Apply A. Stynes, Bakery, Newbridge.’  
 
‘ WORKING Housekeeper – Wanted, a respectable middle-aged woman for Farmer: able to milk; state terms. Apply to J. Potterton, Killucan.’
 
It is clear that a high level of versatility was a strong requirement in the kinds of candidates that were being sought with some employers leaving no doubt as to the qualities they expected, as the following samples demonstrate:
 
‘NURSE – Wanted for country place to care three children and assist with house work, an experienced well-conducted girl, smart and obliging preferred. Wages £8 per year.’
 
‘ GENERAL SERVANT –Wanted for Navan, strong, capable girl, early riser, accustomed to children . Applications to ‘BH’ care of Mrs. Tierney, Stationer, Navan.’
 
An insight into the imbalance of power between the employer and the enthusiastic young man or woman who might apply for a position can be read between the lines of some of the advertisements:
 
‘ WANTED Apprentice to the Grocery, Spirit and Provision business, strong boy; age 17 years; farmer’s son; to serve 2 years; no fee required.’   The latter refers to the practice that existed in many trades in by-gone years where the apprentice had to pay a fee to the employer to secure the position.
 
A somewhat less demanding specification for an important trade of the day was set out in another advertisement:
 
‘ WANTED Apprentice to Blacksmith, strong boy 16 or 17 years.’
 
The general merchant premises in the towns in mid-Leinster were constantly on the look out for young and willing staff:
 
‘ WANTED an Apprentice, indoor, to the General Grocery and Provision business. No Fee required: apply Grace Bros. - Ballymore Eustace.’
 
‘WANTED – Strong Healthy boy as apprentice to grocery – Apply to A T Hamilton, Grocer, Boot Factor and Outfitter, Mountrath.’
 
The recruitment columns were not all one-way traffic. Young men and women hoping to improve their prospects also placed small advertisements with the intention of attracting interest from employers. And at lease one hopeful advertiser was already on the decentralisation trail:
 
‘ CONFECTIONERY and Restaurant – Young Lady with City experience would like to hear of vacancy; good references.’
 
Another young lady was not behind the door in highlighting her credentials for her chosen trade:
 
‘ GROCERY & Spirit Counter – A Respectable Young Lady wishes to hear of a vacancy as assistant at above, capable of taking charge.’
 
We can never know at this remove if the ‘Lady with City experience’ keen for a Confectiontery shop or the ‘Respectable Young Lady’ behind the spirit counter ever landed the job of their dreams but we can at least admire their enterprise and initiative at a time when jobs were clearly in the gift of a demanding employer class.
 
Series No.21
 

Intriguing adverts in the Leinster Leader of 1907 for vacancis to be filled! - by Liam Kenny from his regular feature, 'Nothing New Under the Sun' - Leinster Leader 21 June 2007. Our thanks to Liam.


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