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Castlebar 'Christmas Waits'

From Alan Mee, Castlebar, County Mayo.

I come from a small town in the west of Ireland, Castlebar. At Christmas, "The Waits" still go around playing songs and shouting out the time of night. In Ireland, Castlebar is the only town I know where such a tradition is kept up.
The English army used be stationed in Castlebar so I expect the tradition was brought from England by them or perhaps by the local Lord's, the Binghams whose most famous (or infamous) son was Lord Lucan.
Anyway just though I'd drop a note to make you aware of this "incarnation" of the Waits.

For more information, please see www.castlebar.ie

And from Brian Hoban, Castlebar, County Mayo.

I thought you would be interested to read the link on the custom of the waits in our town: towns.mayo-ireland.ie.

Dublin Waits

Records of the Dublin Waits, extracted from: B Boydell (1980) Dublin City Musicians in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, to 1660. Dublin Historical Record 34, 42-53.

"Hyt ys graunt by the sayd semble that John Colleron and Robert Hanwod schall be waytys, within the sayd citte, takying for ther wages, as otherys hash don befor in the sayd offyce, that ys to sey, iiii.d. of every hall, and iii.d. of every schope wythin the sayd citte, and ther fyndynges on the jures and every of them a livere gown of Mayre and Baylys."

"Hit is ordeynet by the seide semble that the waytes of the citte be assignet how ferr they shall wache, and poyntment of ther wages, and that they fynd suerte not to departe."

"After the banquet ... the Mayor and his brethren, with the city music, attended the Lord Lieutenant and council to Thomas Court, by torchlight".

"the musicyans of this cittie shall have ther liverie coates yearelie, with a cognisaunce of this cittie upon everye coate . . . the same musicyans shall, three severall dayes or nightes everye weke as tyme of yeare shall require, sarve in and throughout the cittie and subburbes as the like musicyans doo in the citties of Englande, and at the like howres."

"musicians of this cittie shall have an officer to levie tharrerages of ther stipend and to call in the same henceforth from tyme to tyme, or to take pawnes for it; also that they shall have suche libertie to aunswere the earle of Kildare as Mr. Maior of this cittie for tyme being shall see to be meet, and not without his licence."

The following paragraph is an extract from Grattan Flood's paper on the Dublin waits.

On 7 July 1591 regarding the city waits of Dublin, it was unanimously agreed by the city corporation "that every alderman shall pay eighteen pence yearly; every of the number of XLVIII shall pay twelve pence yearly; and every of the four score and sixteen shall pay nine pence yearly; and every house in the city other than the houses of the said persons shall pay four pence yearly; the same to be paid every half year during our good liking of the said musicians.

More Irish Waites

This website, towns.mayo-ireland.ie, refers to waits in the following Irish towns:

  • Dublin
  • Cork
  • Kilkenny
  • Castlebar
  • Cavan
  • Ballinrobe
  • Ballyhaunis
  • Carrick on Shannon
  • Swinford

At this time (2 May 2011) we cannot confirm whether all of these towns had established Waites prior to 1835, as the website quoted does not state the sources of its information, or provide references. We would be delighted to hear from anyone who can contact us with historic references to Waites in Ireland.

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