LUYEfinal 8/1/13 15:41 Page 43
The setting throughout is minimal (e.g.
six wooden beer crates). Hats, caps or shawls are used to effect character
changes. For mill scenes the women wear a mill-worker’s apron with the tools of
their trade slung from the waist. Dim lighting. Five women enter singing a mill
Belfast mill, early, Tramped the cold
morning streets, Thru’ the mill gates, yawnin’, Same old walls to meet, Fill up
your trough, stand to your frame, Grey Belfast mill.
Who’d be a Belfast spinner? Feet in the
water all day,
Lay Up Your Ends
Tie up your bands, Hawk up your yarn,
Pick out the laps, Wet Belfast mill.
Look out for the spinning master, Houl
your carry on, Whisht to your songs and chatter, When Jim Doran’s around,
Mind your frame, look to your yarn, Lay
up your ends, Grey Belfast mill.
[As the song fades and is held, there
is the sound of a factory horn. Then the sound of the knocker-up is heard; we
hear various responses from the women.]
FLORRIE: Aye, all right, all right. LIZZIE: Aye, I’m up. MARY: I’m comin’; I’m comin’. BELLE: Keep your hair on. ETHNA: Is it that time?
[Each woman exits after response.
Immediately the sound of machinery is heard. The women enter (barefoot) and
mime the spinning process. Presently a young boy enters carrying a brush and
box and begins brushing the floor. Some of the women begin to use coarse sign
language to each other in obvious reference to the boy. One woman fetches a tin
of grease. Suddenly the women make a grab for the boy. After much squealing,
laughing and struggling, the boy breaks loose and runs off. The women return to
their machines laughing. The doffing mistress checks the machines.]
MARY [shouting over to FLORRIE]: Florrie! Florrie! Have you any
Lay Up Your Ends 45
[MARY mimes sniffing snuff. FLORRIE nods and beckons her over.
MARY takes a pinch.] BELLE: Mary Rooney! You better watch Jim Doran
you on at that! ETHNA: Hey Belle! This trough’s stinkin’; you’d
somebody’d crawled into it and died! BELLE: I saw Jim Doran washin’ his trunks in it
the other day! MARY: Hey Belle, there’s something stuck! BELLE: Ethna! That’ll be them! [BELLE blows the whistle. Machine
noise ceases.] Thank Jasus, it’s breakfast
time! ETHNA: Hey Mary, I was late out this morning.
gimme a drap o’your tea? MARY [ignoring her]: Jesus,
Ethna, you’re always lukin’
something. FLORRIE: T’is great to get them machines aff all
the same. LIZZIE: You’re just not used to workin’ in the
mill yet, Florrie
Brown, that’s what’s wrong with you. MARY: Country ones are always a bit slow to
adapt. [She notices
ETHNA gazing longingly at her tea.] Christsake, Ethna! [She
gives ETHNA the can.] BELLE: Here, I mind the time when I was
younger, my da’s
people were from the country—out by
Carrickfergus—and he used to take us down nigh and again. Well here dear,
didn’t this oul’ farmer take a notion of me. He used til say to me ... [She
laughs at the memory.]
FLORRIE: What? BELLE: He used to say ... Isabelle—called me by
m’full name an’
all—Isabelle, you are like the lilies of
[The others laugh.] BELLE: Well, wait’ll y’hear ... didn’t he ask
me to marry him, but
I refused him. MARY: And what happened?
Up Your Ends
BELLE: Didn’t the oul’ ghett buy himself a
horse plough instead! [All laugh. ETHNA shrieks.]
LIZZIE: Ethna! Will you for dear sake do
somethin’ about that laugh, my head’s openin’. [The young boy returns and
runs to grab the brush and box he left behind. Upon turning, he finds his way blocked
by BELLE, ETHNA and MARY. As he breaks through, MARY chases him off stage.]
BELLE: Mary Rooney! Will you catch yourself on!
MARY: Ach, it’s only a bit of fun, Belle. BELLE: It’ll be some fun if Robbie Baker
catches ye! MARY: Ah, give over.
ETHNA: She’d shite herself if Robbie caught her
lukin’ at another man.
LIZZIE: And themins only a week away from the
altar! FLORRIE: Oh dear! ETHNA: Stick-bracker, is he Mary? LIZZIE: No, he is not. Robbie Baker’s got a very
good job; sure
doesn’t he drive for Cantrell and
Cochrane? FLORRIE: Did he take you to the Empire last
night, Mary? MARY: Aye, it was great. ETHNA: Did you see the McDonald sisters? MARY: Aye, they were brilliant. At the end
y’know, that young
fella Tom Allen—he goes up into the
balcony and he sings
down to Marie McDonald of the McDonald
sisters. FLORRIE: Way up in the balcony? ETHNA: Aye, that’s what he does; he goes up
into the gods and
sings down til her. MARY: And she sings up to him. [She sings
the first few lines of
‘The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery’.] BELLE: Where’s that wee fella for Mary, til she
gets takin’ his
trousers off ... ? LIZZIE: Ach, Belle, leave him alone.
Lay Up Your Ends 47
FLORRIE: Ah Lizzie, it’s only a bit of crack. LIZZIE: Oh listen t’her, you’d think she was
enjoyin’ it or
somethin’. FLORRIE: Now, I’m only sayin’ there’s no real
harm in it ... BELLE: Course she’s enjoyin’ it! MARY: We’ll have to get her a man! BELLE: Aye, Pinky Hewitt, the gate-man! FLORRIE: Oh aye, yis are gettin’ a quare rise
outta me, aren’t yis? BELLE:
Florrie, wud ye not like a big Belfast fella? FLORRIE: You’re a quare geg, Belle Thompson. I’ll
tell your man
the carry on a ye! MARY [starting to sing. BELLE and ETHNA join in.]
There was an ould woman, she lies alone
She lies alone She lies alone. There was an ould woman, she lies alone, She
wants a man but she can’t get none.
FLORRIE [pointing at MARY]: And now she’s married and tied
til a beg And tied til a beg And tied til a beg ...
[ETHNA and BELLE grab MARY. FLORRIE gets some coarse yarn.] ETHNA: Hey Belle, get the bobbin’. FLORRIE: Belle! Jim Doran’s callin’ you! ETHNA: Frig it! We’re on our break!
BELLE: Och, I’d better go and see what he
wants. [She exits. FLORRIE and
LIZZIE push raw flax down MARY’s blouse while ETHNA holds her.]
ETHNA: Hey Mary, has he got big feet? LIZZIE: Aw now, Mary, y’know what they say about
big feet! MARY: No?
Up Your Ends
LIZZIE: Well, you’ll soon find out! FLORRIE: Is he takin’ you on the Bangor boat for
honeymoon, Mary? ETHNA: Well, he’ll not give her time to get
sick anyway! MARY: Ethna! BELLE [entering with a list of rules in her
hand]: Mary Rooney! Jim
Doran wants to see you in his office.
[MARY exits, taking the flax from her blouse.] LIZZIE: What’s this, Belle? BELLE [handing LIZZIE the list of rules]: Jim Doran says Mr
Bingham sent them down. We’ve all to
read them. ETHNA: What does it say, Belle; what does it
say? LIZZIE [reading]: ‘Any
person found away from their usual
place of work, except for necessary
purposes, or talkin’ with anyone out of their own alley will be fined 2d for
each offence.’ No singin’. You’re not even allowed to stop to fix your hair.
[FLORRIE takes list.] ETHNA: What? What are they on about? What does
it say, Belle? LIZZIE: It must be the new rules of the firm. FLORRIE [reading]: ‘All
persons in our employ shall serve four
weeks’ notice before leavin’ our employ,
but E. Bingham and Company shall, and will, dismiss any person without notice
ETHNA: Does it say anythin’ about breathin’?
Are we still allowed to breathe?
FLORRIE: Aye, it’s wild altogether. ETHNA [taking the list and giving
it to BELLE]: What about the
fines, does it say any more about the
fines? BELLE [reading]: ‘For
every oath or insolent language—3d for
the first offence and if repeated, they
shall be dismissed.’ ETHNA:
Lay Up Your Ends 49
BELLE: Oh Jasus! Wait’ll you hear this one
Ethna! [She pretends to read.] ‘All Catholics in the firm’s employment
over the age of thirty-five and with more than two children’—that’s you—‘will
be obliged to leave the firm by the end of the week or join the Orange Order!’
ETHNA [snatching rules]: What?
Oh my God! That’s not fair— join the Orange Order? I’ve got eight childer,
BELLE: I’m only geggin’! [MARY re-enters. She goes to BELLE, crying.] What’s wrong, love?
LIZZIE: What’s happened, Mary? MARY: I’ve been suspended! BELLE: What? LIZZIE: What for?
MARY: For carry on, he says. LIZZIE: Och, sure it was all of us. He’s always
pickin’ on that
wee girl, whatever’s wrong with him? ETHNA: Any fines? Did he fine you anything? [MARY shakes her
head.] Always fines me, every opportunity. MARY: Ach, what am I goin’ to do? LIZZIE: Ach, she’s savin’ up. FLORRIE: Aye, I know, it’s awful.
LIZZIE: It’s tarrible, the way they have you in
here, tarrible. BELLE: This is all Jim Doran’s doin’, whatever
ails him. He’s gone mad this last while back. Well, frig it! I’ve had enough of
LIZZIE: What can ye do; what can ye do? BELLE: Stop work! LIZZIE: What?! BELLE: Well, why not? Isn’t it about time this
friggin’ firm got a
kick up the arse? B’Jasus I’m thirty-five
years here—since I was eight years old—and niver once has them frames stopped,
barrin’ they were broke or gettin’ cleaned!
LIZZIE: But Jim Doran’ll go buck mad ... !
Up Your Ends
BELLE: Ah, I’m sick to the teeth of Jim Doran.
I’ve been ‘Yes, Jimmyin’ ’n No, Jimmyin’ all m’life; well b’Jasus it’s gonna
stop! And then there’s this wee girl here—[She indicates MARY.]—well dar he—he’ll soon change his tune
when he sees them frames not gettin’ switched on!
ETHNA: There’s Jim Doran lukin’ down on us
nigh. [MARY runs out.] That’ll be another fine.
They’ll be eatin’ Fenton’s tripe in our house for months nigh, wait’ll you see!
[BELLE goes to exit.]
FLORRIE: Where are you going, Belle? BELLE: Well, it’s not up Jim Doran’s arsehole,
[Exit everyone except FLORRIE who moves into monologue spot.] FLORRIE: D’y’see thon Belle Thompson one? She’d
start a row in an empty house, so she wud. Aye but like, forby that,
she’s one of the best all the same. SUSIE (Ethna) [offstage]: Florrie!
FLORRIE: Susie dear, is it not about time you
were tucked up? SUSIE
I’m not one bit tired, Florrie! FLORRIE: Now, it’s past seven o’clock. I’ll never
get ye wakened
for school the morra. SUSIE: But I’m sick, Florrie. I don’t want to
go to thon oul’
school. FLORRIE: Here, let me feel your head. Aye you’re
a wee bit
warm right enough. Wud a wee cuddle do
the trick and put ye right? C’m’ere. [SUSIE shrugs her off.] Oh aye, you’re all better now. Go an,
run up them stairs before I shoot the boots off ye.
SUSIE: Florrie, are we stayin’ here for ever
and ever? FLORRIE: Well, I don’t know about for ever,
Susie, but for a while. SUSIE:
don’t like it, Florrie. FLORRIE: Sure look
at all the friends you have in the street. Isn’t
you and Peggy McNamara the great chums?
Lay Up Your Ends 51
SUSIE: I don’t like her; we’re not on nigh. FLORRIE: Oh aye? Here d’ye know what? Belle gave
me a whole
pile of oul’ clothes for yousins. SUSIE: Well I’m not wearin’ them! I’m sick of
oul’ clothes. Why
cud you not make me some pinnies? Our
Mammy used to
make me them. FLORRIE: Aye well, Mammy’s not here anymore. SUSIE: Can we bring our Jack up here? You said
when we came
up here, you’d send for our Jack. FLORRIE: Aye, I know Susie, but dogs don’t like
livin’ in streets. SUSIE:
said ... FLORRIE: Look, ye can’t have Jack, now that’s my
last word on
it. You’re just bein’ bold ... SUSIE: But you said! FLORRIE: Susie, that’s enough! [SUSIE exits in a huff.] Aye well,
Belfast’s quare and different from home.
At least on the farm you cud grow what y’cudn’t buy. I never wanted to leave
it, but like y’know yourselves, the eldest brother—that was our Walter—well,
he’ll always get the farm and then once he was married, there was no more use
for me. So I took the wee brothers and sister, just like I promised Mammy I
wud, and here we are in Belfast and thon mill. Aye well, if it wasn’t here you
wudn’t ate and that’s all about it. It’s just being so closed in I can’t stand.
People’s livin’ one on top of the other in the wee streets—you never hardly see
the sun. It’s dark when you go in in the mornin’ and dark when you’re comin’
out agin at nights. And there’s this tightness with me in the house—four weeins
all lukin’ to me. Ah well, sure there’s no use whinin’ about it. Here, it’s
seven o’clock and not a weein washed.
Up Your Ends
Barrel organ music and crowd noises set
the scene at the Custom House steps. The five women enter, viewing the sights.
LIZZIE: Oh Belle, look, there’s the herrin’
seller. I must get some for Charlie’s tea.
BELLE: C’mon Lizzie, there’s them oul’
Jehovah’s Witnesses; they put the fear of God into me.
MARY: There’s your man on his bed of nails. ETHNA: Maybe it was him who punctured his arse
last week. BELLE [addressing the audience]:
Sunday at the Customs House
steps. The whole of Belfast was there;
the place was black. There were tap-dancers on their wee boards, strong men, jugglers,
‘Happy Jimmy’ with his hurdy-gurdy—not forgettin’ his monkey. And, of course,
the street sellers bawlin’ their brains out over the commotion ...
ETHNA: ‘Herrin’s, Ardglass herrin’s, just 3d a
pound. Fresh fish just in’—I love ’em.
MARY: ‘Willicks, willicks, penny a bag, cooked
and ready for eatin’—mmmmmmm. [She is about to tuck in when she notices ETHNA looking at her pleadingly and
gives her one.]
BELLE: And, of course, no Sunday would be
complete without the Salvation Army. [The three actresses play ‘Onward
Christian Soldiers’ on imaginary instruments. LIZZIE sings.] And the Holy Joes trying in vain to
PREACHER (Florrie): Leviticus, Chapter 12
and Verse 11—‘He who uncovers his father’s wife’s brother, uncovers the nakedness
of his father’.
BELLE: And the politicians spoutin’ on as
usual. [Politican speaks enthusiastic and sincere gobbleygook.] Aye, you
Lay Up Your Ends 53
sorts down at the Custom House
steps—most of them
lookin’ money. ETHNA: Hey Mary, what the hell’s that?
[A brightly coloured booth ‘walks’
onstage.] MARY: Here, there’s writin’ here. ETHNA: What does it say, Mary; what does it
say? MARY: ‘Put coin in slot’. ETHNA: A coin? What for? MARY: ‘And be amazed’. ETHNA: It’s only one of them money grabbers,
Mary. C’mon, the
man’s going to put his arse on the bed
of nails over there ... MARY:
for us, Ethna. I’m goin’ to put a halfpenny in ... LIZZIE: Mary, you’re supposed to be savin’ up
t’get married! ETHNA: Mary, you’re mad! Mary!
[As MARY inserts coin a flap comes down and a
man’s face appears playing a few bars of a rowdy tune on a toy bugle. He closes
the flap abruptly.]
ETHNA [screaming with laughter]: Do
it again, Mary! Do it again! MARY:
got another halfpenny. ETHNA:
another halfpenny in. BELLE:
suck my big toe, Ethna!
[The look on LIZZIE’s face tells ETHNA she’d better not ask her.] ETHNA: Florrie, have you got one? FLORRIE: Away on, Ethna, you’re jokin’. MAN [appearing again at the flap]:
I wonder wud yous take
yerselves off outta this. I’m tryin’ to
run a business here. BELLE:
a right to stand here like anybody else—
it’s a free country. MAN [closes flap]: You
cheeky friggin’ trollop! [He comes round
the side of the booth.] Go on now, clear off outta
this; go on, away and rattle! [The women fold their arms and stand their
ground.] Yis are a shower of dirty millies, so yis are—I’ll take
Up Your Ends
my business elsewhere! [He returns to
the booth and ‘walks’
offstage while the women shout abuse.] FLORRIE: Business he calls it! I’ve seen better
yokes than that at
the Lammas Fair! LIZZIE: Cheek! BELLE: Go on, you can’t even play yer oul’
bugle! MARY: Give us back me halfpenny, y’oul’
robber! ETHNA: I mind him when he’d no arse in his
trousers! BELLE [to audience]: Now
on this particular Sunday ... LIZZIE:
I wonder what’s goin’ on over there. Is it
somebody speakin’? FLORRIE: God knows. BELLE: Shush! til we hear what he’s saying! [Starting
to relay the
speech] ‘The worker is the slave of the
female worker is the slave of that
slave.’ ETHNA: It’s only somebody talkin’. MARY: Good lukin’ big fella, isn’t he? BELLE: ‘Where there is a big demand for female
woman ends up doing two jobs.’ FLORRIE: Aye, he can say that again. MARY: I like his moustache. BELLE: ‘Overworked, underpaid and badly
nourished, she falls
prey to all the diseases that infect the
hovels of the poor.’ ETHNA: He musta bin in our house! LIZZIE: My house is not a hovel! BELLE: ‘Of what stuff are these Belfast women
to unite together to do something about
their conditions?’ LIZZIE:
he think he is? C’mon Florrie, I’m away! FLORRIE: Aye. You right, Belle? BELLE: Aye, I’ll follow yis—‘The great only
because we are on our knees.’
Lay Up Your Ends 55
ETHNA: I’d love to know what that man was on
about. LIZZIE: He’s talkin’ through his hat! FLORRIE: C’mon you.
[They exit.] MARY: He is a good-lookin’ fella but. BELLE: Name a God! It’s as well he doesn’t
hackle flax in York
Street Mill. Mary Rooney wud have him
harrished! D’ye see if Robbie Baker hasn’t her lyin’ wi’ a child before the
summer, it’ll not be her fault! I’ll see yis!
MARY: Belle! ETHNA: Hey Mary, don’t you be pickin’ up some
down the street, d’ye hear me! MARY: I shud be so lucky.
[She exits.] ETHNA: See ya in the morning. [ETHNA turns and is confronted by
the figure of HUMPY HESSIE, the moneylender.] Jasus! Hessie
McGowan, m’heart! HESSIE (Belle): C’mon Ethna
McNamara, you owe me two
weeks nigh. ETHNA: I’ll tell ye what it is, Hessie, he’d a
broken pay this
week and I’d two fines aff me in the mill.
HESSIE: Where’s m’money? ETHNA: I’ll pay you on Monday—I’m takin’ in
and I’ll clear ye then, I swear to God I
will. HESSIE: I’ve been too soft w’you. I’m goin’
round nigh to tell
your man. ETHNA: Hessie, wait! Just one more day? HESSIE: Y’better!
Up Your Ends
Loud mill machine noises are heard as
women enter one by one and hang up their shawls. LIZZIE enters last, looking ill.
LIZZIE: Belle, I’m not feelin’ well at all. BELLE: Maybe you should go home, Lizzie. LIZZIE: Some chance! FLORRIE: That’s what you get for havin’ babies. ETHNA: You shud do what I do, Lizzie; I’ve
stopped! BELLE: You’ve stopped? ETHNA: Aye, I don’t let him near me. BELLE: I’d love to believe ye. I cud just
picture big Alfie
McNamara—[In disbelief] ‘I don’t
let him near me’!! ETHNA:
let him near me when he’s sober. FLORRIE: How do you work that one out? ETHNA: A keep him drunk! [The others laugh.]
What do you
think has me in debt and danger with
Hessie McGowan this last while back? Since my last one was born in May I made
up my mind, no more childer. Eight’s enough for any wee girl. But he wudn’t
hear tell of it.
BELLE: I thought it was the doctor told ye to
stop. ETHNA: Oh aye, he told me that too; he said a
wasn’t worth tuppence after the last one. He said ... know what he said? ...
said I’d have to stop lyin’ with Alfie. [All laugh.] So I went
home and I said to him, ‘I’m movin’ in
with the weeins.’ FLORRIE: And what happened? ETHNA: Pig beat me black and blue! MARY: Why didn’t you brain him with something?
LIZZIE: That’s one thing a can honestly say. In
all the days I’ve been married t’him, Charlie McCormick has never laid a finger
Lay Up Your Ends 57
ETHNA: I get it that often, I was thinkin’ I
might as well go the whole hog and take up professional boxin’. Like I’m
gettin’ quare and good at jukin’ and jumpin’ outta the way. And a can take a
punch. That’s one thing, a can take a quare punch.
LIZZIE: I’m gonna be sick! [LIZZIE rushes off. FLORRIE moves to LIZZIE’s frame.]
FLORRIE: That’s a tarrible way to have to carry
on w’your own man.
ETHNA: At least I’ve bloody well got one! BELLE: Tell thesins, and I’ll go up and tell
the reelers. ETHNA: Tell us what?
[BELLE exits.] FLORRIE: Belle heard a rumour last week that all
the mills is
goin’ on shorter hours. And the two of
us was told today that it’s nearly certain from next week onwards that they’re
gonna take eight and a quarter hours a week off us!
ETHNA: Ah frig! MARY: Eight and a quarter hours? FLORRIE: That’s a loss of over two shillin’s a
week! ETHNA: Two shillin’s! How am I supposed
t’manage on that? MARY: That’s my weddin’ money up in the air. FLORRIE: Well, I’ve worked out that I’m gonna
have til buy
more tripe and bacon, for sausages is
out. ETHNA: Sausages out, Florrie? Food’s out! FLORRIE: Instead of gettin’ the odd Barney Hughes
gonna have til bake everything m’self
and where am a
gonna get all the time? ETHNA: Two shillin’s outta m’money! I’ll have
til give the
childer up til the poor house. Let them
keep them. FLORRIE: We’ll all be joinin’ ye, Ethna. MARY: Flip, waita Robbie hears this! ETHNA: I’m not payin’ m’rent!
Up Your Ends
FLORRIE: You can’t do that, Ethna. ETHNA: Why not? It’s themins what owns the
houses and it’s
themins what are takin’ the two
shillin’s out of our money.
They can’t crucify us altogether. FLORRIE: Well, it’s supposed to be that the women
and Jennymount’s and all is all ragin’
about it! [LIZZIE enters.]
Are ye all right? Did ye get it up? MARY: How are ye? ETHNA: Have y’heard, Lizzie? They’re takin’ two
us ... LIZZIE: Flip sake, I’m all right! As long as Jim
Doran doesn’t see
me not able for m’work. [She goes
back to her frame and starts
working.] FLORRIE: Accordin’ to Mary Galway, the mill’s
fallin’ off. They say there’s too much
pilin’ up in the
warehouse and they have to cut back on
production. BELLE [entering, in time to hear
what FLORRIE is saying]: That’s what you shud
tell your Alfie, Ethna, next time he’s lukin’ his way w’ye—‘Hey Alfie, the
house’s full up, I’m cuttin’ production!’ [All laugh.] Mary Rooney, Jim
Doran wants to
see you in his office.
[MARY exits.] FLORRIE: What’s this next? BELLE: God knows. Probably wants to fine her
for something or
other. FLORRIE: He has that wee girl tortured. Never
leaves her alone,
whatever he has agin her.
[MARY re-enters.] BELLE: Well? MARY: I have t’go. Said my suspension’s not
up. I shudn’t have
come into work. BELLE: Bastard!
Lay Up Your Ends 59
FLORRIE: He said two days! MARY: Says nigh it’s until he sends for me.
[MARY exits.] LIZZIE: In the name a God. BELLE: He can’t do that! LIZZIE: He’s done it. ETHNA: I’d love to shove this picker up his
arse! FLORRIE: Poor Mary. Is there nothin’ we can do to
help her? It’s
not fair; it isn’t right.
[Silence] BELLE: Right girls, frig it; get your shawls! [Silence]
I said, get
your shawls! ETHNA: It’s only six o’clock, Belle. BELLE [lifting the shawls]:
Shut up, Ethna. Come on Lizzie, you
too. LIZZIE: Belle, for God’s sake! ETHNA: You’re only jokin’, Belle, aren’t ye? FLORRIE [brightening up]: No
Ethna, she’s not jokin’! [She puts on
her shawl.] ETHNA: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, are we walkin’
Sware til God, you’re not geggin’! BELLE: Run quick and catch Mary. Oul’ itchy
balls is not gettin’
away with this. [ETHNA, BELLE and FLORRIE exit. LIZZIE is left alone. She waits for a minute,
then hurriedly lifts her shawl and runs off.]