We had such an unusual sight at our concert in Riesby in the North of Germany on Thursday night last when 12 Journeymen showed up at the gig - journeymen and women I should say. The local newspapers were dying to get a photo and we were delighted to be included.
It is a very rare thing to see so many of them together - usually there is just one or two.
Do you know about Journeymen? In Germany they are called Travelling Workers and they're all craftsmen and women. They wear an insignia on their tie to denote their craft - in this group there were carpenters, joiners, a blacksmith, a goldsmith, a pastry chef, and a metal worker - I didn't get to ask the rest. They have a very strict code of conduct and practice and all of them wear their uniform with pride.
Journeymen are apparently quite common now again in the German speaking world but one young man told me that apart from New Zealand and very occasionally in Ireland and Scotland, they're not known anywhere else. If one comes to a business to ask for work, they must be given a job if there's a place for their skill and if there isn't, the business owner agrees to look after them until work is found. This is a very old tradition and was a common way for a young man to gain an apprenticeship until the 1920s when the Nazis came to power and banned them as tramps.
They sign up for at least 3 years and a day and must stay travelling at least 50 kms away from their homeplace. They must be single, have no children and no debts so they're not running away. They leave home with €5 and can only have the same amount when they return - they only do this to gain experience in their work and not for monetary gain. The word Journeyman comes from the French word Journée meaning a day as they are paid daily and the main reason for this journey is an apprenticeship.
And the reason there were so many? Well one of the girls was finishing her time on the road, after 4 1/2 years, and the rest came to walk her home. They still had 20 kms to go from here. And she was going home to get married to one of the others who had left 2 years earlier but came back to join the troupe for the walk.
I asked one young man why he had decided to do this and he said that it symbolised freedom for him. In this world where people are so afraid of strangers, I think this is a wonderful thing. By the time they have finished their time as a journeyman they are a master at their craft. This Wikipedia article is a very interesting article if you'd like to read more about the tradition which is known as on the Walz and indeed the song Waltzing Matilda is about someone on this journey.
They were a really love bunch of people and I felt honoured to have met them.
If you're familiar with Irish or Scottish music, you'll maybe know this song - The Roving Journeyman, here sung by The Corries.