Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Happy Day

Good morning, missus and master,
I wish you a happy day,
Please to smell my garland
Because it's the first of May  

It's that special time of year again, and I'd like to wish a very happy May Day to all M&C readers. But before ye drag a Hawthorn bush into the bedroom and indulge in unspeakable fertility rites, you might be wise to check your local woodland for signs of activity. For every 100 girls who venture into the woods 'scarcely the thirde part of them returned home again undefiled' wrote Phillip Stubbs in The Anatomie of Abuses (1583). It's also the time to collect May dew: 'Washing the face with May dew gathered on the morning of the first day of May kept it from being tanned by the sun and becoming freckled.' A popular custom in North East Scotland in 1881. Samuel Pepys wife, Elizabeth, was also an advocate, and in his diary entry for the 28th of May 1667, Pepys wrote:'After dinner, my wife away down with Jane and W.Hewer to Woolwich in order to a little ayre, and to lie there tonight and so to gather May dew tomorrow morning, which Mrs. Turner hath taught her as the only thing in the world to wash her face with, and I am contented with it.'

Aside from it's many cosmetic uses, May dew has strong medicinal qualities and I would advise you keep a small bottle handy in case of sore eyes, gout, and weak bones: 'I knew a little idiot boy whose mother (fancying it was weakness of the spine which prevented him from walking) took him into the fields nine mornings running to rub his back with May-Dew.'Shropshire: 1883. ).

I will be rolling around out there early tomorrow morning which, for as far as the eye can see, is the Northern aspect of the Fearlono estate.

O, the month of May, the merry month of May,
So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!
O, and then did I  unto my true love say,
Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my Summer's Queen.

Now the nightingale, the pretty nightingale,
The sweetest singer in all the forest quire,
Entreats thee, sweet Peggy, to hear thy true love's tale:
Lo, yonder she sitteth, her breast against a brier.

But O, I spy the cuckoo, the cuckoo, the cuckoo;
See where she sitteth; come away, my joy:
Come away, I prithee, I do not like the cuckoo
Should sing where my Peggy and I kiss and toy.

O, the month of May, the merry month of May,
So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green;
And then did I unto my true love say,
 Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my Summer's Queen.

The Merry Month of May by Thomas Dekker (1572–1632)

I'll leave you with this extract from Alan Lomax's beautiful film 'Oss Oss Wee Oss' (1953) capturing the events of May Day Eve and the May Day celebration ritual in Padstow, Cornwall. Warning: you may be tempted to climb inside the screen.


Look out for more May magic in the weeks to come.


  1. Beautiful. Happy day to you too, Sir.

  2. Happy day to you all at M & C

  3. I note they removed the bars on your window again. Most unwise.