Thursday, 1 May 2014

May Day and Hal an Tow

Today is May Day! a very important day in the English calendar. It was three years ago that I wrote an article about the threat posed to May Day by squabbling political groups. Well May day hasn't been lost yet! Whatever Cameron and the Communists might be doing, sensible folk should be joyfully celebrating the coming of Spring.

As well as the famous Maypole, based on pagan fertility cults, there are many other folk traditions in England which welcome in the May. One such tradition is found in the ancient Cornish song "Hal an Tow" It has been sung on May Day as a part of the May celebration in Helston, Cornwall for centuries. The Watersons sang Hal-an-Tow in 1965 on a BBC TV documentary called Travelling for a Living. See the video below.

 The video below shows how the song is integrated into the May Day celebrations in Helston.

The lyrics vary and are sung differently by various groups. Here are the lyrics to the Waterson's version sung in the video.

 Since man was first created
 His works have been debated
 We have celebrated
The coming of the Spring  


Hal-an-tow, jolly rumbalow
We were up long before the day-O
To welcome in the summer,
 To welcome in the May-O
The summer is a-coming in And winter's gone away-O

What happened to the Spaniards
That made so great a boast-O?
 Why they shall eat the feathered goose
And we shall eat the roast-O

Take no scorn to wear the horn
It was the crest when you was born
 Your father's father wore it
And your father wore it too

 Robin Hood and Little John
 Have both gone to the fair-O
And we will to the merry green wood
To hunt the buck and hare-O

God bless Aunt Mary Moyses
 And all her power and might-O
And send us peace to England
Send peace by day and night-O
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