May Day Weekend and the Old Oss
30th April 2010
May Day weekend is upon us – so don’t forget to head down to Padstow. Great fun for all and something quite special especially for those from Padstow. The rest of us can just watch.
If you can still make it, its well worth soaking up the atmosphere. Here’s the story….
Thousands of people make the journey to Padstow on the 1st May to celebrate one of the oldest May Day traditions in the country.
The colours mixed with the passion of Padstownians makes the traditional ‘Obby ‘Oss celebrations a guaranteed memorable occasion.
The world famous custom that has its roots back in the 14th century, annually welcomes people who have travelled hundreds of miles to attend.
Padstonians travel across the world to be back home for the celebrations. Some revellers in the town are up all night thank to the traditional midnight start.
The Chairman of the Padstow Old Cornwall Society, Rev Barry Kinsman, says it is a very special day.
“It is a celebration that is totally spontaneous,” he says. “It’s like summer is bursting into life. The whole community is vibrant today and very much alive.”
May Day in Padstow officially begins at midnight, when a groups of ‘mayers’ meet outside the Golden Lion Inn to serenade the owner with their Night Song:
Rise up, Mr. Rickard, and joy to you betide,
For summer is a-come in today;
And bright is your bride, that lays down by your side
In the merry morning of May.
It is not unusual to walk around the streets and meet people during the day who have not been to bed yet!
As the sun rises over Padstow on 1st May each year the streets will busy with people putting the finishing touches to shop windows choosing colours to support their chosen ‘Oss.
The old streets, rich in history, will be ablaze with bluebells, forget-me-nots, cowslips, and sycamore twigs.
Around mid morning on May Day each year the children will be getting ready for their special dance which takes place before the main 11am dance.
Early in the morning on the 1st May the streets of Padstow come alive with the traditional May Day song and its hypnotic tune.
Unite and unite let us all unite,
For summer is acome unto day,
And whither we are going we will all unite,
In the merry morning of May.
The children from Padstow’s schools will be beating away on their drums providing the all important rhythm for the Children’s ‘Oss. The youngsters enthusiasm continues through until 10am.
Throughout the day the hypnotic sound of the May Day Song is heard in the narrow streets.
Trevor Morris from Litchfield in the Midlands travels to Padstow for the first day of May every year.
“It’s a lovely day for Padstownians,” said Trevor in 2003.
“I was reading a book the other day about the First World War. On the 1st May with all the fighting two Padstownians were dancing in the trenches because it was May Day.”
The Peace ‘Oss is led by a teaser and many dancers. They dress in white with blue sashes showing their support for the ‘Oss.