22 May 2013

May Celebrations


This week I've celebrated being another year older!

Although I'm interested in genealogy and have done research
 on my own family history, I'm not the sort of person
 who looks back continuously at my own life except when thinking about
 how life has changed for me and for society in general.
However, I decided to link my birthday with reflections
 on a May custom which was part of my childhood primary school tradition
and is not so common these days except to recreate
 the nostalgia of times past at ye Olde English May Fayres. 


My school in a village near Sonning-on-Thames celebrated
its centenary in 1998
and, of course, still plays an important role in the community.
 It's a church school with the church in the grounds
 and what was once the manor house opposite.
Years later I taught there for a while.

Between 1910 and 1958 the May Day celebration was the highlight
of the year.  Preparations for the Day appeared well in advance
- the May Pole was decorated, country dances were practised
and flowers were gathered to make posies and garlands.
The May Queen and her attendants were elected - maids of honour,
a train bearer, a crown bearer, a herald and a guard of honour.

 When I was 7 years old I was chosen to carry a bouquet of flowers
to be presented to the vicar's wife.  Perhaps I was included because
it was also my birthday month?  I was told to hold the bunch of flowers up high
 and so the photograph shows me peeping from behind them!

However, the second photo at the bottom was taken after
 the crowning of the May Queen so there I am,
 my shy, rather solemn expression captured forever, as I glance for a moment
 at the photographer.
However, this photo is special because behind me, looking on,
 stands by smiling and proud maternal grandmother.

The top photo was taken the following year, 1953,
which was just as memorable because of the
Coronation of Elizabeth II celebration theme
and that year I took part in the country dancing.

What else do I remember about those May Day
events?  The preparations at the Manor House
and the Tudor-style interior and gallery, the head dresses of fresh flowers
and the procession in the gardens through pergola tunnels of fragrant
May blossom, especially wistaria.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about times gone by
and an occasion that has a special place in my memory.




17 comments:

  1. We used to have the same sort of May celebrations at my primary school too. I remember being chosen to be one of the attendants one year. What a lovely photo to remember it all by, especially with your grandma looking proudly on.

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  2. Hello Linda, I absolutely loved reading about the times gone by.. they made me smile. I would also LOVE to wish you a very very HAPPY BIRTHDAY this week and I hope you have a lovely day.. Hugs Judy

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  3. Happy Birthday to you Linda. I loved seeing those photos and reading about your memories. We have some photos similar of my sisters in the May Queen processions when they were children.

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  4. Happy Birthday, Linda. I have a son who has a May birthday (May 14)... I remember May Day Celebrations when I was little... We had them --and I do remember the May Pole dances... BUT--they obviously didn't last long. Not sure how many years they celebrated --but I don't remember it at all as I got older....

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  5. Happy birthday, I hope you have a good one.

    I loved your lily of the valley and really enjoyed those wonderful celebrations and the priceless memories.

    Ye olde English May fayres are a joy to behold. xxxx

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  6. I was brought up in a village near Oxford. I remember dancing down the main street on May morning. Jx

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  7. A belated Happy Birthday Linda - May is a special month to be born. It was lovely to see your photos - when I see photos of me from childhood days I often find it difficult to relate to them, and cannot believe how much everything has change, including me.

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  8. Firstly, belated Happy Birthday wishes and I hope you had a lovely day. I've enjoyed looking at your May Day photographs and how wonderful to have one with your grandmother watching you with pride. I remember once at school we girls all had to dress as a flower and say a little rhyme before the crowning of the Rose Queen, I expect it was later than May Day - I have no other recollection other than of being a marguerite and having to wear white with a white paper daisy on my head:)

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  9. I do hope you had a lovely birthday Linda - Many happy returns! I too have pictures like these of the May procession. Competition to be the May Queen was fierce, wasn't it? I wonder when this tradition died out - it was very special.

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  10. Hope your birthday was a time of blessing for you. Enjoyed the photos that you've shared.

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  11. Belated birthday greeting, Linda. Your lovely photos of the May Queen and her attendants remind me so strongly of my own childhood. Not a May Queen, but a Rose Queen was the tradition at our village chapel and my sisters and I were all crowned Rose Queen one year or another. Happy days. :-)

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  12. How special to read of past May Day events. I do have a warm heart for May Day with having given birth to both of my children on May 1st. Happy Birthday to you and I do hope you have been celebrating you all month long. It is a beautiful month for celebrating.

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  13. Happy belated birthday! What wonderful memories and pictures! Thanks for sharing these memories and a piece of history.

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  14. This is such a lovely post dear Linda - wonderful to show your grandchildren of what life was like when you were a girl!
    The sweet white dresses and garlands of flowers in the hair are so special.
    May Day celebrations still take place in France and my granddaughters school has a procession through the village to the accommpaniment of music - a lovely tradition.
    What wonderful old photos - thank you for sharing them with us!
    Enjoy your blog break - I'll be having a 6 week break soon as I'm off to France again in a couple of weeks. No broadband connection in the village - it seems little NZ is ahead in some technological areas!!!
    Shane ♥

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  15. This is such a lovely post dear Linda - wonderful to show your grandchildren of what life was like when you were a girl!
    The sweet white dresses and garlands of flowers in the hair are so special.
    May Day celebrations still take place in France and my granddaughters school has a procession through the village to the accommpaniment of music - a lovely tradition.
    What wonderful old photos - thank you for sharing them with us!
    Enjoy your blog break - I'll be having a 6 week break soon as I'm off to France again in a couple of weeks. No broadband connection in the village - it seems little NZ is ahead in some technological areas!!!
    Shane ♥

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  16. Brilliant photos and post, and even though I am late, Happy Birthday!!!!

    Cheers,
    Denise
    An English Girl Rambles

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  17. Hi Linda,

    Happy belated birthday wishes are sent to you, dear friend.
    We are both May girls!
    I love all your wonderful photos and how precious you all are in your pretty white frocks.
    Adore the Lily of the Valley flower too - I have just asked my Garden center to see if they can get some in for me.

    Hugs
    Carolyn

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