British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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272                                      may DAY.                              [May 1
The mummers during the day parade the neighbouring villages, or go from one gentleman's seat to another, dancing before the mansion-house, and receiving money. The eve­ning of course terminates with drinking.—Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland, 1825.
County Down.
On the first of May from time immemorial, until the year 1798, a large pole was planted in the market-place at Maghera, and a procession of May-boys, leaded by a mock king and queen, paraded the neighbourhood, dressed in shirts over their clothes, and ornamented with ribbons of various colours. This practice was revived in 1813, and the May-boys collected about £17 at the different places where they called: this defrayed the expense of a public dinner next day. Circumstances, however, occurred soon after which induced one of the neighbouring magistrates to come into the town and cut down the pole, which had been planted in the market-place.—Mason, Stat. Ace. of Ireland, 1814, vol. i. p. 593.
County Dublin.
On the first day of May in Dublin and its vicinity it is customary for young men and boys to go a fe^ miles out of town in the morning, for the purpose of cutting a May-bush. This is generally a white-thorn, of about four or five feet high, and they carry it to the street or place of their resi­dence, in the centre of which they dig a hole, and having plauted the bush, they go round to every house and collect money. They then buy a pound or more of candles, and fasten them to various parts of the tree or bush in such a manner as to avoid burning it. Another portion of " the collection " is expended in the purchase of a heap of turf sufficient for a large fire, and, if the funds will allow, an old tar-barrel. Formerly it was not considered complete without having a horse's skull and other bones to burn in the fire. The depots for these bones were the tanners' yards in a part of the suburbs, called Kilmainham; and on May morning groups of boys drag loads of bones to their several destina-
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