Feature: Mayday, St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly (1994)

Temporary historical information and pictures of Mayday on St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly. A wider selection along with more in depth information will be added as time goes by. For audio from this performance hop over to our audio download page here.


Like many villages and towns across the UK, the Isles of Scilly have their own Mayday celebrations which differ from Island to Island. The School on St Mary’s have been practicing the tradition since around about 1875, though it lapsed during the two world wars.
The music used is taken mainly from an otherwise forgotten work “The May Festival” by Josiah Booth, and the opening “May Shout” is by Weber. The present form of the ceremony was introduced almost 90 years ago, at about the same time as the maypole dancing began (1926). May horns are no longer blown in the street, neither are all the dances repeated in the Town hall at 9pm.
Of course, there have been many other smaller changes over the years. In 1986 one of the best known May Tunes “Come Lasses and Lads” was re-instated, bringing in the dancers with it, as was always done in the past. It is also used for one of the Maypole dances.


During the 80s and 90s, music teacher Roger Smith, provided the piano accordion accompaniment to the Maypole dancing and singing, often with Carn Thomas band and other local musicians for the latter. Eventually photos from each year that he played at will be uploaded to the site. For the moment only a handful from 1994 have been uploaded, to accompany the music which is also taken from the same year.


The music for download on this site is taken directly from a master cassette recording of a Mayday Rehearsal during 1994 in St Mary’s Town Hall (hense the stomping of feet during maypole songs). As an added bonus there are also 4 extra tracks. A Wayside Music (Margaret and Roger Smith) ‘Mayday Medley’, which features three of the four maypole dances; Single Plait, Double Plait and Triple Plait. An upbeat arrangement of “High Barbery” by Roger Smith, played by The Waytes (Roger/Margaret Smith/Alison Wornes/Armorel Duncan, 1993, Parasols and Privateers). Finally music from the Infant Dances from Mayday 1986.


Mayday was also repeated a few days later (weather permitting) to raise funds for Christian Aid.

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