‘The Queen of the May’, sung by that great Scottish tenor, Canon Sydney MacEwan, is broadcast on the wireless at the beginning of May. That fine tribute, based I believe on a hymn from the 13th century, never fails to halt me in my tracks.
I stop whatever I’m doing and take a moment of quiet, as that immortal tenor voice urges us to:
Bring flowers of the rarest,
Bring blossoms the fairest
From garden and woodland
And hillside and dale.
The first week of May also brings the memory of my parents alive for me. That evening my father sprinkled the land with Easter water to ward off evil and ensure growth and a good yield in the year ahead.
May was the official beginning of summer and a time when the forces of the ‘other world’ were particularly active. In the West of Ireland, fire was used as a purifying ritual, as cattle, their horns or tails decorated with the lovely flowers of May, were driven between two bonfires to bring good luck.