By Rosemary Kenny
The May procession was one of the most important events in our religious calendar in the Fifties. As a child I looked forward to it every year. In our town, the local Pipe Band, dressed in black tunics and tan kilts, led the procession playing a selection of sacred music on the way. They were followed by the clergy and the altar boys, who between them carried a large statue of the Virgin Mary on a flower-covered bier.
Immediately behind them came the First Communicants in their finery; the combined pupils from the Convent and Brothers schools; the Boy’s Harmonica Band in white shorts and shirts; the Girl Guides in brown dresses; the Children of Mary in blue cloaks and veils and the FCA kitted-out in their green uniforms.
Bringing up the rear came the rest of the town’s residents including babies in prams. The men from our parish lined the route, reverently dipping hand-held church banners as the procession passed by while we children sang “Oh Mary we crown you with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May”.
The entire course from the Convent National School to the local Catholic Church was decorated with fresh flowers, May altars, bunting and Papal flags. As we walked, the fragrance of fresh flowers hung around us like incense.
As the hill on which I grew up was one of the main focal points of the procession, the residents always put a great deal of effort into decorating their houses. The contents of ‘rag-bags’ were put together to try and find enough suitable material to make the blue and white bunting that criss-crossed our street.