Many of us have become familiar with the Padstow May Day traditions, of the day song: “Unite and unite, and let us all unite/ For summer is coming today...” or Dave Webber’s “Hail the First of May-o.” All of these celebrate Padstow’s (and other towns’ singing and dancing the entire May Day and following a strange animal known as the “’Obby ’Oss” through the streets with accordion and drum.
In the words of Sean McLaughlin, Larry’s son, “Dad and I were playing in Padstow one night and, inevitably, we did ‘Queen of the May.’ Afterwards, a woman of middle years and a rich Cornish accent came up to us and said to Dad, ‘’Ere boy, you got the words wrong.’
‘Oh really,’ Dad replied, ‘But I wrote it.’
‘So you’re the bugger,’ she replied.
“But her husband shouted across, ‘’E didn’t write that, I remember my father singing it.’ To which some else joined in with, ‘You don’t even know who your [bleep]ing father was.’ And such was a typical evening in Padstow.
“And in many ways the song has been absorbed into the traditions of Padstow. But we should never forget that it is Mum’s song; its original title is ‘Maureen’s Song.’ A treasured gift from Dad to celebrate their Silver Wedding Anniversary, as he says—without having to spend any money!”
Mary Benson has been a singer in a number of bands and musical groups, including Broadside and St. Elmo’s Choir. She won the Seattle Sea Chanty Festival sea song writing contest with this piece a few years back—a different point of view on the sailor who has a woman in port and a wife back home.
Alas for us all, she has had a series of strokes over the last three years, and is now struggling to regain her speech and voice. Our mutual friend David Ingerson, who is a fine sean nos singer in his own right, helped me with the transcription. Mary’s friends are trying to assemble a collection of her songs and hope to put out a CD to help with her care. Contact Barbara Millikan (see below) for more information.
The folknik song pages are lovingly produced by Kay Eskenazi, John Kelly, and Barbara Millikan. Barbara Millikan produced the song pages for this issue.
If you'd like to submit a song for possible publication, please send a score, tape/CD or (preferably) both to --