Queen of May
The winter is over and summer has come
The ’Obby ’Oss waits in his stable for dawn,
Rise up my love early and deck yourself gay
And I’ll take you to Padstow today.

And put your arms ’round me,
I’ll dance you away
For you are my Queen of the May (2X)


Skip out o’er the woods and the fields and the dells
Pick primroses, daisies, cowslips and bluebells
And from the green woods cut a sycamore spray
And I’ll take you to Padstow today.


We’ll breakfast on ale and an old chorus song
Musicians will come with accordions and drums
We’ll meet the old ’Oss and we’ll welcome the May
When I take you to Padstow today.


When the years have rolled on love, and we are both old
And the stories of May Day and Padstow are told
Though I’m old and feeble, you’ll still hear me say
I’ll take you to Padstow today.


Click here for a printable PDF of this tune.

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!”

Sail Away
Sail away, sail away. Johnny’s going home today
Sail away, sail away. Johnny’s going home

Met him on a fine spring day,
Sailed his ship into our bay
Came ashore and made his way
Said no words of going home.


Stole my heart, he stole the key
Gave a promise to love only me
Now he’s leaving; he says I’m free
All he thinks of is going home.


Think I’ll go down to the sea,
Wa1k along the lonely quay
Now there’s nothing left here for me
Lovely Johnny has gone back home.


So beware, oh sisters mine,
Of sailor lads so young and fine
Soon they’ll leave you ’lone to pine
When they leave to sail back home.

Words and Music ©Mary Benson, 2000; transcribed and notated by David Ingerson. Click here for a printable PDF of this tune.

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.

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