Thursday, 8 May 2014

Furry Day

Today is my brother's birthday.  He is not a famous person and has lived a very ordinary sort of life.  He moved to Cornwall on retiring from Hampshire police and now lives in a small village not far from Falmouth.  But his birthday is marked each year in another nearby town, Helston.  They call 8th May, Flora Day or Furry Day, and perform the famous Flora Dance - although, in all truth, this is not done in celebration of brother's birthday but to mark St Michael's Day, which is also the 8th May.

(Back in the 70s, the Irish broadcaster and television presenter made it famous with a recording of what he called "The Floral Dance" but note that there is no final "l" in the correct title.)

The town is decked out with bluebells, gorse and laurel leaves gathered from the surrounding countryside.  When the big bass drum strikes the first beat of the dance at seven in the morning, the spirit of the day is stirred and the celebrations commence. Some eighty couples dance through the streets, entering selected houses and shops to drive out the darkness of winter and bring in the light of spring with gentlemen wearing shirts and ties and the ladies in light summer dresses. This is followed by the Hal-an-Tow, a boisterous mummers’ play which tells the history of Helston with the participating characters singing about the challenge of the Spanish Armada, the English patron saint, St. George, and the fight between St Michael and the devil.  The children of the town dance at 10.00am wearing flowers and lily of the valley and at midday the formal dance of the day begins with men wearing morning dress and the ladies decked out in magnificent ball gowns and hats that could be the envy of Ascot. To round off the day of dancing, the Evening Dance starts from the Guildhall at 5pm.

What a way to celebrate my brother's birthday!

Borrowed from the West Briton newspaper.

1 comment:

joeh said...

I'm sure a beer company in the states will get hold of this and turn it into another "Cinco de Mayo" type drinking holiday.