Mrs. Salmon shares her recollections of May Day celebrations

Interviewer: [00:00:01] And as a pupil at Sunday school, you took part in the annual May Day celebrations.

Mrs. Salmon: [00:00:07] Yes, it was called the May Day Parade, but it actually used to take place in June. All the schools and all the Sunday schools took part, all, all the religions, all denominations. And we used to get down by, I think it was a Chester station would all be put into one big procession. And each Sunday school had its own banner with the name across carried in front. And most of the children were white, white dresses. There were some Morris dancers amongst them from the different schools. And we walked down to the Roodee this May Day. The May queen was chosen from a different Sunday school each year, and for this procession, the Duke of Westminster loaned them two landaus, open landaus, complete with footmen in uniform, and it was a sort of a navy blue uniform with top hats with cockades in, and the driver of the horses. The retiring May Queen would be in the first coach and she was all in white with a lovely long train which was draped over the hood of the landau at the back. And her, her maids of honour sat in front of her. The second carriage was the new Queen coming with, she was the same with her maids, and they were taken in procession down to the racecourse where the new Queen was crowned by the Mayoress of Chester. And there would be Morris dancing and the maypole would be danced as well. There was a platform built up in the stands. This all took part in the county stands.

Interviewer: [00:02:09] And would you have a day holiday from school?

Mrs. Salmon: [00:02:11] Yes. This was a public holiday, mostly on a Wednesday, a Wednesday in June.

Interviewer: [00:02:17] And how long did this continue for?

Mrs. Salmon: [00:02:21] I should imagine, mostly before the war.

Interviewer: [00:02:28] The Second World War?

Mrs. Salmon: [00:02:29] Yes, it would go on up into the 30s, I should think it would go up to about 1935.

Interviewer: [00:02:36] Now, although this was called a May Day celebrations, you’ve already said that it was held in June. But something rather special actually did happen on the 1st of May.

Mrs. Salmon: [00:02:45] Oh, yes. As children living in the Crane Street area, on the first morning in May, it was a nice morning. We would get up early and go up to Watergates Square for half past seven. As down Paradise Row at the gasworks, all the horses, the shires and the dray horses would be all dressed up for May Day. They would be all decked in ribbons and brass and silver bells and ribbon laced into their tails. And at the railway, at the railway yards, the same thing would be happening to all the railway horses and most of the milk horses round Chester would be dressed as well with ribbons and bells. And we would watch these horses coming up with their coke from the gasworks, going up Watergate Hill, and you would hear all the little bells tinkling on them. And some of their drivers would wear their white mufflers, and I’ve seen some of them in top hats for May Day. Going out, taking the coke from the gasworks. The same from the railway yards, would be coming, the horses with the coal coming in to the gasworks and they, too, would be dressed for May Day. This is, this was tradition.

Interviewer: [00:04:06] It wasn’t a holiday, though.

Mrs. Salmon: [00:04:07] No, no. Everybody worked. It was a working day. If May Day came on a Sunday, of course, this parade would be on the Monday, on the working day.

Interviewer: [00:04:20] And did this come to an end about the same time?

Mrs. Salmon: [00:04:22] This ended before, just as the war broke out, the Second World War.

Interviewer: [00:04:27] What a pity. Must have been quite a slight.

Mrs. Salmon: [00:04:29] It was in town. And as you must remember, there was a lot of horse drawn traffic in town then. There wasn’t so many lorries and cars about and everybody dressed up their horses on May Day.

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