This weekend coming is the annual excuse to get out into the sunshine with our books, set up the pop-up bookstore, enjoy the music, enjoy the local beer, enjoy the food, and enjoy some traditional Cornish silliness. It’s the Maytree Fair at St.Germans, time to get the oak leaves ready. It is also an excuse to put the South Caradon Series of posts to one side, and have a look at the traditions surrounding this Cornish event.
Traditions old and new
A long history hides behind this weekend of fun at the East Cornwall Village of St.Germans. It is one of those fascinating mixtures of Traditions historic and modern that peppers the Cornish calendar. So in true blog-post form, here is two lists, one of the old, and one of the new.
- The Fair was held at the foot of a large walnut tree
- Cattle from all over Cornwall was sold at its base each 28th of May
- A basket swing was hung from its branches after the cattle sale for children to play on
- On the 28th of May a mock Mayor, after much drinking, was paraded through the village on a hay wain or cart
- Oak leaves were worn by everyone in the village
- Anyone not wearing an oak leaf was dunked in the horse trough
Unfortunately the but tree no longer stands, nor do cattle chew cud beneath its branches, but some of the Traditions are still live on in modified form, and some new ones are growing.
- A mock Mayor is still elected
- The village is decorated with leaves
- May Tree Dancing, tug of war and other festivities gather the parade together
- Oak leaves are worn by villagers in the parade
- The tree is represented by a re-creation that is paraded through the village to end up at the back of the pub
- The Mayor is paraded from the The ‘Rec’ to the pub, with pause to visit the Priory Church. Musicians accompany the parade playing The May Tree Fair Tune
- The parade has a Cornish Myth or tale theme
- Stalls, food, and games are set up at the back of the Eliot Arms (That’s where our Bookstore will be)
- A music stage is built for live music
Water pistols have replaced the trough
But, since it’s restoration the fair has adapted, the fair has changed, the fair’s traditions have changed, and no doubt so this year and next year will evolve again.
And this year’s theme is-
Dando and his Dogs
After mermaids, giants, and fish, it is time that St.Germans own character to make an appearance, Dando the monk. Dando was not a a pious Monk to be celebrated by the religious, Dando was not a pillar of virtue to follow as a role model, and Dando did not meet an end suitable for any Saint.
His tale is a one of warning against that perils of sin and loose words. It is his tale that is the theme of this year’s fair and it his effigy, along with his dogs will lead the parade.
I will tell more of this tale in a later post, so follow along if you are tempted to know more.
Navsbooks and Kidz Kernow pop up bookstore will be at the fair this year, and will feature the following sections to explore:
- Cheryl Manley’s Children’s Books
- John Manley’s Cornish Industrial History Books
- A selection of Trevithick Society Publications
Second Hand Books
Our Books on Amazon
Cheryl Manley’s Books
John Manley’s Books