Letter: Misconceptions to drive one round the maypole

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The Independent Online
Sir: May Day hijacked, indeed (letter, 6 April)] I had thought that misconceptions about this subject were confined to the monumental ignoramuses in our Government, and did not infect such an excellent body of men as your sub-editors.

When the ancient English May Day tradition was revived by the Labour Government in 1976, all these matters were put in their proper historical perspective. My favourite source was provided by Coleridge; he said:

The leisure days after seed time had been chosen by our Saxon ancestors for folk motes or conventions of the people . . . Each village, in the absence of the Baron at our Assembly of the nation, enjoyed a kind of Saturnalia. The vassels met upon a common green around the May Pole where they elected a village lord, or king, as he was called, who chose his queen. He wore an oaken, and she a hawthorne wreath, and together they gave laws, rustic sports during these sweet days of freedom. May Pole then, is the English Tree of Liberty] Are there many yet standing?

These were Coleridge's words, not mine.

Yours faithfully,


London, WC1

6 April