FTX-215 - OSS OSS WEE OSS
PADSTOW MAY HORSE
A unique documentary record of one of our most exciting annual customs in Britain
featuring music & dancing in the streets and pubs, with commentary by members
of the two Hobby Horse Parties: The Blue Ribbon and the original "Old Oss" Party.
This is taken from the soundtrack of the 1953 film made by Peter Kennedy, Alan
Lomax and George Pickow, in which the leading part was taken by Charlie Bate,
the accordion-player of the "Old Oss" Party, to whom this recording is repectfully
dedicated. Unite and unite and let us all unite - For Summer is a-come
THE ORIGINAL "OLD OSS" PARTY:-
1. Charlie Chilton (from London) meets Charlie Bate (Padstow) who takes us
to "The Golden Lion"(public house & stable of the horse) to meet the committee
2. "Colonel" Bates and Roderick, the Treasurer - 1'10"
3. Mr. Chapman, in charge of the decorations - 4'29"
4. The landlady, Mrs Couch, & her daughter, Winnie - 0'54"
5. The Committee Members (now well primed) - 1'25"
6. The Church Clock striking midnight - 0'34"
7. Mr. Chapman announces start of the Night Song & Charlie describes the
Night Visiting Procession - 2'50"
8. May Day morning: The children's horses & "stealing" the greenery - 1'11"
9. Charlle Bate decorating the streets and the maypole - 1'08"
10. The "Colonel" talking about carrying the horse & looking for the young
ladies to take under the horse's skirt for a "ticklement under the ribs" - 2'06"
11. Mr. Chapman's speech & horse coming out of "The Golden Lion" - 2'36"
12. Charlie Bate describing the route - 3'34"
13. Charlie Chilton & Charlie Bate continue including words of song, about
the children & Margaret, taken under the skirt, being married by Christmas
"THE BLUE RIBBON" HOBBY HORSE PARTY:-
14. John Worden describes the success of May Day, the route of his horse including
a visit to Treator (formerly this was where the horse was sprinkled with water
from the well) - 3'37"
15. Origins & making the gowns for the horse - 0'59"
16. Other members talk about making horses - 1'03"
17. Peter Kennedy asks about "the other horse" & John Worden talks about
"The Peace Horse" after the First World War - 2'43"
18. He asks a delicate question about the difference between the two horses
19. He asks about the "Young Lady" (man-woman) accompanying horse - 0'28"
20. "The Colonel" insists on giving his views but an argument ensues - 2'21"
21. Worden's speech in the Town Square & start of his Procession - 5'11"
22. Drum rhythm practice on May Eve in "The London Inn" - 0'38"
23. Song recorded in "The London Inn" on May Eve - 4'18"
24. Charlie Bate: accordion solo - 1'39"
25. Song in the street on May Day when both horses meet - 4'28"
Recorded & edited by Peter Kennedy and first published on Folktrax cassettes
"OSS OSS WHEE OSS" is the Padstow Mayer's cry, yelled out by the crowd when
the Hobby Horse first appears from out of its stable on May morning, and heard
again throughout the rest of the day as the Teaser leads the horse, with the
crowds following it, all through the streets and along the quayside and rural
lanes. In fact the sound that the visitor is most likely to hear, first of all,
is the thump of the drums, but later it will be the song in hundreds of repetitions.
Each year, the words of the song will alter a little, for they depend on the
collective memory of the participants. After the opening verses, the rhythm
changes to the slower:
O where is St.George (or King George)? O where is he O ?
He's out in his long-boat, all on the salt sea-O
Up flies the kite, down falls the lark-O,
Aunt Ursula Birdhood she had an old yowe,
And she died in her old park-O
[NOTE: This part of the song is similar to the HAL-AN-TOW sung annually
at Helston in Cornwall on "Furry Day", usually held on May 8th].
Our recording begins on May Eve: Charlie Bate, the Secretary of the Old Oss
Party, is sitting down by the harbour playing the tune on his old accordion.
Charlie Chilton, from London, wants to know all about the custom and its origin.
We are led into the bar of "The Golden Lion" and we sense the feeling of excited
anticipation of the event, and we hear a number of different stories about the
origin and age of the custom.
The parts of Horse and Teaser are acted out, without costume, by pairs of men,
twirling and twisting, in "limbering up" for the parts they will play the following
day. The striking of midnight is the signal for the Night Carolling to begin,
when the party of mayers, and the crowd following, take a prescribed route through
streets and gardens, stopping below the windows of certain houses to sing special
verses to publicans, policemen, elderly mayers, as well as sick people. At dawn
the children's horses, and the May Committee, are out early,"stealing" the greenery
from the estate of the local squire, Mr. John Prideaux-Brune...
The 16mm cine-film made in 1953 is available on DVD-R. It is in colour but
includes some remarkable monochrome indoor footage of May Eve "Horse-and-teaser" necking with rock-and-roll style dancing in the pub, without the horse, by pairs
of young men getting themselves into the spirit of May Day. Prof Margaret
Mead likened this to ritual dancing elsewhere in the world but especially that
which she had encounbtered in the Pacific.