Hal An Tow

A song to welcome in the May!  The earliest known printed version is from 1846, though the custom was referred to at least as early as 1790, in The Gentleman’s Magazine (quoted by Charles Kightly in The Customs & Ceremonies of Britain, Thames & Hudson, 1986):

“In the morning, very early, some troublesome rogues go round the streets with drums or other noisy instruments, disturbing their sober neighbours and singing parts of a song, the whole of which nobody now recollects, and of which I know no more than that there is a mention in it of the grey goose quill and of going to “the green wood to bring home the summer and the May-O”: and, accordingly, hawthorne flowering branches are worn in hats.”

In the book “The Curiosities of Ale and Beer”, (by John Bickerdyke, 1889 – still available in print today) the song is described as a part of celebration at Helston, Cornwall, called “Furry Day”; young men and maidens go off very early in the morning for a breakfast and then return around 7 o’clock bearing green branches and wearing flowers, dancing in the streets to the tune of the Furry Dance, then breaking into the song “Hal-An-Tow” around 8 o’clock. You can read futher on this Mudcat page.  What’s more, check out this link!

Jos. Morneault


And you might really enjoy this YouTube Link! A classic Watersons performance!


(!) is the symbol to stomp your foot or clap your hands.

Take no scorn to wear the horn
It was the crest when you were born
Your father’s father wore it
And your father wore it to

Hal an tow (!)
Jolly rumbalo (!)
We were up (!)
Long before the day o
To welcome in the summer
To welcome in the may o…
For summer is a comin in
And winter’s gone away o!

Robin Hood and Little John
Have both gone to the fair o
and we will to the merry green wood
To hunt the buck and hare o

What happened to the Spaniards
Who made so great a boast o
It’s they shall eat the feathered goose
And we shall eat the roast o

And as for that good knight, St. George
St. George he was a knight o
Of all the knights of Christendom
St. George is the right o

God bless Aunt Mary Moses
In all her power and might o
May she send peace to England
Send peace by day and night o

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