The nearest Saturday to the 8th May sees the population of Helston in Cornwall swell as the crowds gather for the annual Furry Dance.
The dance has nothing to do with animals or their hides, its odd name is either derived from ‘floral’ or the Cornish word ‘feur’ meaning ‘fair’. At dawn participants collect green boughs - willow is particularly popular as it represents the summer. As early as 7am the participants begin to dance in the streets but the mayor starts the Furry Dance itself at noon. The women don their best frocks whilst the men are dressed in top hats and morning suits. Men and women wear Lilly of the Valley which is Helston’s flower with the men wearing theirs on the left with the flowers pointing up, whilst the women wear theirs on the right with the flowers pointing down. They dance in and out of shops and houses to bring luck and fertility to their inhabitants.
On the same day the Hal-an-Tow Mummers play and sing with its characters of St. George, St. Michael and Robin Hood delighting the onlookers. Readers of a certain vintage may remember the 1978 recording of The Floral Dance by the late Sir Terry Wogan which reached number 21 in the UK singles chart, the song was written by Katie Moss in 1911 recalling the Furry Dance she had witnessed earlier.