Obby Oss Procession - Padstow May Day

Padstow May Day Obby Oss.    Photo by: Ennor
Padstow May Day Obby Oss. Photo by: Ennor

Every year, on the 1st of May, May Day, the Obby Oss comes out of his stable and there's a huge procession around Padstow that's been happening for hundreds of years, since the 14th century and maybe before. The Obby Oss is always on May Day, the 1st, unless that falls on a Sunday, in which case the Obby Oss processions are on Monday 2nd.

The whole of the town shuts down for the day, everybody's involved. The celebration with an Obby Oss on May Day has gone on for centuries and, until recently, Padstow was almost entirely locals only.

There are two Osses, Old Oss and Blue Ribbon. Supporters of the Old Oss wear red scarves, supporters of Blue Ribbon wear blue scarves. Which one you support is a time-honoured tradition passed down through the generations.

Blue Ribbon Obby Oss

The Blue Ribbon Oss is a new arrival as he's only been around since the First World War (1914-1918) as a stand against the drunkenness of the original festival and Old Oss.

  • The Blue Oss' stable is at The Institute.
  • The Old Oss' stable is at the pub :)

On the day, everybody wears pure whites. White trousers and a white top - and then a bandana of red or blue, representing their Oss.

If you were born in Padstow and left the area, then it's non-negotiable, May Day is the biggest day of your year and you WILL return to be there. Nobody misses May Day. Thousands of people from all around the world descend on Padstow, especially now that word has got out about the event.

It's a very popular tourist event these days and if you're going to the Obby Oss, May Day in Padstow, then why not stay for a few days and really soak up the atmosphere in the town around the whole event, as it is a BIG event.

Obby Oss Dates 2017 Onwards

Obby Oss 2017: Monday 1 May 2017

Obby Oss 2018: Tuesday 1 May 2018

Obby Oss 2019: Wednesday 1 May 2019

Obby Oss 2020: Friday 1 May 2020

Padstow May Day Obby Oss.    Photo by: Ennor
Padstow May Day Obby Oss. Photo by: Ennor

Obby Oss Teaser

The Obby Oss is lead along the route by a Teaser, dressed in a top hat, teasing and twirling and tapping and poking the Obby Oss with a staff. Along the route, the Obby Oss will be dancing and twirling, occasionally grabbing a young girl under his cape to dance for a few seconds. The festival has its roots in old fertility rites from pagan times.

The outfit that the Obby Oss is wearing is horrendously heavy, made from a large wooden disc held over their shoulders and the black is oilskins. It's lighter these days than it was generations ago, but still weighs about 20-25Kg. On a scorching summer's day it must be hell under there. And, as the day progresses and new people take their place under the cape in turn, they've each had more and more beers in them than the Oss before!

The Obby Oss head is a pointed hat, with markings on. The Old Oss carries a broomstick with a miniature Obby Oss head on the end.

In my opinion, the best bits are when everybody's round the Maypole and the two Obby Osses are there dancing round and together.

The part where the procession goes up to Prideaux House is a long and slow trek and if you're a visitor there's not much to see because of the walls and the crowds, then it's another slow trek back into town.

Padstow Obby Oss May Day Night Song

May Day Night Song

What a lot of people don't know though, is that the Obby Oss celebrations start the night before, the eve of May Day. It actuallly starts at midnight, outside the Golden Lion Inn.

First they serenade the owner of the pub with the May Day Night Song, then the crowd and Osses parade through the town and meet in the central square and there's a special Night Song. All of this singing is unaccompanied by musical instruments, whereas the day time song has drums and accordians.

Unite and unite and let us all unite,
For summer is acome unto day,
And whither we are going we will all unite,
In the merry morning of May.

I warn you young men everyone
For summer is acome unto day,
To go to the green-wood and fetch your May home
In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Mr. ---- and joy you betide
For summer is acome unto day,
And bright is your bride that lies by your side,
In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Mrs. ---- and gold be your ring,
For summer is acome unto day,
And give to us a cup of ale the merrier we shall sing,
In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Miss ---- all in your gown of green
For summer is acome unto day,
You are as fine a lady as wait upon the Queen,
In the merry morning of May.

Now fare you well, and we bid you all good cheer,
For summer is acome unto day,
We call once more unto your house before another year,
In the merry morning of May.

The song dates back to pre-history, and if you're there it's a haunting sound. The whole event is a very haunting experience. The beating of the drums, the accordians, the repetitiveness of the May Day Night Song.

Already by now, the townsfolk will have been out decorating the entire town with bluebells, forget-me-nots, cowslips, and sycamore twigs. Every lamp post will have some greenery tied to it, as will just about every part of town. There's lots of bunting too - and a Maypole in Broad Street, where the Osses meet.

Padstow Maypole.   Photo by: Ennor
Padstow Maypole. Photo by: Ennor
Padstow Obby Oss.    Photo by: Ennor
Padstow Obby Oss. Photo by: Ennor

May Day Obby Oss for the Kids

Although often billed as the first Oss of the day, the 11am start isn't actually the start. Early in the morning, about 7am, you'll find all the local children are running off to their stables, to get the Oss for their own procession. Schools in Padstow are always closed for the day, it's tradition and no amount of Xs marked on a school register will stop them.

The kids' Obby Oss is identical to the adults' Obby Oss, but much smaller and lighter.

The kids' Obby Oss procession finishes at 10am.

It really is a festival for people of all ages - and what will strike you is the involvement among the young people of the town. 

The Blue Obby Oss Leaves His Stable

Accordian, played at Padstow May Day.     Photo by: Ennor
Accordian, played at Padstow May Day. Photo by: Ennor

May Day Day Song

For the processions during the day, the singers accompanying the Obby Oss sing a different tune. It's the same tune, the same words, all day long. If you're in Padstow all day, you'll hear it from every direction as one of the Obby Osses will be leading a procession somewhere around town.

There are two parts to the song. Most of the time there's accordion playing and drumming, but every few verses the music stops and it all quietens down, the Oss sinks to the floor and they call on St George, the Teaser strokes the Oss with his staff then there's a loud crescendo of furious drumming ..... then it all starts up again.

Drummer Boy at Padstow May Day.   Photo by: Ennor
Drummer Boy at Padstow May Day. Photo by: Ennor

Obby Oss Day Song Lyrics

Unite and unite and let us all unite,
For summer is acome unto day,
And whither we are going we will all unite,
In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Mr. ---- I know you well afine,
For summer is acome unto day,
You have a shilling in your purse and I wish it was in mine
In the merry morning of May.

All out of your beds,
For summer is acome unto day,
Your chamber shall be strewed with the white rose and the red,
In the merry morning of May.

Where are the young men that here now should dance,
For summer is acome unto day,
Some they are in England and some they are in France
In the merry morning of May.

Where are the maidens that here now should sing
For summer is acome unto day,
They are in the meadows the flowers gathering,
In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Mr. ---- with your sword by your side,
For summer is acome unto day,
Your steed is in the stable awaiting for to ride
In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Miss ---- and strew all your flowers,
For summer is acome unto day,
It is but a while ago since we have strewed ours
In the merry morning of May.

O! where is St. George,
O, where is he O?
He is out in his long-boat all on the salt sea O.
Up flies the kite and down falls the lark O,
Aunt Ursula Birdhood she had an old ewe
And she died in her own Park O.

With the merry ring, adieu the merry spring,
For summer is acome unto day,
How happy is the little bird that merrily doth sing
In the merry morning of May.

The young men of Padstow might if they would,
For summer is acome unto day,
They might have built a ship and gilded her with gold
In the merry morning of May.

The young women of Padstow might if they would,
For summer is acome unto day,
They might have made a garland with the white rose and the red,
In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Mr. ---- and reach me your hand,
For summer is acome unto day,
And you shall have a lively lass with a thousand pounds in hand
In the merry morning of May.

Arise up Miss ---- all in your cloak of silk,
For summer is acome unto day,
And all your body under as white as any milk,
In the merry morning of May.

O! where is St. George,
O, where is he O?
He is out in his long-boat all on the salt sea O.
Up flies the kite and down falls the lark O,
Aunt Ursula Birdhood she had an old ewe
And she died in her own Park O.

With the merry ring, adieu the merry spring,
For summer is acome unto day,
How happy is the little bird that merrily doth sing
In the merry morning of May.

Now fare you well and bid you all good cheer,
For summer is acome unto day,
We call no more unto your house before another year
In the merry morning of May.

Waiting outside the Golden Lion Inn for the Old Oss to come out.    Photo by: Ennor
Waiting outside the Golden Lion Inn for the Old Oss to come out. Photo by: Ennor

Procession Times and Routes

When you arrive at Padstow you'll be able to buy a small booklet that gives you all the times and the routes of the Obby Oss.

The first one out is the Blue Ribbon, at 11am. Then at noon the Old Oss appears.

One major part of the procession is also going up to Prideaux Place, where the owner awaits the Oss.

The End of the Day at Obby Oss

To conclude the day, everybody and the Obby Osses meet one more time at the Maypole at midnight to dance together, the Farewell Song is sung, then the Oss' are put away in their stables for another year, then everybody can turn their thoughts to the serious drinking :)

The May Day Farewell Song is an addition, started around about the time of the First World War (1914-1918)

Farewell farewell my own true love
Farewell farewell my own true love

How can I bear to leave you
One parting kiss I'll give you
I'll go what 'ere befalls me
I'll go where duty calls me

Farewell farewell my own true love
Farewell farewell my own true love

No more will I behold thee
Nor in my arms enfold thee
With spear and penant glancing
I see the foe advancing

Farewell farewell my own true love
Farewell farewell my own true love

I think of thee with longing
Think though while tears are thronging
That with my last faint sighing
I whispered soft whilst dying

Farewell farewell my own true love
Farewell farewell my own true love


Directions to Obby Oss, Padstow

show route and directions
A markerRecommended Car Park -
A389, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8, UK
[get directions]

B markerWhere The Osses Meet -
2-12 Broad St, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8, UK
[get directions]

C markerOss Stable / Old Oss Leaves from Here -
Golden Lion Inn, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8, UK
[get directions]

D markerPrideaux House -
Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8RP, UK
[get directions]

Directions to Padstow May Day

The Obby Oss procession goes on most of the day, with each of the Osses following their route, until they meet.

It's best to stay completely out of town with your car on the day, or you could suddenly find yourself in a one way street, face to face with the Teaser and an Oss ... and 10,000 people following behind them! Don't risk it.

Date: It's always on May Day, 1st May, unless May Day is on a Sunday, in which case Obby Oss day is on the Monday.

More by this Author


Comments 2 comments

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

This is fascinating - I'd heard of May Day traditions, but never of Obby Oss. May I link to your hub?


cornwall_UK profile image

cornwall_UK 3 years ago from Cornwall, UK Author

I'd be honoured if you linked to t SidKemp.

All the best!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Photos by Ennor:

    Ennor: Obby Oss   |  Ennor: Obby Oss   |  Ennor: Obby Oss
    Ennor: Maypole     |  Ennor: Accordian  |  Ennor: Drummer Boy
    Ennor: Waiting for the Oss, Golden Lion Inn, Padstow

    Click to Rate This Article
    working