[From Manx Soc vol 16]
Laa Boaldyn or May-day, is ushered in with blowing of horns on the mountains, and also.with the May fires, but the old custom of electing a Queen of the May has fallen into disuse. It is thus alluded to in Waldron's Description of the Isle of Man (Manx Society, vol xi p. 48), 1865. "The month of May is every year ushered in with a ceremony, which has something in the design of it pretty enough. In almost all the great parishes they choose from among the daughters of the most wealthy farmers a young maid for the Queen of May. She is dressed in the gayest and best manner they can, and is attended by about twenty others, who are called maids of honour, she has also a young man, who is her captain, and has under his command a great number of inferior officers. In opposition to her is the Queen of Winter who is a man dressed in women's clothes, with woollen hoods, fur tippets, and loaded with the warmest and heaviest habits one upon another; in the same manner are those who represent her attendants, dressed; nor is she without a captain and troop for her defence. Both being equipped as proper emblems of the beauty of the spring and the deformity of the winter, they set forth from their respective quarters* ; the one preceded by violins and flutes, the other with the rough music of the tongs and cleavers.. Both companies march till they meet on a common, and then their trains engage in a mock-battle. If the Queen of Winter's forces get the better, so far as to take the Queen of May prisoner, she is ransomed for as much as pays the expenses of the day. After this ceremony, Winter and her company retire and divert themselves in a barn, and the others remain on the green, where, having danced a considerable time, they conclude the evening with a feast, the queen at one table with her maids, the captain with his troop at another. There are seldom less than fifty or sixty persons at each board.
There is said to be an appropriate song on this occasion, the burden of which is,
"Hug eh my fainey,
He gave my ring,
Summer with us;"
but. I have been unable to meet with it.
For the seizure of her majesty's person, that of one of her slippers was substituted more recently, which was in like manner ransomed to defray the expenses of the pageant. The procession of the summer, which was subsequently composed of little girls, and called the Maceboard, outlived that of its rival, the winter, some years. The Maceboard went from door to door, inquiring if the inmates would buy the queen's favour, which was composed of a small piece of ribbon; this has also fallen into disuse.
A similar custom is described by Olaus Magnus, for which vide Waldron's Description (Manx Society, vol. xt note, p. 124). The Queen of May is the representative of the goddess Flora of the Roman festival. A custom is still retained by the Manx, who leave green boughs or flowers on the threshold on May Eve to propitiate the "good people," or, as they say, "to win good luck for the rest of the year." Often, the step at the door is found covered with bluightans and primroses when you first open it to breathe the fragrant air. The " keirn," or mountain ash, is cut on May Eve, made into small crosses, and stuck over doors, and fastened to cattle, as well as carried about the person, to drive away all, evil spirits. On this eve the damsel places a snail between two pewter dishes, and expects to find next morning the name of her future husband in visible characters on the dish ; but the success of this depends on her watching until midnight, and having first purified her hands and face by washing theni in the dew of wheat.
* They are called Sourey as Geurey, summer and winter.