It’s Summertime – Take a Listen to Canon MacEwan’s Queen of the May

You can hear Canon MacEwan’s famous and Ireland’s favourite May Day anthem / hymn with a click on the link here:

The late Gay Byrne started it on Radio 1 all those years ago and he always left it to Canon Sydney MacEwan to lift the spirits of the nation on May Day when he played his ‘Queen of the May’ religiously on that day.

Ronan Collins carried on the mantle after Gay and today it fell to North Kerry woman and former Kerryman columnist, Katie Hannon to remind the nation that it’s summertime, May 1st and all the customs and piceógs associated with it. Canon MacEwan (1908 – 1991) was born in Glasgow and he also died there.

The song he made famous is believed to have been composed by a Mary E. Walsh who was a pupil of the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Article in Ireland’s Own

According to an article in Ireland’s Own, Sydney Alfred MacEwan, a Scottish tenor was born on the 19th October 1908 in the Springburn area of Glasgow.

His Irish mother was from Portadown, County Armagh and his father was from Partick in Scotland.
Despite their poor circumstances, his mother managed to pay for music lessons for Sydney and his brother. Both boys won scholarships to good schools.

Gay Byrne Request to Ronan Collins

When Ronan Collins first played the song on his RTÉ Radio 1 show he revealed that Gay Byrne asked him to keep the May Day tradition alive and continue to play that version of the song which, more than any other, is the harbinger of summer and flowers and traditions and all that’s good about being alive and looking forward.

And, on this May 1st 2024 I was delighted to hear from my baby sister Kate that she walked around our little acre in Knocknagore and blessed the hedges and corners and all dwellers in, within and around.

Nothing to do with the Orchestra

This is something our grandmother and mother did before us. Our grandmother Ellen Reidy, a Ballymac woman, used to put pictures of St. Martin into square sauce bottles and place them in the ditches at the four corners of the acre.

I believed at the time that we had a strong connection with the famed Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra.

Every time I hear it on the radio even now I see our grandmother striding around the field sprinkling everything, children, hens, ducks and goats, footballs, sliothars and home made hurleys and anything within her scope.

Wherever you are today, may I wish you health and happiness and the kind of summer that would remind you of the way they were.

You can hear Canon MacEwan’s famous and Ireland’s favourite May Day anthem / hymn with a click on the link here:

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