Nostalgia: May Day

Cowds leave  Arthur's Seat after the May Day sunrise service in 1966

Cowds leave Arthur's Seat after the May Day sunrise service in 1966

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It used to be one of the city’s biggest holidays, a time to take part in gala festivals, join the crowds for the iners, parade or even climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat to join the masses in washing your face in the new spring dew.

Today, May Day is still celebrated in the Capital, and while some of the parades and traditions of years gone by might have been lost, most of the Capital’s workers are still happy to be out and about enjoying a Bank Holiday.

May Day procession along Princes Street, Edinburgh

May Day procession along Princes Street, Edinburgh

The tradition of May 1 as a day for workers dates back to the 19th century and the fight for an eight-hour working day.

It’s often a day for protests and processions, and that tradition still holds – a few years ago a May Day march was held in Edinburgh to protest over the war in Afghanistan and spending cuts.

The day also marks the beginning of spring, celebrated once again last week with the spectacular Beltane Fire Festival on Calton Hill.

Before Beltane however, the best-known May Day tradition was to climb Arthur’s Seat at dawn and wash your face in the dew as it was said to “whiten linen and beautify faces”.

Living Memories supplement. May Day morning on Arthur's Seat in 1965 - 4 girls wash their faces in the morning dew as the sun comes up.

Living Memories supplement. May Day morning on Arthur's Seat in 1965 - 4 girls wash their faces in the morning dew as the sun comes up.

That pagan tradition had been given a Christian edge in the 1940s when about 40 people had climbed Arthur’s Seat for an “intimate service” at the top.

By 1963, more than 1000 were making the trek at 5.18am, official sunrise time.

The day also used to see crowds lined the streets of the Capital for the miners’ May Day parade.

At the time the industry was one of biggest employers in Lothian. so it was little surprise that the miners’ parade could boast a turnout of 100,000.

Crowds line the east end of Princes Street form 1963's miners' parade

Crowds line the east end of Princes Street form 1963's miners' parade

In 1955 thousands gathered to hear Labour MP Harold Wilson address the crowds in Holyrood Park at the end of the rally

And groups from all over the Capital would take part, putting on their best clothes and creating spectacular banners for the annual event.

Miners Day Rally in Holyrood Park Edinburgh, May 1955 (date correct). Labour MP Harold Wilson speaking to the crowds.

Miners Day Rally in Holyrood Park Edinburgh, May 1955 (date correct). Labour MP Harold Wilson speaking to the crowds.

Girls from Bowhill set off for the miners' parade in 1962

Girls from Bowhill set off for the miners' parade in 1962