There’s a certain amount of confusion over this addition to the Mayday celebrations. I have been unable to discover when it was actually introduced or find any tangible information regarding it’s relevance to Padstow’s Mayday.
The song is a German song entitled ‘Weh, Dab Wir Scheiden Mussen’ and has been attributed to the German poet and writer, Johanna Kinkel. There is no doubt that the words were penned by her, but it is thought by some that the words were in fact adapted to a traditional German folk tune but most versions of the sheet music I have seen, tend to attribute both words and music to her.
The song was written somewhere around 1858, the year in fact that Kinkel died, but not translated into English until around 1875, which is where some of the facts and figures don’t tie up for me. It is claimed for instance that the song was a popular song during the American civil war, but the civil war took place between 1861 & 1865 therefore if the dates are correct, it was not actually translated until some ten years later. I have spent some time trying to find a record of the song in one of the civil war song archives, but have found no records whatsoever and the same seems to be true of the first world war which would make far more sense.
One thing I have found however is a recording that had been transcribed from an old Edison cylinder recording made in 1902 which would lead me to believe that its popularity was more likely to have been in the 1900’s. There is of course no doubt that the song is a very moving song, which describes a soldier saying farewell to his loved ones before going off to battle but why it was introduced into Padstow’s proceedings is unknown. According to Donald Rawe’s publication ‘Padstow’s Obby Oss and May Day festivities’ It was first introduced by one of the Peace Oss team, Mr. W Thomas, somewhere around 1920 so quite a recent addition but one that has been adopted by both Oss parties.
How can I bear to leave thee, One parting kiss I give thee. And then what e’er befalls me, I go where honour calls me. farewell, farewell, my own true love, farewell, farewell, my own true love. Ne’er more may I behold thee, or to this heart enfold thee. With spear and pennon 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 thou, when tears are thronging, that with my last faint sighing, I’ll whisper soft while dying. farewell, farewell, my own true love, farewell, farewell, my own true love.