Helston Furry Day 1905
Although the name “Furry” is widely used, in the late 18th century it was known as the “Faddy” and in 1790, The “Gentleman’s Magazine” stated, “About the middle of the day they collect together to dance hand-in-hand round the streets to the sound of a fiddle playing a particular tune, which they continue to do till it is dark. This is called the ‘Faddy’”.
There was, however, some confusion attached to the name but one view was that “Furry” refers to the day whilst “Faddy” was the dance.
The Floral Dance is attributable to Kate Moss and her 1911 song but it is the name used by some for both the day and the dance – perhaps to the with disdain of many!
Perhaps the predominant view now is that we now have the “Flora” Day when they play the “Furry” Dance.
From Inglis Gundry’s Canow Kernow
1861: “Helston Flora Day. The Company having been proved, were marched to the Market House, headed by their excellent Brass Band, and opened the Bazaar at 11 o’clock, in the presence of an immense assemblage of persons.” (17 May 1861 – Royal Cornwall Gazette)
1886: “Ladies and gentlemen, wearing summer attire and decked with flowers, assembled at the town hall and, headed by the Helston Volunteer Band, playing the celebrated Furry dance. They tripped in couples up Coinagehall-street.” (13 May 1886 – Cornishman)
1892: “Shortly after the hour, the Helston Volunteer Band, under bandmaster Amos Blight, struck up the quaint old Furry Dance music.” (12 May 1892 – Royal Cornwall Gazette)
Helston Flora Day May 8th 1901 – Helston Town Band leading the Furry dancers up Coinagehall Street.
Flora Day 1908 style
1912: “The coming of May was celebrated at Helston in accordance with an old custom in the borough. The Town Band started from the Market Place at an early hour and marched around the town playing the old Flora tune.” (9 May 1912 – West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser)
Flora day 1920s, the dancers with Helston Town Band
1921: “Helston Flora on Tuesday the attendance was not so large as usual. In the early morning eight couples, headed by the Helston Town Band, danced through the main streets. The principal dance was at noon, when the couples assembled at the Corn Exchange.” (12 May 1921 – Cornubian and Redruth Times)
1924: “Flora Daty at Helston. The ‘Furry dance’ tune was heard early in the day, played by the Town Band … a crowd filled the roadway outside the Guildhall witness the most picturesque dance of the day.” (15 May 1924 – Cornubian and Redruth Times)
1934: “It was in gay spirit that thousands of people gathered in Helston on Tuesday morning for the famous Flora celebrations. The Helston Town Band, which leads the procession, is the only band in the world that can interpret correctly the simple, lilting air of the dance, which perfectly interprets Flora Day.” (10 May 1934 – Cornishman)
1938: “Flora Day. Only a few bars, yet the lilt of it has gone round the world, and it is played by the Helston Band in a sort of bouncing whimsical way that no imitators could achieve.” (7 May 1938 – Western Morning News)
Helston Town Band players turn out to celebrate Flora Day during WWII
1940: “Helston people experienced an unexpected thrill when they were awakened in the early hours of May Day by the strains of the famous Furry Dance. Practically the whole of the [Helston] Town Band are on active service but a few members were home on leave, with others, too young for active service, assembled at the Town Hall and, following the age-old May Day custom, paraded the town playing the Flora. There were many expressions of gratitude to the bandsmen.” (West Briton 2nd May 1940)
1948: “Through thronged streets the carnival went, headed by Helston Town Band the only band in the world, they say, that can play the Flora Dance properly.” (2 and 9 September 1948 – Cornishman)
1949: “Helston’s Record Flora Day in Blaze of Sunshine. Some went to the fair or picknicked on the Island but wherever they went the Furry tune went with them. Helston Silver Band, led by Mr S L Hender and augmented by several P.O.’s and C.P.O.’s from Culdrose, played the tune as only they can.” (12 May 1949 – Cornishman)
In 2020 the coronavirus pandemic prevented Flora Day being held but the intrepid musicians of Helston Band were determined that the event would be marked, and a virtual event was put in place. All credit to them.
Flora Day 2020 style
Helston Town’s Musical Director Kevin Johns reflects on the cancellation of the 2020 event