“A May-day Memory”
Eliza Flower (1803–1846)

for solo voice and piano
performed by Frances M Lynch 

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A woman dressed in black with an electric blue sash is standing by a lake with the outline of Whitby Abbey in the distance set in a deep blue sky

Frances M Lynch

Frances is our Artistic Director, she is also a Scottish singer so the obvious choice to sing this month’s song, as you will hear! 

The words of the song were written by
ALEXANDER HUME (1809–1851)

He was born in Kelso but his family moved to London around 1822 where he spent some time as a strolling player before he aquired a more respectable situation with a brewing company from Edinburgh. He published several editions of Scottish Songs – the 2nd edition was dedicated to Rev. W. J. Fox  – a clear connection to South Place Chapel and the society of the Flower sisters.
Eliza Flower reinvented one of these songs, entitled “My Bess”, which Hume suggests is sung to Burns tune for “The Posie” – but Flower writes a new melody (a better one!), and borrows the idea of May from the Burns song refrain “to my ain dear May”.

Sepia drawing of the head of the composer surrounded by flowers

Eliza Flower (1803 – 1846)

Tinted lithograph of a drawing by Mrs E Bridell Fox, 1898/99 courtesy of Conway Hall Ethical Society

In nature the flower of this month is lily of the valley, known to symbolise humility, sweetness, the return of happiness and motherhoodA close up of lily of the valley flowers peeping out of their shiny green leaves

May – “A May-day Memory is from “Songs of the Months” published by A J Novello in December 1834. The short editorial introduction explains that each song appeared throughout 1834 in the Monthly Repository – a publication associated with South Place Chapel where Flower’s life and work was based.

We are releasing each song in its allotted month during 2023. Please go to our Flower of the Month page for more information and to hear all of the songs we’ve recorded so far.

“A May-day Memory”

My Bessie, O, but look upon these bonnie budding flowers,
O, do na they remember thee o’ childhood’s happy hours?
When we upon this very hill sae aft did row an’ play,
An’ thou wert like the morning sun, an’ life a nightless day,
On that May-day!

The flower head of this daisy with white petals framing a yellow centre

Gowan is the Scots word for daisy

The gowans they were bonnie— when I’d pu’ them frae their stem,
An’ rin in noisy blythesomeness to thee, my Bess, wi’ them,
An’ place them in thy white, white breast; for which thou’dst smile on me,
I saw nae mair the gowans there— then saw I only thee.
On that May-day!a close up photo of 2 blood coloured roses in bloom

Like twa fair roses on a tree, we flourished, an’ we grew,
An’ as we grew, our loves grew too, for feeling was their dew;
An’ thou wadst thraw thy wee bit arms, sae aft about my neck,
An’ breathe young vows, that after years o’ sorrow hasna brak.
O that May-day!

O is nae this a joyous day – sweet May is breathing forth
In gladness an’ in loveliness, o’er a’ the wide wide earth;
The linnets, they are lilting love, on ilka bush an’ tree,
O may sic joys be ever felt, my Bess, by thee an’ me,
On this May-day!A small bird perching in the midst of a leafy tree

the electric voice theatre logo - just the words on some spikes of colour

raising the profile of music by women