The hawthorn (May) bush on my allotment is in bud but not yet in flower, but I have seen others elsewhere that are bursting into bloom: and so they should, for today is Mayday, or would have been when the bush and the month both erupted together.They don’t nowadays. I blame the Government; not the present Government but the one that in 1752 robbed our calendar of 11 days and moved the start of the year from Lady Day (25th March) to 1st January. That’s why the tax year begins on 6th April rather than Lady Day as it did; that May is late; that Michaelmas daisies aren’t on time and why my Grandfather used to be allowed to put his cattle on Lenthay Common on 11th May.
The rhyme about swarm in May is older than the calendar change: in the 1400s the May swarm was worth a cow and a botel of hay, a botel being Norman French for a bundle. From this it follows that, nowadays, a swarm in July is still worth a silver spoon until the 11th of that month.