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Celebrate history with the Black Prince Flower Boat Procession

Few May Day celebrations are more colourful or historic than the Black Prince Boat Procession that brings together the communities of Millbrook, Kingsand and Cawsand. Locals parade behind the flower decorated boat wearing traditional Cornish costume.
One of the most unusual May Day events in Cornwall is the historic Black Prince Flower Boat Procession. It takes place on the May Day Bank Holiday Monday each year in the villages of Millbrook, Kingsand and Cawsand.

One thing you need to know about Cornwall is that it is steeped in tradition, history and culture that is fervently celebrated every year. That’s just one of the reasons why Cornwall remains a top destination for family holidays and weekend breaks. There’s always something special to celebrate!

What to expect at the Black Prince Flower Boat Procession

The Black Prince is a boat named after Edward, the Black Prince who became the first Duke of Cornwall. This traditional 19th century festival involves carrying a flower-decorated boat called the Black Prince through the streets on May Day. It was the focal point for May Day celebrations in Southeast Cornwall, particularly in the fishing villages of Millbrook, Kingsand and Cawsand.

The May Day festival traditionally was to banish the winter cold and welcome in spring and sunny days. Who could possibly disagree with that!

The Black Prince Flower Boat Procession died out about 50 years ago but the festival was revived in 1986 and has been popular ever since. One of the great purposes of the event, besides everyone coming together in a day of family fun, is that it raises funds for local charities such as the and the .

A book called the Black Prince Flower Boat was written by folklore expert Jan Gendall and is sold in aid of the RNLI at the festival.

Black Prince Flower Boat Procession

The Black Prince Flower Boat is the centre of attention for the procession. It is a large model sailing boat decked in greenery and flowers. Once decorated with flowers it is ceremonially carried shoulder-high through the villages accompanied by lively music and dancing. The boat is transported by enlisted naval ratings from HMS Raleigh, accompanied by town criers, dancers, musicians and children, making a very colourful parade through the streets.

Many of the participants wear traditional dress of red cloaks and sashes, red ribbons and red flowers or headdresses. Children traditionally carry flower baskets, garlands and model boats and there are prizes as incentives for the best.

If you are planning to attend, feel free to dress up in red and white, or even go the whole hog with red cloaks, red sashes etc. Many of the houses and fishermen’s cottages lining the route are bedecked with flags and decorations to add to the fun.

May Day celebrations in Kingsand and Cawsand

The procession halts at Venton House from noon until 2pm so everyone can enjoy the stalls and entertainment. The boat is then picked up and carried through the villages of Kingsand and Cawsand, which incidentally are popular for their charming holiday cottages situated right on the waterfront and beach.

The Black Prince Flower Boat leaves the Rising Sun inn at Kingsand around 2:30pm and proceeds to Cawsand Square for more entertainment, music, Maypole dancing and Morris dancing. Finally, around 4:30pm the procession reaches Cawsand Beach where the boat is launched while everyone sings the launching song.

Do you know Kingsand and Cawsand well? Can you recommend some of the local highlights, shops and restaurants for anyone planning to visit the area? Local knowledge is always invaluable!

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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