The May King of Eastington, with local historian Howard Beard.

JOHN W Rowbotham was born in Manchester in 1878 and, by 1901, was employed as a teacher in Leicester, writes Howard Beard. In August that year he married Florence Read at Rugby. By 1909, following his promotion, the couple were living at School House in Eastington with their two children, Florence and Frederick. Frederick later became a recognised authority on the River Severn; I remember him giving a film show at Marling School in the 1950s and humorously introducing himself as ‘The Severn Bore’ – which he most certainly was not! Both father and son lived to be ninety.

Returning to John, during the decades of his time as headmaster at Eastington he developed quite a cult of celebrating May Day. Aside from dancing round the maypole, children took part in processions and festivities that were held both at the school and in front of the Rectory. John ensured that these events were recorded and many postcards and photographs showing them have survived.

Each May a senior pupil was selected to be crowned May Queen by the headmaster, attired for the occasion in mortar board and gown. Younger girls acted as attendants, together with boys dressed in Georgian-style costumes. Some older Eastington residents perhaps still recall the times they enjoyed on May Day, overseen by John - a true May King!