May Gosling Mischief – Memories Of Skipton


I saw the calendar today and the approach of 1st May. This reminded me of when I was a boy in Broughton Road Skipton at Ings School in early 1960’s, when we on that date each year carried on the tradition of May Goslings ( No bank holiday in early May had been introduced then so 1st May would be a normal school day each year).

When I mentioned May Gosling at work once no one had ever heard of it and thought that I was making it up.

So what was (or is) May Gosling?

It is/was in essence a second April Fool’s Day with everything following the same routine as it’s more well-known and national/international counterpart on April 1st.

Just to prove to myself and you the readers of The Skipton Press, that it does exist, I have carried out some investigations into this and discovered it was not just confined to our area of Skipton (some people I know from other areas of town did not know of it).

Here are some references to May Gosling I have found:  

Dalesman Magazine 2013

A letter from a reader

Having been born and bred in Yorkshire, but lived all my married life in the Vale of Evesham, I could hardly believe my eyes on reading Nicholas Rhea’s tale in the May edition – someone actually knew of May Gosling! Fifty or so years ago when I tried to describe May Gosling Day to my husband, I got some very strange looks. I gave up in the end! Had you been caught out on April Fool’s Day, it was such a joy to get your own back on May Gosling Day. Thank you, Nicholas Rhea.

 A BBC webpage from 2003

This shows that in Oxfordshire May Gosling Day was a tradition

A book entitled “The Lore of the Playground”

A book which details lots and lots of schoolyard games and traditions all over the country.

This contained a quotation from Gentleman’s Magazine 1791

“A May Gosling on the 1st May is made with as much eagerness in the north of England as an April Noddy (noodle) or Fool on the 1st April.”

The Lore of the Playground book then goes on to say:

“There seems to be no logical reason why the north of England needs a second Fools Day but the Opies in the Lore and Language of the Playground (published in 1959) found the May Gosling tradition still current in Cumbria, north Yorkshire and elsewhere and subsequent investigation found it also existed in Lincolnshire where the correspondent in Gentleman’s Magazine was writing from. There seems to be no difference between the tricks played in April and May and it is unlikely that the latter is now remembered anywhere.”

So did you do May Goslings in your school playground? I hope you did and that somewhere some children somewhere are still doing so.

I would be interested to hear from readers if you did and where you spent your childhood.

Perhaps we could start a campaign to reintroduce it …. Or is that against Health and Safety rules?





Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here