Red man and May Queen conceive son on night of Beltane Fire Festival

IT was like a red rag to a red man. A sex ban imposed on performers before last year's Beltane Fire Festival has had an unexpected, and happy, consequence – a baby born exactly nine months later.

Rupert Smith, who was playing the part of a Red Man, during the fiery pagan event last year, celebrated the lifting of the ban with his partner – who just happened to be May Queen Fenella Hodgson – after returning from the Calton Hill festivities.

The result was son Reuben, now three months old, and, for his efforts, Rupert has now been promoted to the leading role of the Green Man – the May Queen's betrothed – this year.

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Rupert, 33, who lives with Fenella and Reuben in Dalry, said: "We're both really excited about the festival, but unfortunately we won't be taking our son.

"He's going to stay at home with his grandparents instead."

Thousands of revellers will climb Calton Hill tomorrow night to watch the iconic fire-filled festival, an annual event on April 30, which celebrates the start of the summer using pre-Christian traditions.

Leading the procession will be the May Queen and the Green Man who will also take part in a sacred staged marriage, to celebrate the birth of the new year.

It is the second year that Fenella, 31, originally from Sussex, has played the May Queen, but it is a first for Rupert, a computer programmer, as the Green Man who was this week making finishing touches to his costume – a blanket of grass.

He said: "Every year, the Green Man basically wears a big bush of ivy, so I thought I would make something different.

"I bought some hessian and have been growing grass through it. I've had to water it every day though, but hopefully it will be at the right length by tomorrow night."

The couple met back in the late-1990s when they were Edinburgh University students in the Holyrood Tavern.

Fenella, an art therapist, has been involved with Beltane for ten years, introducing Rupert to the festival after her first year as a volunteer.

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Last year, as she was taking the lead with a different Green Man, Rupert joined a colourful line of volunteers playing the parts of Red Men, Blue Men, the White Women and the Elementals, representing air, earth, water and fire.

He said: "We basically know that Reuben was conceived at last year's Beltane. There was a sex ban imposed on all the Red Men before the event as we were to be charged with as much energy as possible for the night."

Although Reuben will be staying at home tomorrow while his parents entertain more than 12,000 people on Calton Hill, he has been taken to watch rehearsals this week.

His dad said: "We really wanted him to be there, but we thought it would just be too much this time."


THE Beltane Fire Festival will take place on Calton Hill tomorrow night.

An audience of around 12,000 people are expected to enjoy the festivities.

The event starts at 9pm, coming to a close by 1am.

Tickets, priced 5, are available online from The Hub at or from The Forest Cafe, Bristo Place and Ripping Records, South Bridge.

A limited number of tickets will be made available on the night for 7, available only from Calton Hill's Carriage Drive entrance, on Regent Road.