Couples honoured to be lead Flora Day dancers

Sam Autie and Gillian Hammond

Graham Webber and Clare O’Hare

First published in News
Last updated

It is a family affair for the leading set of this year’s Flora Day morning and evening dances.

The Packet can reveal that brother and sister Graham Webber and Gillian Hammond will be opening and closing the celebrations, joined by their long-standing respective dance partners Clare O’Hare and Sam Autie.

For lead couple Graham and Clare it marks the double, after they were second lead three years ago.

That day has mixed memories for Clare, however, as just hours after the joy of leading, her daughter Caitlin, then 11, was thrown 20ft from a fairground ride, breaking her coccyx.

“She’s definitely not going to go near the fair this year!” she joked.

Clare, who is so keen on the event that she even lives in Flora Gardens, received her invitation the day before flying out on a late honeymoon to Andora with husband Chris.

“I was honoured and absolutely thrilled – I couldn’t believe Graham and I were having the chance to be in the leading set again and this time be first. It’s such a big day to my family and to my mum Rose – it’s going to be amazing to think she will be able to see me lead,” said Claire, who teaches hair and beauty at Helston Community College.

Born on May 9, traditionally the day after Flora Day, Claire has been dancing since she was a six-year-old Parc Eglos pupil and is now 35; she has only missed one year in that time, when she was heavily pregnant.

“I hated not joining in,” she said. “I can’t imagine ever not dancing on Flora Day. It would break my heart if I wasn’t taking part.”

Despite having lived in England, Wales and currently in Scotland, Graham has always managed to return to Helston for Flora Day to dance with Clare, for all but a couple of years.

The 37-year-old said: “I’ve always promised Clare that wherever I am in the country or world I will be home on the 8th of May. Every year is special. I live for coming home for Flora Day.”

Graham, who now words for Lidl but is known to many for the time he worked in Helston’s John Menzies branch and the Angel Hotel, started his Flora Day career a year early due to a shortage of boys dancing with St Michael’s. He later led the school, then Helston Community College and is now completing the hat trick.

“For all of us to be in the lead four this year is even more special,” he added.

His younger sister Gillian, 35, is second lady. She said dancing with her brother “makes it a bit more special.”

Mum of two Gillian, a civil servant at RNAS Culdrose, where her husband Dan is a serviceman, said she was “absolutely delighted” with her invitation, adding: “I wasn’t expecting it.”

She has led the children’s dance with St Michael’s and also been involved in the Hal an Tow, only missing a couple of years when pregnant with children William and Lucy. This year marks the first time her seven-year-old son will dance.

Gillian has danced with Sam for many years and he described her as “an amazing partner.”

Sam, 27, said: “I'm so happy that she gets to be in the lead four with her brother Graham as I know how much it will mean to them both.”

He added: “I've danced since I was a little boy and to be asked to be second gent is very flattering. I love the 7am and 5pm dances; that first drum at 7am, for me, is the most special moment of Flora Day.

“It signals the start of the best day of the year and I can't wait to dance out of those doors on May 8.”

Sam, who lives in Godolphin Road, is known to many for working behind the bar in The Bell for many years, but he is now a teaching assistant at Porthleven Primary School.

The former Parc Eglos and Helston Community College student is also a prolific fundraiser for Clic Sargent, helping to raise thousands of pounds for the charity.

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