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"God Save The King" - Barwick Style

From the Barwicker No.102
June 2011

At Easter 1910 the Maypole was taken down in the traditional fashion using ladders and ropes. Due to its poor condition it was chopped up and likely sold for use as gate posts. A new pole, made from a larch tree, was presented to the village by Colonel Gascoigne, of Lotherton Hall.

Then, during the period when the village was without a raised Maypole a spectacular astronomical event occurred. During April and May 1910 Halley's Comet was clearly visible in the night sky. This comet, which passes by the earth every 75 or 76 years has sometimes been viewed as an omen. It was visible in 1066, the same year William the Conqueror killed King Harold at the Battle of Hastings and is shown on the Bayeux Tapestry. Perhaps some superstitious villagers wondered what this event could mean.

Preparations were well under way to raise the new Maypole on Whit Tuesday, the 17th May. Then devastating news from London arrived that the King, Edward VII, had died on the 6th May. The funeral was arranged for Whit-Friday the 20th May in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

I am sure discussions must have taken place within the village as to the merits of continuing with the Maypole raising on the usual date given the Country was in a period of mourning. In the end it did take place although a concert arranged as part of the celebrations was cancelled. Mr. and Mrs. Childe of Potterton Hall were also unable to attend due to the King's death. Miss Jenny Smith of Lazencroft replaced Mrs. Childe who was to have crowned the May Queen.

A couple of the Leeds newspaper reports of the raising ceremony that year were published in The Barwicker No. 17 but the recently discovered Skyrack archive in the British Library provides further details. Sadly space does not permit me to include a full transcript of their article, however they reported a very successful day and ended:

I have seen them put the pole up in half-an-hour, ″ said an old inhabitant, ″but they won't do it today.″ As a matter of fact the pole was in position in thirty-five minutes, so that the younger generation of Barwickers have no need to be ashamed of themselves. And when the great work was done large jugs of foaming ale were brought out, and the perspiring villagers, according to time-honoured custom, I presume, quaffed the beverage and wished the pole and Barwick luck, "

On Whit Friday the village went into mourning for the King. All the shops were closed and the villagers were summoned to a memorial service in All Saint Church for King Edward by the ringing of muffled bells. As a large congregation assembled Chopin's ″Marche Funebre″ was played by the organist, Mr A. Booth. The service used was in the form issued by the authorities and opened with the hymn ″On the Resurrection morning″. The Rector read the special lesson and prayers were said for the Royal Family. A collection was taken on behalf of the families suffering because of the Whitehaven Colliery Disaster (in Cumbria, 134 miners had died underground in a gas explosion and fire on the 11th May). It was reported that after the blessing the congregation silently dispersed.

The Country now had a new King and Queen, George V and Queen Mary. The Coronation was set to take place the following year, on Thursday, 22nd June 1911. In order to celebrate this event the villagers appointed a committee at a public meeting. Mr. R. Murray was Chairman and Mr. A. Booth and Mr E. London were joint Honorary Secretaries. As there was no Radio or Television at this time the villagers would not hear of the actual events taking place in Westminster Abbey until the following morning's newspapers. Therefore there was a full programme of events organised to take place.

On Coronation day the village was decked out in celebratory style. A number of houses had bunting and flags flying. The committee arranged for streamers to be run from the Maypole to the nearby properties. This gave the area around the Cross a gala appearance.

At 8.00 am a service of Holy Communion was held at All Saints then a celebration service at 11,00 am as recommended by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was reported the later service was very well attended. Children's sports were held in Hall Tower Field from 1.00 pm to 3.00 pm after which the children marched in procession to the schools where tea was served. Each child was then presented with a Coronation souvenir mug, paid for by Mr. and Mrs. Childe of Potterton Hall (do any survive?). At 4,00 pm tea was provided for all the adults in the village and over 500 participated. In the evening sports events for adults were held in Hall Tower Field with the emphasis on providing fun and enjoyment and there were many entries for each event. The Garforth Salvation Army Band played during the afternoon and evening. At 9.30 pm a bonfire, which had been built on the summit of Hall Tower Hill was lit. It comprised mainly of tar and tar barrels and there was an exceedingly large flare. A set of rockets added to the display. To finish off the day the National Anthem, "God Save The King", was sung by the assembled villagers and, once the fire had been dealt with, the crowd dispersed to their homes.

The Skyrack Courier
Chronicle of the Twentieth Century


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