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Barwick Maypole 1990

Barwicker No. 29
April 1993

The Barwick maypole which had stood as symbol of village pride since its raising in 1987 was taken down for its triennial refurbishment on Easter Monday, 16 April 1990. Three years of Barwick weather had dulled the paintwork and discoloured the once bright garlands when on a fine evening the polemaster John Leak assembled his team of diggers, rope handlers and ladder men and quickly and expertly took down the pole by methods which have become traditional on these occasions. The pole was carried off to Hall Tower Hill by a large crowd of triumphant villagers, with a few good-natured grumbles from those 'at t'mucky end'.

Tradition demands that the lowering is followed by a public meeting at the Cross to elect a new committee but the usual resolution to adjourn the meeting to the more suitable atmosphere of the Institute in Chapel Lane was carried without objection, Here John Leak presented the audited balance sheet of his three year stint as treasurer. The accounts indicated just how expensive nowadays is the provision of the necessary materials and services for a successful Maypole Gala. Despite this the committee were able to report that sufficient money had been raised from collections and gate receipts to allow the splendid total of £1014 to be used to help the Barwick old folk and Barwick School.

The following officials and committee were then elected:

Derick Nichols
Neville Gardner
John Leak
COMMITTEE: Les Banks Ted Chippendale
Steve Collett Mark Jackman Gary Jones
Rob King Ken Peaker Paul Rushton
Peter Spearman Simon Verity David Wall

For the next few weeks the committee and their helpers worked hard to prepare for the coming gala and pole raising. The election of the Maypole Queen and her Maid of Honour had already taken place at Barwick School. The garlands were newly decorated by the ladies' organisations in the village and were eventually carried (no mean task this) round Barwick, Scholes and Aberford where collections were made. The teaching staff of the school trained their charges in the art of maypole plaiting and dancing.

But perhaps the most worrying aspect for the Committee was the state of the maypole itself. Tony Shinn, who for many years had advised the committee on its repair and renovation, had detected a bowing of the pole towards the church. When it was taken apart his fears were confirmed as there was a crack across the grain at the top end of the lower section of the pole. The firm at Staddlethorpe, from where a section had been obtained in 1966, and local carpentry firms were unable to help. However, Tony and his assistants were up to the task. A cross cut saw was obtained and lengthened and the team cut two feet off the pole reducing its length to 86 feet. It was successfully re-spliced and two additional metal hoops were made from old cart 'naffs' for fitting over the splice. A video was made of the whole process so that future generations of Barwickers will be able to repeat the operation should this become necessary. The pole could then be repainted ready for the raising.

Barwick was in a festive mood on Spring Bank Holiday Tuesday, 29 May, the day scheduled for the Gala and Maypole Raising Festival. The procession assembled in Chapel Lane in the early afternoon in rather uncertain weather. Preceded by Albert Warner with his red uniform and clanging bell and led by the York Air Training Corps Band, the procession moved along Chapel Lane to the New Inn and then down Main Street. The Maypole Queen, Vikki Kollesoff, and her entourage made a lovely picture in the crown coach. They were followed by the attractively dressed attendants and maypole dancers seated in four decorated floats. Six proud parents walked beside each float.

Matthew, Vikki and Victoria enjoy the procession.
The Crown Coach
The Sherburn Highlanders Majorettes marched jauntily along in their colourful costumes and three gaily decorated horse-drawn vehicles reminded older Barwickers of the time before lorries and tractors appeared on the scene. Followed by a large and appreciative crowd the procession moved on to the Hall Tower Field. Here the stalls and sideshows enhanced the festive mood as Vikki led the the children from the floats onto the stage. Here she was crowned Maypole Queen by the Lady Mayoress of Leeds, Mrs Stephanie Kilgallon. In her speech, Vikki recalled her early maypole memories:
"Lord and Lady Mayoress, special guests, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Throughout my village school life in Barwick, I have always been involved in our traditional maypole raising celebrations. At three years of age, my friends and I were on the play school float. Then at six years old, we were together again on the infant school float. Three years ago when we were together on the junior school float, we all knew it would be our last chance to actively take part in this special festival. So you can imagine how pleased and proud I am to be given the opportunity to represent all the other girls in the village as your Maypole Queen and I would like to thank everyone who has supported and voted for me.
I am delighted that the Lord and Lady Mayoress can be present to crown me and hope that they enjoy this historic triennial event as much as we do. I would like to thank my Maid of Honour Victoria Tillotson, Crown Bearer Matthew England, equerries Nicholas Swales and Graham Stanley, train bearers Steven (Beaumont) and Amy (Ripley), and all the other attendants for being with me and the Headmaster, staff and children of Barwick School for their preparations for today. We are very lucky in our village to have this tradition continued by the maypole committee, who have many months of preparation to do to make today a success. I'd like to say a special thank you to Geoff and Norma Atkinson for my coach and everyone concerned with providing and decorating the other beautiful floats. Most of all, I'd like to say thank you to you all for being here and hope everyone enjoys their day. Thank you."

Vikki is crowned by the Lady Mayoress

The visitors were then treated to a display of maypole plaiting and dancing by the children from Barwick School. The proceedings were interrupted from time to time by showers of rain but this did not spoil the enjoyment of the crowd.

In the evening the High Street and the Cross were thronged with a noisy but well-behaved crowd as preparations were made for the maypole raising. What the 'Yorkshire Evening Post' described as 'a handful of brawny Barwick lads' dug the necessary hole 'regularly quenching their thirst with beer from tin buckets sent from the village landlords'. When this was complete the pole with its colourful garlands was carried shoulder high from Hall Tower Field.

The ropes were manned by dozens of volunteers and David Wall the 'ladder man' began to direct his teams of willing helpers who 'walked in' at his command to raise the pole a few feet at a time. John Leak, the polemaster, complete with colourful rosette, superintended the whole proceedings from the platform, no doubt relieved that unlike his predecessors of old he had an efficient public address system to make himself heard. Television crews mingled with the crowd and recorded the scene as did several individuals with video equipment.

When the ladder crews had done their work, the pole was pulled up steadily by the ropes into a vertical position amidst loud vocal encouragement from the crowd. The diggers began to re-fill the hole, with the polemaster anxiously checking its alignment, knowing that it was his responsibility alone to see that it was truly vertical. Eventually all was in order and John thanked the helpers for their efforts and support. The proceedings were not yet complete. David Crabtree climbed up to the garland hooks and untied the ropes that had played such an important part in the raising. Then, willed on by an increasingly vocal and supportive crowd, he began to shin up the pole. He climbed steadily till he was a few feet below the top. Here he paused. Was he going to make it? Then he gathered himself and climbed quickly up the remaining part and, with a huge roar from the crowd, he spun the fox weather vane on the top of the pole. He slid triumphantly down, thoroughly deserving the congratulations of the crowd, not forgetting the collection contributed in buckets by appreciative onlookers.

The maypole committee and its helpers had done their work, the raising was complete and the maypole once again rose proudly over the village.

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