On Easter Monday evening, 8 April 1996, the Barwick Maypole was
lowered safely, efficiently and with the absence of ceremony, and installed in
Hall Tower Field, awaiting its triennial refurbishment. No-one present will
have had any inkling of the traumas that were to follow and the splendid
efforts of the Maypole Committee to put all to rights, which are described in
Derick Nichols' article below.
Fate however had another cruel trick to play on Maypole Day, 28th. May,
when heavy rain cast a gloom over the village. But it would take more than
wet weather to prevent this ancient ceremony from going ahead. Following
the Knottingley Brass Band, the Maypole Queen, Victoria Boyes; the Maid of
Honour, Hilary Nichols; the Crown Bearer, John Swift and the equerries, in
the decorated 'Crown Coach', led a colourful procession of floats and trailers
carrying attendants, maypole dancers and other children along Chapel Lane
and out by the New Inn onto Main Street and Hall Tower Field.
There the Queen was crowned by the Lady Mayoress of Leeds, Mrs
Bedford, accompanied by the Lord Mayor, Mr Malcolm Bedford; the Rector,
Mr Roger Wild, and the Chairman of the Barwick and Scholes Parish Council,
Mr Alan Milburn. Despite the rain the school children performed with great
credit the customary Maypole dancing and plaiting, and the crowds of
spectators were entertained by the band and the Sherburn Highlanders
In the early evening the rain had thankfully stopped when the brightly
painted and newly garlanded pole was erected in the traditional manner using
ropes and ladders and with the willing participation of many supporters.
Derick Nichols as Master of Ceremonies and John Leak, the Pole Master,
controlled the event with great assurance and David Wall expertly organised
his 'ladder men'. The evening was brought to a climax when David Crabtree
removed the ropes and scaled the pole to give the fox weather vane its
customary spin. The committee could breathe a sigh of relief that, after all
their problems, the maypole was again standing proudly in the centre of the
Much credit must be given to the Maypole Committee who were:
Derick Nichols (Chairman)
John Leak (Treasurer)
Neville Gardener (Secretary)
"A Job well done"
Preparations for the 1999 Maypole Festival are already well underway. In
time honoured tradition, the Maypole was lowered on Easter Monday - 5th.
April 1999 - and will be raised on Spring Bank Holiday Tuesday - 1st June
1999. The Maypole Committee met to commence their duties for the 1999
festival in November 1998 having had two and a half years to recover from
the traumas of 1996!
Arrangements for the 1996 Maypole Festival were well advanced and
running fairly smoothly until serious vandal damage was sustained to the
Maypole whilst it was lying in Hall Tower Field shortly after the traditional
lowering on Easter Monday. Although the pole lies in the entrance to the
field, and is clearly visible to passers by, on a very wet and windy night in
April the perpetrators of the crime were able to saw off and steal the top 16ft.
of the pole. Although this section was subsequently discovered in the ditch
running alongside Rakehill Road, it was impossible to repair the damage and
the Committee had no alternative but to begin the search for a complete new
top section for the pole.
This placed a very heavy additional work load on an already very busy
Committee. However, after doing some research as to the suppliers of earlier
poles, so it was that on a fine and sunny morning, in the second week of May,
the Chairman, Pole Master John Leak and former Committee Member Tony
Shinn set out on their journey to Calders & Grandidge - Specialist Suppliers of
Poles and Masts - of Boston, Lincolnshire. As Tony Shinn remarked during
the course of the journey, "There'll not be many folk on the road today on the
same mission as us three!".
Upon arrival at Calders & Grandidge, the three intrepid searchers were
greeted with the utmost courtesy, kindness and friendliness - things which one
generally finds sorely lacking in this day and age - but also by what appeared
to be 101 stacks of timber from which we had to find a suitable candidate.
"We'll be here all day looking through this lot" said John Leak. However,
with considerable assistance from the Yard Manager and two very willing
employees with their mechanical timber grab, several possible specimens
were selected and moved to the so called "dressing" area.
By then it was time for lunch and after a very pleasant repast in a nearby
hostelry where the Chairman and Pole Master were regaled by Maypole
stories and characters of old by Tony Shinn, we returned to the dressing area
where two or three poles had already been prepared. After a couple of hours
during which several poles were rejected, after much head scratching and
'humming and aahing" a final decision was made and the new top section
After paying the required purchase price, and again with much head
scratching, we had to find a way to get the top section to Barwick - no easy
task with the pole measuring 40ft. However once again Calders & Grandidge
came to our rescue. "If you can be up early next Tuesday morning, we have a
lorry making a delivery to Newcastle - we can put your pole on top and drop
it off on the way - there will be no extra charge. "
So at the appointed time (the writer's recollection being between 6.00am
and 7.00am) and good to their word, the lorry arrived and off-loaded our pole
which, with the concerted effort of several very willing (and true to say some
still yawning) Committee Members, was carried into Hall Tower Field and laid
on the trestles next to the bottom section.
There was still a lot to be done particularly bearing in mind that Maypole
Day was now less than two weeks away. The top section had to be spliced to
the bottom section and, over the next few days, this very complicated and
technical task was successfully completed under the invaluable guidance of
John Leak and Alan King then had the unenviable task of setting about
painting the top section and matching the red and blue spirals - a real art -
from the bottom half of the pole. With considerable effort and hard work the
whole job was completed just in time for Maypole Day.
The Maypole Committee's efforts were not helped at all when, during this
period, a second incident of vandalism was suffered to the pole which had
been, by this time, fitted with an alarm. In this second incident the pole was
sprayed by vandals with green aerosol paint from top to bottom. Fortunately
and again with considerable effort, the green aerosol paint was almost
completely removed and, after further coats of red, white and blue paint, it
was not visible.
After this second incident, the Committee felt, with Maypole Day being so
close, that any further vandal damage could result in the ceremonies having to
be cancelled. It was therefore decided that there was little alternative but to
arrange for the pole to be guarded overnight - a most thankless and tiring task
- and so it was that a rota was arranged of willing volunteers to "baby-sit" the
pole right through to Maypole Day.
And then, as if to add insult to injury, the weather took a hand with
Maypole Day turning out for the third time running, to be wet and miserable.
However with excellent cooperation from all involved, particularly the
children, it was possible Gust), to get through the afternoon proceedings albeit
with everyone getting a real soaking.
Fortunately, by late afternoon, the rain had stopped and the raising
ceremony, to the relief of all concerned, went very smoothly. At about
8.30 p.m. with the Maypole once again standing proud over the village and on a
day when the Maypole Committee had started work at 5.30 a.m., they were at
last able to relax in the knowledge of a job well done - and, not least, the
thought that it would be three years before we have to "go through it all