Barwick Maypole 1996 "A Job well done" Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Barwick Maypole 1996

Barwicker No. 53
April 1999

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 Majorettes. 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 village. Much credit must be given to the Maypole Committee who were:

Derick Nichols (Chairman)
John Leak (Treasurer)
David Wall
Ted Chippindale
Peter Spearman
Neville Gardener (Secretary)
Paul Rushton
Leslie Banks
Gary Jones
Ken Peaker
Robert King
Mark Jackman
Simon Verity
Stephen Collett
Peter Doherty

"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 selected.

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 Tony Shinn.

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 again!".

Barwick-in-Elmet Maypole Committee

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