"The Day is made!"

"The Day is made!" The Maypole Procession.

from The Barwicker No. 53
Mar. 1999

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In organising the maypole procession, the Committee need the co-operation of the schoolteachers, the schoolchildren, their parents and many other people. It is a total village effort with no-one left out. You have to decide what form it is to take and if there is a theme to it.

In 1978, the Maypole Committee engaged three bands of the Sunderland and District Juvenile Jazz Band Association. These were to be the centre point of the procession. There were 130 girls and 12 adults in attendance. They arrived at Barwick at 11.30am on the day of the event. The three buses parked in the schoolyard, at that time in Aberford Road, and they had the use of the school and the school toilets. Also by arrangement they were able to buy fish and chips at the fish shop, after which they put on their uniforms ready for the procession. They did this in the school.

There were decorated floats and other vehicles used to transport the schoolchildren round the village streets to Hall Tower Field, where they would entertain with maypole dancing. There were five teams of dancers of one kind or another, as well as other children. All the girls were dressed in white and the boys in white shirts and black trousers. This was their day, which they would always remember, together with the decorated float and the girls' band. Also you made sure that the late Albert Warner was ready to head the parade in his Town Crier's vestments and hand bell.

The foregoing would be the main composition of the procession. It still had to be assembled in the right place and in the correct order to move off. It had to follow a chosen route and keep to a time schedule. I remember that I and the now retired PC Pickersgill walked the route and put a time scale to it. In 1972 when I was Procession Marshall it was 45 minutes but it has been since shortened and now takes 30 minutes.

On the day of the procession, the police are in attendance all day. They keep a low profile and are very helpful. They are aware that people have come to enjoy the day out and to see something special.

By mid-day people are gathering in Main Street amd along the route of the procession. There is much activity, and police cones and road diversion signs have been put out. Barriers are being fixed on the Hall Tower gate and there is much traffic in and and out of Hall Tower Field. There are last minute jobs to complete and time is running out. There is much excitement and a feeling that something big is about to happen. The time is now 1.15pm and we must leave Main Street and the hubbub and make our way to the assembly of the procession at the entrance to the Church School in Welfare Avenue.

On my way I call at the school yard in Aberford Rd. to see how the bands are getting on and to my delight I find them lined up ready in three ranks. The adult attendants are giving last-minute instructions and looking them over to make sure they are perfect and from what I saw they were "perfect".

I left them and said I would send for them in 15 minutes or so, when the schoolchildren were loaded onto the floats. I made my way to Welfare Avenue where the floats were in the correct order. The teachers brought the children out of the school.

The Maypole Queen and the Maid of Honour accompanied by the Crown Bearer and Equerries were seated in the 'Crown Coach' - it was decorated like a crown. The Queen and Maid of Honour were in long white dresses and the Crown Bearer and Equerries were dressed in livery.

The retinue of attendants from the Infants Scbool were seated in the next two or three decorated floats, all dressed in white and carrying a wand. The maypole dancers from the Church School were seated on the rest of the decorated floats, as also were all the other boys and girls. Bales of straw were used for seating and were covered with cloth to keep the children clean. With the maypole dancers from the Infants School and five teams of Junior School children, there were 100 children to entertain.

By 2.00pm all the children are loaded onto the decorated floats which have been done by groups of village people. The bands are ready and it is time to get underway. The late Arthur Walton was with me and I said to him, "Arthur, go and fetch the bands!". He went off to the schoolyard like a shot out of a gun.

There were some committee men standing with me watching and waiting. Then all at once, we could hear the bands. We watched them turn into Chapel Lane until it was full of girls marching and playing their instruments with such precision. Any sergeant major would have been proud of them. Arthur was leading the way as proud as any sergeant major. I said to the men with me, "The day is made!". It was a very emotional moment.

The bands were halted at the top of Chapel Lane. Albert Warner as Town Crier went ahead of the procession. The senior band was brought forward past the Miners' Welfare and halted. This band was to lead the procession. Next was the Crown Coach with the Maypole Queen and her attendants, then four decorated floats with children and after that the second band. Then came another four decorated floats and the third band. Following this was the decorated truck with the four garlands and then one with a mini maypole. Then came a pony and trap from Rington's Tea, followed by others.

Everything was now ready and in place to show the crowds of people how we keep the ancient triennial Maypole Festival going. The order was given to the first band to lead the procession up Chapel Lane out by the New Inn and down Main Street to Hall Tower Field, with police escort. Three adult persons walked alongside each float to ensure the safety of the children.

In 1972, the procession first passed out onto Aberford Road and along the following route: Elmwood Lane, Carrfield Road, Leeds Road, Flats Lane, Gascoigne Avenue, Gascoigne Road, Gascoigne View, Long Lane, Richmondfield Road, Richmondfield Avenue, Richmondfield Drive, Long Lane and Main Street along to Hall Tower Field. Progress however was slow and the tour of the Richmondfield estate was cut out.

At the field the Queen was crowned in 1978 by the Lady Mayoress of Leeds. This was followed by Maypole dancing by the Infants' School children and five teams of dancing by Junior School children. After this, there was an exhibition of playing and marching by the three girls' bands from Sunderland. The procession is a wonderful sight as it makes its way down Main Street. with bands playing and crowds of people cheering and clapping their hands. On this day Barwick is truly the Capital of the Ancient Kingdom of Elmet.

In other years the details of the procession were different.


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