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Barwick Maypole Raising: 29 May, 1928

Barwicker No. 70
June 2003

The following article is taken from 'The Skyrack Express of 1 June 1928. We are grateful to Geoff Hartley for supplying the forenames of those people involved where only initials were given.


For more years then apparently any Barwick resident can tell a Maypole has stood in stately fashion in the village battling all the elements, and every three years, almost without fail, it has been taken down at Eastertide. renovated and re-painted. and re-erected at Whitsuntide. Three years ago. a new Maypole was put up. and. it is stated. it is believed to be the largest yet obtained. At Eastertide it was razed to the ground. and since then has rested in Hall Tower Field to be tested and to receive its new suit in the form of paint.

On Tuesday the usual revels took place and some thousands of people came to the village to witness these. and also see the Maypole re-erected. Maypoles are almost a thing of the past, and Barwick must be one of the few places where a custom dating back probably hundreds of years has not been allowed to lapse. The ceremony fills one full of imagination and helps one to get some idea of how the villagers of years ago gathered together for Maypole and other dances on the village green. These were the days when such an event was probably looked upon as "the" day of the year. All the modem forms of entertainment were non-existent and village gatherings were probably the main joys of life. But these days are a thing of the past. with very few exceptions. Many will feel that this is a matter for regret. and those within reasonable access of Barwick will delight in the fact that here at least they can get some link with the past every three years.

The festivities are organised by two separate bodies. So far as the Maypole itself is concerned, a small group of men make regular efforts to raise money for the purpose of painting the Maypole and purchasing the new ones. whenever the occasion arises. It is always alleged that these men "get a new suit of clothes out of it." One of them informed an "Express" representative that if he waited for those due to him he would be "feeling the cold." Hence it would appear that no sartorial artist has benefited from the money raised for the Maypole. The remainder of the entertainments are organised by the Barwick Charities Committee. and in this way alone a good deal of money is distributed to deserving organisations.

The proceedings started on Tuesday with a parade of decorated vehicles and competitors in fancy dress. These were judged by Messrs. T Cattley Simpson, William Smith and Nelson Grimshaw and the awards were made as follows :- Decorated vehicles - 1. George Cooper: 2. Alfred Reed. Fancy dress - 1. Miss Ratcliffe (Early Victorian): 2. Albery Lane, Morley (female impersonator): 3. Miss Lily Scargill (Eastern dress). Comic dress - 1. T Watts (tramp): 2. A Binks and J Wilson (Darby and Joan); 3. George Shinn (painter).

The next and prettiest proceedings of the day were in the capable hands of Mr. G.W.Ashworth and the Misses Grimshaw, Shillito and Kitson, the staff of the Church School. Included in the procession was one prettily decorated vehicle which bore the May Queen (Miss Ivy Noble) and a retinue of attendants. The Queen was selected from among the pupils at the school as being the most popular girl, the private ballot system being used, in making the choice. Miss Noble was crowned by Miss Sowry in the absence of her mother, Mrs J. P. Sowry. The crown-bearer, in picturesque attire, was Master John Hague. Billie Lovett and Bettie Binns were the train-bearers and the Queen's suite comprised Mary Poulter, Mildred Bullen, Eleanor Stone, Muriel Hague, Nellie Robshaw, Gertie Birch, Alice Hudson, Gladys Hick, Mary Pawson, Marion Burdon, and Joyce Hewitt. They all wore pretty dresses, and made a charming picture behind the Queen.

The latter then witnessed from a raised platform a well selected programme of dances. Both Maypole and other dances were prettily executed by children of the school, to the accompaniment of the Garforth Brass Band and a string quartet. Toe and tambourine dances were given by Lily Pickard, who proved to be a dancer of great promise. Many hundreds of people witnessed the proceedings from the Tower Hill - a huge mound which will accommodate thousands of people and the construction of which as a stronghold is believed to date back hundreds of years. The programme continued with a miscellaneous entertainment, provided by the Merrion Concert Party of Leeds.


Although the weather had seriously affected the influx of visitors in the early afternoon, brighter periods followed, and there were several thousands of people waiting at the top of the village for the arrival of the Maypole. In due course this was borne to the spot shoulder high by a hundred men, the party being led by the Garforth Brass Band. The pole weighs nearly two tons, and its length varies as much as do the "stories" which are told regarding parts which have been stole by people from neighbouring villages in days gone by. An "Express" representative had the opportunity of talking to Mr Joseph Booker, who had helped with the maypole raising fifty years ago. He has nearly always come to take part in the festival since then. On Tuesday he helped with one of the guiding ropes and said he thought this would be his last visit. He recalled the time when a party from Garforth rolled the pole down Hall Tower Hill with the result that it broke in two. The men took the smaller part through the fields at the rear of the village and eventually got it to Garforth where it was erected. He stated that men named Stead and Bennett reported the matter to the late Colonel Gascoigne. The pole had just been erected when the men were told it had to be taken back, and George Walker brought it back with a colliery horse and waggon (added Mr Booker). There is another story afloat that part of the pole was taken to Aberford and nothing definite seems to be known of this incident.

The pole, which was painted white, with spiral stripes of red and blue, was new three years ago, and was re-painted by Mr. William Stirk and those mainly responsible for the taking down and re-erecting of it were Messrs. Jack Robshaw (see photo below), Ned Wilson, Thomas Robshaw, Fred Lovett, Walter Lovett and Roland Lovett. Before the raising four garlands were attached to it. They were all beautifully "executed" in artificial flowers and coloured ribbons, and were kindly provided by Mrs Alan Wood (Potterton Hall), Mrs Leyton Smith, Mrs Frank Kempton and the Girl Guides. The committee have great difficulty in getting volunteers to supply the garlands probably because of the time and expense in making them.

The Maypole was then roped ready, and soon the large band of helpers commenced their lengthy task. In the first stages the ropes were useless, and the pole had to be lifted by means of ladders being propped underneath. As the occasion arose they had to be slid nearer to the base of the pole, and at this juncture pitch forks proved very useful for steadying the ladders.

Gradually the pole was raised, and not without considerable perspiration, until the weight fell entirely on the ropes. Then the worst and most risky part of the proceedings was at an end, and as the soil was being packed into the hole and round the base of the pole, gentle pulls on the various guiding ropes, resulted in the Maypole coming to rest in an upright position, there to remain for another three years.

The diggers were then able to participate in the usual allowance of beer, and only one task remained to be done. Mr Edward (Ted) Collett then proceeded to climb the Maypole to detach the ropes, and greatly to the excitement of the crowd, having done this, he went to the top and touched the golden fox which is fixed there.

This concluded the programme, and the large crowd was left to devote themselves to the various amusements provided by the showmen, and the usual local attractions.


The above article indicates the enormous debt of gratitude owed by the local community to the Skyrack Express during the whole of 20th. century. Not only did it publish articles of interest to people at the time but it is has been a valuable source of local history material ever since. Copies from 1917 onwards are available on microfilm at Wakefield library and more recent editions at the Local Studies Library in Leeds.

For many decades it was on sale in the area and contained many pages of close print revealing much detail of local life. Later it became a free publication and although the necessary advertising material occupied much of the space, there was still room for articles on local activities.

The newspaper did a great deal to popularise local history through the regular column written by John Gilleghan. And now we must record the end of this valuable servant of the local community as it been absorbed into a newspaper covering a much larger area with less space for local affairs. We are all the poorer by its demise.

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