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.
BARWICK IN FESTIVE MOOD
TRIENNIAL CEREMONY OF RAISING THE MAYPOLE
CROWNING OF MAY QUEEN AND MAYPOLE DANCING DISPLAY
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
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.
TALES OF THE PAST
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.
From the SKYRACK EXPRESS
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.