Barwick Maypole 1954 Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page

Barwick Maypole 1954

From the Barwicker No.75
September 2004

Barwick Maypole 1954

"A man who got an unusual view of Barwick-in-Elmet, near Leeds, maypole celebrations yesterday was Mr Ken Birch. After a new 100 ft. maypole had been carefully placed in position, Mr Birch, a bricklayer, who was born in the village but now lives in Aberford, climbed it to release the guy ropes used during its erection.

It had been his intention to climb to the top and spin the gold-painted weather vane, shaped like a fox, but he found the surface of the pole to be too slippery. He was about 60 ft. above the centre of the village when Mr John White told him through a loudspeaker
'Do not take any risks. If it is too slippery do not go on.'
Mr Birch told me afterwards, '
I wanted to go up because I am 39 now and in another three years when we have our next maypole celebrations, I will be too old for this sort of thing. I have been up a few times before and I also shinned up it once or twice when I was a lad. But that was on the quiet. The pole is slippery because it has been painted with glossy paint, not as before with a flat paint when it was easy.'

There has been a maypole in Barwick for hundreds of years. Every three years it is brought to the ground for inspection and every 12 or 15 years it is replaced. The new pole has been made from two 50 ft. larch trees from the estate of Sir Alvary Gascoigne of Lotherton Hall. The old one was taken down, just as carefully as the new one was erected, on Easter Monday. Shortly after 6 o'clock, the new pole was lifted onto the shoulders of 20 men and, preceded by the Sherburn Old Boys Band, carried to the centre of the village. Buckets of beer were taken round to the helpers hanging grimly to the guy ropes and supporting the pole with ladders and pitch forks. The pole was painted red, white and blue and about half way up there were four garlands made by the Mothers Union, schoolchildren, the British Legion Womens Section and Mrs Jack Cooper. Over 3000 villagers and visitors watched the operation and traffic in all directions was halted.

The celebrations began shortly after lunch with a procession round the village on decorated wagons. The procession finally made its way to Hall Tower Field where Lady Gascoigne crowned the 14 year old Barbara Wilson of Scholes as Maypole Queen. There was archery, Scottish and Morris dancing with a display by the Leeds Sword Club. There was dancing round the maypole in the evening. One of the most disappointed men in the village was Mr Stanley Robshaw, the chairman of the Maypole Committee, who was taken ill yesterday morning and could not be present at the ceremony. The whole event was filmed by a TV newsreel cameraman."


Back to the top
Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page