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Barwick Maypole Raising and Gala, 2005

From the Barwicker No. 78
June 2005

30th May, 2005, was a Bank Holiday. The weather was warm and sunny. It was more than six years since the last Maypole Raising. The event had been well covered beforehand on local radio and in the local press. As a result there was a very large attendance at the 2005 Maypole Raising. The event was organised by the new committee who took over when the last committee resigned nearly three years previously. In that period the committee formed the organisation into the Barwick-in-Elmet Maypole Trust and is in the process of becoming a registered charity. There were a number of changes as a result of there being a fresh team with no detailed records of the previous years. There was an illustrated programme on sale. There was a new pole as there was uncertainty about the old pole which had been in position for the last six years. It was cut down by chain saw on Easter Monday 2005.

The day was quite different from previous days in that the heavy hand of the insurers directed that old and trusted methods had to be rejected. Industrial practices had usurped agricultural methods. Cranes, tele-hoisters and hard hats were in evidence - the pitch forks and ladders were not to be seen. However ropes and rope teams were retained. Rope team members had undergone safety training from Nigel Trotter, the Maypole Chairman, on the previous Sunday on Hall Tower Field.

The pattern of the day's events was also different. The Maypole Raising started promptly at 11 a.m. The pole was carried by the rope team members from Hall Tower Field. There was then a delay while the crane was made ready and the ropes were attached to the pole. The pole had not been taken directly to the hole as in previous years but was laid some way aside of the hole to enable the crane to be to be positioned in line with the hole.

The directions for raising the pole had to be the responsibility of the crane supervisor instead of the polemaster as had been the case up to then. The same crane team had been present at Easter when the old pole had been cut down. When the pole was being raised a tele-hoister helped initially to raise and hold the base of the pole until the crane could take full control of the pole. The view from Main Street was interesting as the crane and the Maypole made eye-catching angles against the roof of the Gascoigne Arms.

Once the pole was close to being upright, the five rope teams took up the strain in the usual way and were used to ensure that the pole was vertical. The hard task of filling in the hole and tamping it began. Some time after noon, the raising of the pole was complete.

The next stage of the day began at 1 p.m. when the parade left the school for Hall Tower Field. This year there was only one float, which carried the Maypole Queen, Maddie Cornforth, and her entourage. Only one farm felt it was in a position to provide a float for the procession - a big change from past years. The schoolchildren walked in the parade. This was led by Peter Weatherill in his Town Crier's uniform followed by the Sea Scout band from York, the Maypole Queen's float, the schoolchildren, the Lord Mayor, Cllr. William Hyde, and the Lady Mayoress of Leeds in their car, Morris men, the Theakston Brewery's horses and carriage which carried the garlands, a juggler walking on stilts, various vintage cars and the horses and hounds of the Bramham Hunt.

The events on Hall Tower Field started at 2.15pm. The Maypole Queen accompanied by her Maid of Honour, Phoebe Hainsworth, the crown bearer, Alex Kerry, the equerries Nikolas O'Dwyer and Jon Holland, and the train bearers, Bethany Blair and Bradley Foster, took part in the crowning of the Maypole Queen. The Lady Mayoress crowned the Queen, who made her accustomed speech thanking all who had made the day possible. Her attendants bowed and curtsied to her and presented flowers to the platform party. After the ceremony, there was maypole dancing by the children of the Primary School. Then followed a short hymn and prayer by the Rector.
At about 4 p.m. the garlands were raised in a different manner from previously years. The garlands, made by sewing parties in the village, included a theme in each one this year. The themes were sewn in to illustrate aspects of the village - the Church, the School, the Cricket Club and the Football Club. The practice of hanging baskets from the garlands was discontinued. Children raised the garlands one by one on a rope up to the man suspended from the crane in a seat. While this was happening the church bells were being rung.

As a final act, the "normal" spectacle of a villager climbing the pole took place. This year the climber, Chris Brown, had to wear a safety harness. Unfortunately his attempt failed, not least in part because the new pole, while being the same height as the old pole (nearly 86 feet), is noticeably thicker at the top thus making the task of gripping the pole more tiring The pole differed in one more respect for the fox was mounted on roller bearings which should allow it to spin for the next three years in response to the wind.

One additional new feature of the day was the presence of market stalls at the northern end of Elmwood lane and in front of the Methodist Church. They drew large crowds, kept the area near Hall Tower Field and the Maypole very busy and provided an a occupation for visitors between events. A busy, enjoyable and tiring day was had by all.


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