Barwick Maypole 1960 Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page

Barwick Maypole 1960

From the Barwicker No. 78
June 2005

The following article is taken from the Skyrack Express of 22 April 1960.



"The ninety-foot Barwick maypole has once more been moved from the village centre to Hall Tower Hill, where a new coat of paint will be applied and any other work of renovation necessary undertaken before its replacement at the great Whitsuntide ceremony. The lowering of the pole on Easter Monday evening was watched by a large number of local people and visitors.

The actual operation took something like two hours. Traffic through the village was stopped for a while as visitors helped villagers with the delicate operation. Tradition demands that the pole be lowered and raised again without mechanical aids. In charge was Mr John White, the local 'pole-master', and customary ropes and ladders were used to manoeuvre the pole down within the limited confines of the village square.

Mr White and his maypole committee were out in full force as 18-year old Arthur Nicholls, who works for his father at Upper Barnbow Farm, began his climb of the pole. Arthur was chosen for the job from a number of volunteers several weeks ago. Halfway up he secured the ropes. Five feet of earth holding the base was cleared away and the job of lowering the pole began. With Mr White issuing his orders through a megaphone, hundreds strained on the ropes and handled the ladders to bring the huge pole down inch by inch. Volunteers then helped with the task of carrying the pole about a hundred yards to Hall Tower Field.

Police Sergeant Walton with the local police officer and two 'specials' kept the traffic situation in hand. Some members of the committee encouraged helpers by taking round free beer given by the three public houses in the village. A collection for Arthur Nicholls for his climb raised 13. 9s. Mr Richard Helm has placed Hall Tower Field at the disposal of the committee for the job of re-painting the pole, which is being carried out by Mr Stephenson.

Later on Monday evening there was a meeting in the Barwick Day School presided over by Mr Stanley Robshaw and the maypole committee was re-elected for the coming three years with Mr O Lund taking the place of Mr Harold Evans. The Chairman thanked the villagers for their support and Mr E Harrison expressed the village's appreciation of the work of the committee.

Constituting the committee are:- Chairman, Mr Stanley Robshaw; Secretary Dr Derek Smith; Treasurer Mr W Leighton Smith; Committee, Messrs. Alf Atkinson, Edmund Poulter, Arthur Walton, George Cooper, Alf Reed, George Kirk, Derek Burks, Gerald Hartley, WH Ingham; Pole Master Mr John White."

The following article is taken from the Skyrack Express of 10 June, 1960.



Whit Tuesday for some 3000 people, most of whom had travelled some distance by car or special bus, meant a glimpse of traditional England as the triennial ceremony of raising the new maypole at Barwick took place in a rather tricky breeze. This feat of manoeuvring the 91 foot pole within the confines of the ancient village's centre climaxed a day of festivity.

The invasion by visitors began earlier in the day for a traditional parade and the crowning of the pretty, dark-haired 13 -year-old Janet Coulson, a local student at Tadcaster Grammar school. Extra police were drafted to the village, but soon the crowds reduced the traffic to a crawl. Janet, with her attendants and pages, made a triumphant tour of the village in a 100-year-old black and yellow mail coach (supplied by Mr Sam Wildblood) followed by six gaily decorated horse-drawn vehicles carrying local children in fancy dress. The parade was led by the Sherburn Old Boys Band.

The maypole queen was crowned by Mrs Gascoigne in a charming little ceremony, which was watched by an estimated crowd of some 2000 sitting on Hall Tower Hill.

There followed country dancing by Barwick children under the watchful eye of the headmaster, Mr Eric Holmes; demonstrations by Leeds University Scottish Dancing Society; acrobatics by members of Leeds Top Town team and a judo demonstration.

Still the visitors streamed in to Barwick, its streets gay with bunting for the evening ceremony of raising the maypole, a new one this year of Norwegian red fir in two sections spliced together - brought from Hull. The old pole taken down at Easter was found to have rotted in parts, and a dash to Hull to buy the new one preceded a hustle to get it painted ready for Tuesday's ceremony.

The trees are usually provided by Sir Alvary Gascoigne's Parlington Park Estate at Aberford but his year there was not sufficient time for the trees to be cut and seasoned. Those brought from Hull however were presented to the village by Sir Alvary and Lady Gascoigne.

Mr John White, the experienced pole master, was the focus of attention as the two hour operation of raising the pole began. His amplified voice from the dais at the foot of the monster pole could be heard by the ladder and rope teams as they pushed and pulled, sometimes in back yards where they were unable to follow the reactions to their efforts. Not without some gasps of apprehension was the pole ever-so-slowly coaxed upright. For those helping with the heavy work there was the traditional free beer supplied in stainless steel buckets by the landlord of the local public houses.

For the final thrill there was the sight of 18-year-old Arthur Nichols of Barnbow Farm, shinning up the maypole beyond the garlands to spin the newly-provided stainless steel weather vane. It was breath-taking achievement though the least concerned person in the village appeared to be Arthur himself. After much practice he had tremendous faith in the strength of his arms to carry him up the pole. The traditional collection for the maypole climber realised 30 and was a record. It is also expected that this year's receipts from the day's festivities will constitute a record for any maypole-raising ceremony ever held in the village. After the newly-erected pole had been safely stamped down there was dancing around the base with displays by the Leeds Morris Men, Leeds Sword Club and music by Barwick's own skiffle band.

Countess Teleki, a Hungarian friend of Lady Gascoigne, watched the Barwick ceremony for the first time on Tuesday. It was all very 'beautiful', she told a reporter, adding that she was glad we were maintaining such worthwhile traditions."

(From the 'Skyrack Express')

We are grateful to the Maypole Queen, Janet McLennan (née Coulson), now of Sherburn-in-Elmet, for supplying the photographs which we have used and those we have stored. She also has given us with the names of others who took part in the ceremony. These are:
  • Maid of Honour - Carole Cooper;
  • Crown Bearer - John Walker;
  • Equerries - Anthony Patrick and Stephen Lee;
  • Attendents - Elizabeth Banks and Stephen Bell.

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