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Barwickers - A dying breed

from The Barwicker No.79
Sept. 2005

There is a sub-species of Homo Sapiens, the Barwicker, which is in danger of becoming a rare if not extinct specimen. This article explores the possibility that in fifty years time there may not be any left. The article is addressed to current inhabitants and those who may read it in 50 years from now, 2055.

When I arrived and settled in Barwick-in-Elmet over forty years ago, I realised that I would never qualify as a proper Barwicker because I was not born in the village. I have lived nearly two thirds of my life here and still regard myself as a 'foreigner'. My daughter was born here but she moved two parishes away twenty years ago. Yet, she has more right than me to call herself a Barwicker. My son was born in St. James Hospital and lived in the village until he left home twenty three years ago; he will never be a Barwicker.

I recall speaking to someone over ten years ago who had lived all his life in the village. Everyone considered him to be a Barwicker. He had been on the Maypole Committee and was involved in many aspects of village life. He said to me in hushed tones:

"Don't let on, but I am not a true Barwicker. I was born in St. James."

He was born in 1929 when it was more normal for children to be born at home. He died about ten years ago but I feel that I cannot reveal his name for such is the standing of true Barwickers.

It is rare now for children to be born anywhere other than in hospital. Some members of the current child-bearing generation can scarcely believe that there was a time when children were born at home. As Barwick does not have a maternity hospital, the number of children born in the village is likely to be almost nil. Therefore in time there are not likely to be any Barwickers. Someone will have to invent a new definition.

By way of a footnote, I can claim being partly responsible for making one contribution to the village, albeit a short-lived one. In December 1965, when my daughter was born I needed to register her birth. The local Registrar of Births and Deaths was in Garforth and I didn't have a car in those days. However, there was an arrangement at the time that on the first Tuesday in the month the Registrar would come to the Miners Welfare Institute at 2 pm. for a couple of hours.

I turned up at 2 pm. and went inside. There was a welcoming coal fire burning on what I recall was a chilly afternoon but no Registrar. I had been waiting for about five minutes when the door opened and a man entered. He looked at me in surprise, hesitated and the asked:

"Have you come here to register?"
When I said that I had he replied:
"Oh dear! I have been coming here for a number of years and no-one has come to register. I thought I would leave it until the end of the year and submit a report and recommend that as no-one has used the service, it should be withdrawn."

He was so unprepared he didn't have a pen with him. He took down my details and posted the certificate to me. While he was dealing with me, the door opened and someone else turned up to register either a birth or a death, I didn't stay to find out which. I noted that the service continued to be offered for at least another year after that Tuesday. Maybe there weren't many Barwickers being born even in those days.

Harold Smith

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