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Barwick Maypole Gala 1966

From the Barwicker No. 81
March 2006

This article was published in the Skyrack Express of Friday 15 April 1966.


Hundreds of spectators flock in to see triennial local spectacle.

In a two and a half hour operation on Easter Monday, in which hundreds of volunteers from among Barwick’s residents were involved, the village’s 86 ft. maypole was “unstepped”, lowered and carried by 300 men and women from its site near the village cross. Now it lies securely cradled and chocked ready for its triennial refit and repainting. And the star of the job was 24 -year-old local farmer Mr Arthur Nichols, who climbed the pole to attach the guy ropes.

And the refurbishing of the pole and its garlands, and the repainting will be done in the next few weeks. The village’s women will be making thousands of rosettes for the traditional pole-raising and gala on Whit Tuesday. The spliced larch pole which weighs 66 cwts., fits into a narrow hole cut into the solid rock and packing soil rammed hard round it had to be laboriously removed before lowering could start. That job alone took about an hour.

In charge of the whole operation was chairman of the Maypole Committee Mr Stanley Robshaw, who needed a megaphone to carry out his task of controlling teams of men with 18 ladders to assist in lowering as well as the teams on the five guy ropes. Successfully lowered, the pole was carried into the Hall Tower Field. And a collection taken among the hundreds of sightseers realised £8 for the agile Mr Nichols. Free beer - bucketsful - were served to the helpers in the lowering.

This year’s Maypole Queen will be chosen by secret ballot by the village children from 24 girls who are eligible. Mr Robshaw presided at a well-attended public meeting on Monday when arrangements for the Whitsuntide gala were discussed. And he thanked the officials for their work during the past three years. He also paid tribute to the late Mr Eric Holmes, who was for many years a keen worker for the Maypole Festival and trained children in the country dancing. In that work he will be succeeded by deputy headmistress Mrs Barron. The committee was re-elected en bloc with the addition of Mr GH (Tony) Shinn, Mr Geoff Collett and Mr Ernest Hague. When the question was raised of an annual distribution of gift parcels to the old people instead of a triennial distribution, treasurer Mr W Leighton Smith said the committee wished to make it an annual distribution. However, money was not available so far, and although the fund’s balance was £306 it should be retained as insurance against future loss by bad weather. Officials elected were Chairman, Mr Robshaw; vice-chairman, Mr Somerville Smith; secretary Mr Bill Kirk, treasurer Mr Smith.

The article below was published in the ’Skyrack Express’ of Friday 3 June.


Maypole sensation leads to a record crowd.

After the widely publicised loss of half the pole - to a group of practical jokers from Aberford - Barwick played host to an invasion of visitors for their triennial Maypole-raising ceremony. It was estimated that between 4000 and 5000 folk jammed into the ancient village for the long programme of celebrations climaxed in the evening by the ascent of the newly-erected pole by local expert 25 year old Arthur Nichols of Belle Vue Avenue, Scholes.

Arthur’s climb followed the protracted operation of erecting the monster pole which had been carried by some 100 men from its resting place since Easter in Hall Tower Field. Villagers, the helpers with ladders and others manning the guy ropes had spent nearly two hours wrestling with the monster pole under the direction of Mr Stanley Robshaw, chairman of the Maypole Committee.

The massive crowd below watched Arthur move swiftly to the half way mark, where he released the guy ropes, then they held their breath as he made his way up the slightly swaying upper regions of the pole. A deafening cheer greeted the ‘traditional’ gesture as Arthur, at the top, spun the fox and began his descent - the more difficult of the two operations. His reward - in cold cash - £34.9s.7d., collected from the hundreds of folk crammed within the village’s centre.

The evening, like the afternoon, was brilliantly sunny. Everyone was thirsty. Public houses in the village centre with permission to keep open all day, by agreement closed for a while - just to rest their feet and collect dirty glasses. Barwick itself presented a gay picture with flags and bunting hanging from the houses and even the local police station was colourfully decorated. Among the numerous announcements made during the day by committee chairman Mr Robshaw, one concerned the neighbouring village of Aberford, from where the pole-stealers made their sensational raid last Friday night.

Mr Robshaw welcomed the huge crowd of visitors ”especially our friends from Aberford” - a gesture which was greeted with tremendous applause. “Yes, all is forgiven,” Mr.Robshaw told the “Express”. “There are no hard feelings towards our Aberford neighbours, but the raid certainly caused us some headaches, and no end of extra work. We realise now of course, that the accompanying publicity must have helped land us a record crowd on Tuesday. The natural gallery at Hall Tower Field was not large enough to seat the huge crowd in the afternoon and the Maypole Committee did well to keep them under control.

To start the festivities, a procession of decorated wagons carried the Maypole Queen, Avis Marietta, her maid of honour, attendants, retinue, dancers and children of Barwick Day School. On a tour round the village. Maid of honour was Brenda Wilson, train bearers Ian Coulthard and Susan Crabtree and her crown bearer was Gary Ambler. Two equerries were James Smith and Nicholas Smith. The procession was headed by the Bradford Pipe Band and also taking part were the Leeds University Scottish Dancers, the Bill Chew majorettes of Leeds, South Elmsall Drum and Bugle Band and gaily decorated floats. Procession marshal was Mr Arthur Walton.

At Hall Tower Field, loaned by Mr Richard Helm, the crowning of the Queen was performed by Mrs Allison, wife of Mr Michael Allison, MP for Barkston Ash. The Chairman, the Rev Norman Butcher, welcomed Mrs Allison and all the visitors, especially newcomers to the village. He spoke about “the thoughtless act which deprived us of the upper half of our maypole. But the Herculean efforts of many willing hands ensured the continuance of this ancient custom.”

Before crowning the Queen, Mrs Allison said it was the first time she and her husband had been to the festival. Afterwards the Queen’s attendants paid homage to her and bouquets and committee prizes were presented by the Rector’s wife, Mrs Butcher. Committee chairman, Mr Robshaw, told the crowd that everyone in Barwick had done something for the festival. Then followed maypole dancing by Barwick schoolchildren and a display by the Scottish dancers. The Pipe Band went through their paces followed by the majorettes. An act from the Seacroft Skyliners, Marvo and Jeanette, followed a display by the drum and bugle band.

Money received at the gate and the side-shows and stalls totalled about £550. This will be used for a field day for the children of the village to be held later this summer, and for old peoples Christmas parcels. The Barwick schoolchildren who took part had been trained by Mrs Barron, of the school staff. After the raising of the Maypole dancing in the square rounded off a memorable day.”

In the same edition of the newspaper the following article was published which gives more detail of the theft of the pole.

The raid, the search and the suspense.

The 40ft. upper half of the maypole was removed on Friday night by a party of young men from Aberford. They made a first rate job of a difficult process, which involved removing large nuts and bolts and iron bands at the splicing point. A meeting of the maypole committee was called on Saturday morning when, in view of the proximity of the raising ceremony, it was decided to send a lorry to Hull, which returned with a replacement part.

Messrs J and A Shinn, a Barwick firm, undertook the job of preparing the new pole and they worked on the job throughout Saturday night. The rush job was almost complete when the stolen section was discovered about one and half miles from Barwick, in a copse at Gypsy Quarry on Aberford Road. But that was not until Sunday evening following a ‘tip-off’ phone call to Mr Gerald Hartley of Leeds Road, Barwick, a former member of the maypole committee.

Meanwhile search parties of villagers were assisted by the police, and Mr David Pullen, of Potterton Lane, took off in his plane from Sherburn airfield and helped in the search from the air. The stolen section was hidden from view, and shortly before it was located, one of the searchers Mr Harold Cooper of Aberford Road, Barwick, had passed within yards of the spot. The section was returned to Barwick by lorry at 10pm on Sunday evening to the cheers of the villagers. Accompanying was a motorcade of cars headed by Barwick’s policeman - PC Pickersgill - on a motor cycle. What still mystifies Barwick folk is how the Aberford raiders succeeded in separating the two parts of the pole unobserved and unheard within 20 to 30 yards of occupied cottages.


The above articles illustrate the loss we have suffered by the demise of the ‘The Skyrack’ about three years ago. Founded in 1886, it reported on many aspects of the life of the districts to the south and east of Leeds with an admirable degree of accuracy and our readers will know how much we have relied on it in our articles, especially for the maypole ceremonies. We are all the poorer for its departure.

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