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Barwick Maypole Gala 1969

From the Barwicker No. 84 December 2006

The following article appeared in the ‘Skyrack Express’ on 11 April 1969


A crowd of several hundred watched Barwick’s 89 ft. high maypole safely lowered to the ground on Easter Monday. The operation lasted nearly three hours and, with dusk falling, all two tons of the pole were laid to rest.

Easter Monday is the traditional date for taking down the maypole for its redecoration which takes place every three years. Now it is resting on trestles in Hall Tower Field nearby, where it will be stripped and its red, white and blue spirals repainted. Then it will be raised again on Whit Tuesday - another traditional crowd-pulling date for Barwick.

There was no shortage of helpers manning ropes and ladders and the climax of the lowering ceremony was when the farmer Mr Arthur Nicholls, of Scholes, shinned up the pole to attach five ropes needed for lowering it. Mr Nicholls has done the job five times. While he was up the pole, men down below were digging at the base with picks and shovels. The pole was sunk nearly five feet into the ground beside the old village cross. Police directed traffic while teams of men on each side with ropes let the pole to the ground.

The ceremony brought back memories for many of the older spectators including Mr J Hemsworth, aged 81, whose grandfather, Mr William Hemsworth of Garforth, was one of group of Garforth men who made off with the pole in the last century (1829 Ed.) and was sacked from his job at a local pit for his pains. And there was Mr W Lovett, aged 76, who recalled that the pole fell across the roof of the nearby rectory outbuilding 60 years ago and that an Aberford group made off with the top half.

The lowering of the maypole was followed by the traditional public meeting in Barwick day school which was well attended. Mr Stanley Robshaw presided and the Secretary Dr DS Smith reported on the committee’s work over the past three years. Treasurer Mr W Leighton Smith submitted the balance sheet which showed a balance in hand of £57.12s.2d.

Villagers agreed that the present officers and committee should carry on for the next three years. And they are as follows; Chairman, Mr Stanley Robshaw; Vice-Chairman and Secretary, Dr Derek Somerville Smith; Treasurer Mr W Leighton Smith; Committee - Messrs. Alf Atkinson, Geoff Collett, Bill Firth, Eric Grey, Ernest Hague, Alan King, George Kirk, John Leak, P Leak, G (Tony) Shinn, Jack Shinn, David Wall, Arthur Walton and J Walton

Three photographs accompany the article in the newspaper (1)Arthur Nicholls attaches the guy ropes, (2) the ladder men near the end of the operation, (3) the traditional bucket of ale refreshes the helpers.

The contestants for the Maypole Queen Selection

The Selection List for the Maypole Queen. Spring 1969

Back Row; left to right:
          Judith     Ann       Lynn     Elizabeth    Diane     Carol    Christine 
          Kierl      Robson    Bradley  Hewitt       Holmes    Dolan    Perkins 

Front Row; left to right

                Gillian    Elizabeth    Maxine          Patricia      Sylvia
                Dolan      Banks        Pickersgill     Herrington    Pritchard 

The following appeared in the Skyrack Express of Friday 30 May 1969


Don’t mention the weather to Barwick folk! It takes them back to a Whit Tuesday when, for the first time in living memory, the traditional maypole raising ceremony was rained off. After shaking their fists, members got down to planning a postponed ceremony. And fingers crossed it will be held tomorrow (Saturday) at 6.0pm weather permitting . . . . Pounding rain not only ruined a ceremony said to date back to pagan times, it also curtailed a colourful gala programme of dancing and all the fun of the fair in Hall Tower Field. A huge crowd was there to enjoy it all.

But spoilsport rain did not have all its own way. Plenty happened before the heavens opened. The maypole procession wended its way round the village with Bradford Pipe band at its head, followed by butcher Mr SE Wildblood’s landau bearing maypole queen Judith Kierl, aged 13, her maid of honour and attendants. Behind them rode the crown bearer, equerries, retinue, dancers and schoolchildren on decorated wagons. And the procession was swelled by the pipe band’s Scottish dancers, members of the Leeds University Scottish Dancing Society, decorated floats and veteran vehicles.

A crowd in holiday mood walked alongside and as the procession arrived at Hall Tower Field there was little warning of the deluge to come. Judith of Richmondfield Mount, Barwick, was crowned by Miss BD Myers-Gray JP and the Rector, the Rev. N Butcher, made a jovial chairman. Accordionists filled the field with lively music. Children had enjoyed a Punch and Judy show and local youngsters were dancing round a miniature pole, when the first heavy drops of rain fell. It soon became apparent that the downpour was in for the night. And reluctantly at the eleventh hour, the organisers had to tell a wet and disappointed crowd that that was that. There could be no more dancing by Bradford Pipe Band dancers or the University’s dancing team and Yorkshire’s “greatest illusionist” would not be able to show his skill. Whit Tuesday had to pass without the maypole raising.

“No-one can remember it being called off before,” said the Chairman of the Maypole Committee, Mr Stanley Robshaw, this week. But it was unsafe to raise the pole. “The rain came like hailstones and everybody fled,” he recalled sadly. The historic ceremony attracted people from all over the country, but the deluge quickly thinned them out. At least 200 people are needed to help with the raising of the two-ton, 86 ft.-long Norwegian redwood pole and at the time the ceremony was about to take place there were hardly enough helpers still around. The five-foot hole dug for the maypole near the War Memorial refilled but it will be re-opened in time for tomorrow night’s postponed ceremony.

Meanwhile the Maypole Committee is making sure that the pole rests safely in Barwick. They have painful memories of an incident three years ago when a raiding party from Aberford made off with the pole and it was not recovered until the day before the ceremony. “Let’s get the pole up again,” they are saying at Barwick - the village with an eye on the weather.

Three photographs accompany the article: (1) Miss Myers-Gray crowns the Maypole Queen. (2) The hole is re-filled. (3) Disappointed spectators leave the soaking Hall Tower Field.

The following article, published in the Skyrack Express on Friday 6 June 1969 shows how, despite earlier setbacks, the Maypole was successfully raised.


It was second time lucky for the anxious weather-watchers of Barwick. Despite a storm late on Saturday afternoon, the triennial raising of the maypole took place - four days after the traditional Whit Tuesday ceremony was washed out by torrential rain. Some 100 volunteers from the crowd helped carry the pole , newly decorated white with red and blue stripes, from its resting place at Hall Tower Field. Then probably twice that number assisted with ladders and ropes to raise it in the village centre.

The ceremony was then completed by Mr Arthur Nichols of Scholes, who climbed part-way up the pole to remove the ropes, then shinned to the top to spin the weathervane. Tradition has it that this should be done, but on Saturday Mr Nicholls created a precedent by climbing the top half twice to spin the weathervane, amid cheers from the crowd below. After the pole was raised to the vertical position, volunteers stamped earth firmly around its base. Helping with this was an 87-year old Barwick man, Mr Ben Robshaw, of Carrfield Lane.

When heavy rain began to fall shortly after the postponed ceremony was due to take place, the Maypole Committee were afraid there would be a repetition of Tuesday’s postponement. But a telephone call to Bawtry Meteorological Station put their minds at rest with the news that the rain would gradually die away, and after a hold-up of about an hour it was decided to go ahead with the work. Although rain fell during all the preparations it was fine by the time the actual proceedings started. So it was with relief that committee and helpers alike heard the 20-minute peal of bells given by ringers at the overlooking Barwick Parish Church to mark the successful completion of the mammoth task.

. The Queen and her attendants at the Rectory Garden Party 1969 The Queen - Judith Kierl The Maid of Honour - Maxine Pickersgill Crown Bearer - Carl Whitfield Train Bearers - Anne Dockerty, Martyn Poulter Equerries - Stephen Brett (left), Philip Richardson (right).

Now Barwick Maypole will stand beside the market cross for another three years. And no doubt in 1972, all concerned will hope that 1969 will remain the only year when the Maypole could not go up on time.”

We thank Maxine Devine (nee Pickersgill), the Maid of Honour in 1969, for supplying the photographs. We also thank her and Freda Hewitt , for identifying the children on the photographs.

From the Skyrack Express

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