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Barwick Maypole Gala 1972

From the Barwicker No.85
March 2007

The following article was printed in the ‘Skyrack Express of 7 April,1972.


"One of the largest Easter crowds ever watched Mr Arthur Nichols of Scholes swarm Barwick’s maypole on Monday as the first leg of the village’s traditional maypole celebrations got underway.

After Mr Nichols had attached ropes to the pole near the point at which it is spliced, a task he has performed each year since 1960, scores of villagers manned the ropes and ladders to help lower the pole in the traditional way.
This was preceded by a minor road digging operation around the base of the pole. Later the pole was carried shoulder high into the Hall Tower Field, where it is to be repainted in readiness for its re-erection on Whit Tuesday.

Secretary of the Barwick Maypole Committee, Mr D Somerville Smith, reported "no complications" this year. On one occasion the pole came crashing down through the roof of the nearby stables. And he said the 85 ft. long pole made from two Norwegian red pines, had weathered "extremely well" since the last maypole day three years ago.

Veteran maypole man, Mr Alf Reed, said of Monday’s lowering ceremony - a two hour effort - that he had "never seen it come down so well". A spontaneous collection was made for the climber, Mr Nichols.

Afterwards at a public meeting in Barwick C. of E. School, the maypole committee was re-elected en bloc. Also elected to the Committee was Mr Geoffrey Atkinson, he replaced a member who had left the village. The committee is responsible for the gala on Whit Tuesday, when the pole is re-erected and a procession of decorated wagons , dancing and the ceremonial crowning of the Maypole Queen follows.

There is still much preparation to be done before the big day, as the Barwick Darby and Joan Club, the Ladies Section of the British Legion, the Townswomen’s Guild and the Young Wives Group are finding out. On them falls the task of making the thousands of rosettes intended to make up the colourful garlands which decorate the pole.

And while the contestants are busy preparing their wagons for the big parade, the Barwick School children will be looking forward to April 21 when the election of the Maypole Queen takes place. On that day , the Queen who must be aged 13 to 15, will be elected by her helpers in the school. Runners-up in this keenly fought contest become the queen’s attendants."

Three photographs, with the following captions, illustrate the article:

(1) Work begins on loosening the tarmac and earth surrounding Barwick’s maypole before the lowering ceremony can take place.

(2) A task which he has performed every three years since 1960, Mr Arthur Nichols of Scholes clambers up Barwick’s maypole to attach the ropes in readiness for the lowering ceremony.

(3) Slowly with the help of the crowd, Barwick’s maypole is lowered, ready to be carried to nearby Hall Tower Field where it will be repainted in time for the Whit Tuesday celebrations.

In the ‘Skyrack Express’ of 19 May, the following article was printed.


"Arrangements are now well under way for the Barwick maypole festivities due to take place on Spring Bank Holiday Tuesday (note the change from Whit Tuesday Ed.).

Since Easter, Mr John Turner, a youth group leader, and two members of his youth group, Andrew Leighton Smith and Neville Gardener have been co-opted onto the Maypole Committee.

In the last few weeks members of the British Legion women’s Section, Darby and Joan Club, Townswomen’s Guild and Young Wives group have been making the garlands and these were put on show last night (Thursday) at Barwick School.

On Maypole day itself, there will be 17 different units taking part in the procession, including veteran cars, decorated lorries and three bands for Sunderland.

Entertainment for the crowds expected to witness the raising ceremony which takes place at 6.0 pm, includes a Punch and Judy show, daring performances by TV escapologists, marching and counter marching by the three bands from Sunderland and music from the Western Duo and the Barwickians Pop Group.

The procession route around the village is as follows: School entrance, Chapel Lane, Aberford Road, Elmwood Lane, Carrfield Road, Leeds Road, Flats Lane, Gascoigne Avenue, Gascoigne View, Long Lane, Richmondfield Lane, Richmondfield Avenue, Long Lane, Main Street, Hall Tower Field."

In the ‘Skyrack Express’ of 2 June,1972, the following article was printed:

"High winds and squally showers tried to make life difficult for Barwick’s triennial maypole celebrations on Tuesday but the ancient ceremony went ahead as planned. On Wednesday came the news that maypole day had also been a financial success, with a total raised of £486.

Happily, brief moments of sunshine appeared at crucial points of the day’s activities, spotlighting some charming maypole dancing by the children of Barwick C of E school, and also the triumphant climbing of the pole by farmer Mr Arthur Nichols of Scholes.

The dancing followed the crowning of the queen, 15-year old Miss Janet Herrington by Mrs R Baron, and a procession of gaily decorated floats around the village. (Janet’s maid of honour was Cathleen Holmes and her attendants Michelle Butterfield and Edward Underwood. Ed.) Music was provided by the by the Sunderland and District association of Juvenile Jazz Bands. Afternoon activities attracted a good ‘gate’ but the largest crowds watched the actual raising of the pole at 6.0pm.

There was plenty of local brawn too to man the ropes and ladders, traditional means of raising the 85 foot pole. This part of the ceremony was directed by the polemaster Mr RS Robshaw, who with ancient skill, manoeuvred the 100 men, five ropes and some 10 or more ladders to get the pole in position in under one hour.

This year Climber Mr Nichols, agreed to make the ascent carrying a BBC camera and microphone. After taking pictures of a cheering crowd sitting on a board astride the maypole garlands, Mr Nichols braved the high winds and shinned up to the top of the pole to set the fox-shaped weathervane spinning."

Illustrating the article are two photographs with the following captions:

(1) Maypole Queen, 15 year-old Janet Herrington, rides in style with her attendants in Mr Townsley’s Lagonda during the procession to Hall Tower Field.

(2) All heads turn to watch the traditional maypole raising ceremony which took place despite high winds.


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