1907 - The Pole Masters' "Annus Horribilis" Back to the Main Historical Society page
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1907 - The Pole Masters' "Annus Horribilis"

Barwicker No. 90
June 2008

During the 1904 maypole raising ceremony the tail of the gilded metal fox which surmounts the maypole was accidentally broken off. Newspapers of the time noted this as a bad omen. Now I'm not superstitious, but the next time the pole was touched, three years hence, in 1907 a series of disasters occurred.

At the lowering ceremony on Easter Tuesday, 2nd April 1907 the pole fell out of control, and smashed onto the roof of the disused coach house on the corner of the rectory grounds, the top part breaking into two pieces. Luckily, even though the road was crowded with people at the time there were no injuries. The Pole Men of the day, responsible for organising the event, must have been wondering what they could do with the broken pole when a greater calamity occurred, the maypole was stolen!

On Sunday night, the 14th April, Albert Wilkinson, a fireman, and Richard Gray, a labourer, both of Aberford stole a ten or eleven foot section of the broken pole. They carried it to Aberford and got as far as the main street in that village. They then met the local policeman, P.e. Hartley. When he approached the pair they used bad language and were obviously drunk. He charged them with being drunk and disorderly.

The Barwick Pole Men got to know of the removal of the portion of the mast and, no doubt, with the agreement of the police arranged for Albert and Richard to carry the pole back to Barwick in daylight. Reports of the day indicate that many Aberfordians turned out "to see the pole removed by the unhappy jokers who, I daresay, found on the return journey the mast was a rather heavy weight"

The following week, on Tuesday the 23rd April, at the Leeds West Riding Court they were each fined 10 shillings including costs for the incident. During the court proceedings one of the defendants asked how a drunken man could carry a pole eleven feet long from Barwick to Aberford? P.C. Hartley responded "You would not have carried had you been sober!" There was much laughter in the courtroom.

Albert Wilkinson was born in 1868 and lived in the Boyle in Barwick for most of his childhood. He married Sarah Jane Capper of Aberford in 1890 moving to live with his wife and mother-in-law in Becca Lane, Aberford. By 1901 he had five children and is described as colliery stoker in one of the Aberford or Garforth mines. This was an above ground colliery occupation involved in keeping the fires going in the steam engines that drove the machinery.

The rest of that year's maypole festivities went off without a hitch, however due to the broken end, a "slightly" shorter than usual pole was raised on Whit Tuesday, the 21st May, in the presence of a crowd of thousands.


The Skyrack Courier editions of :
25th May 1904,
5th April 1907,
26th April 1907
& 17th May 1907
1881 & 1901 Census
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