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Maypole Raising 30th May 2005

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The maypole suspended over its final resting place by a crane

It was a bank holiday. The weather was warm and sunny. It was six years since the last Maypole Raising. The event had been well covered beforehand on local radio and in the local press. As a result there was a very large attendance at the 2005 Maypole Raising.

The event was organised by a new committee who took over when the last committee resigned nearly three years previously. In that period the committee formed the organisation into the Barwick-in-Elmet Maypole Trust and is in the process of becoming a registered charity. There were a number of changes as a result of there being a fresh team with no detailed records of the previous years. There was an illustrated programme on sale. There was a new pole as there was uncertainty about the old pole which had been in position for the last six years. It was cut down by chainsaw on Easter Monday 2005.

The day was quite different from previous days in that the heavy hand of insurers directed that old and trusted methods had been rejected. Industrial practice had usurped agricultural practices. Cranes, tele-hoisters and hard hats were in evidence - the pitchforks and ladders were not to be seen. However, ropes and rope teams were retained; rope team members had undergone safety training on Hall Tower field the previous Sunday from the Maypole Chairman, Nigel Trotter.

The pattern of the day's events was also different. The maypole raising started promptly at 11 a.m. The pole was carried by the rope team members from Hall Tower. There was then a delay while the crane was made ready and the ropes were attached to the pole. The pole had not been taken directly to the hole as in previous years but was laid some way aside of the hole to enable the crane to be positioned in line with the hole. The directions for raising the pole had to be the responsibility of the crane supervisor instead of the polemaster as has been the case up to now. The same crane team had been present at Easter when the old pole was cut down. When the pole was being raised, a tele-hoister helped initially to raise and hold the base of the pole until the crane could take full control of the pole. The view from Main Street was interesting as the crane and the maypole made interesting angles above the roof of The Gascoigne.

The carrying party rests while the crane gets ready

The crane and the maypole hover over The Gascoigne
Once the pole was close to being upright the five rope teams took up the strain in the usual way and were used to ensure that the pole was vertical. The hard task of filling in the hole and tamping it began. Finally the pole was raised some time after noon.

Peter Weatherill, landlord of the New Inn, who led the procession
The next stage of the day began at 1 p.m. when the parade left the school for Hall Tower field. This year there was only one float which carried the Maypole Queen, Maddie Cornforth and her entourage. Only one farm felt that it was in a position to provide a float for the procession - a big change from past years. The school children walked in the parade. The parade was led by Peter Weatherill in his Town Crier's uniform followed by a sea scout band from York, the Maypole Queen's float, the school children, the Lord Mayor, Cllr. William Hyde, and the Lady Mayoress of Leeds in their car, Morris men, Theakston Brewery's horses and carriage which carried the garlands, a juggler walking on stilts, various vintage cars and the horses and hounds of the Bramham Hunt.

The events on Hall Tower started at 2.15 p.m. The Maypole Queen accompanied by the Maid of Honour, Phoebe Hainsworth, the crown bearer, Alex Kerry, the equerries Nikolas O'Dwyer and Jon Holland and the Train Bearers, Bethany Blair and Bradley Foster took part in the ceremony of crowning the Maypole Queen. The Lady Mayoress crowned the Queen and the ceremony followed the normal format. After the ceremony, there was maypole dancing by the children of the Primary School which was followed by a short hymn and prayer led by the Rector. The entertainment at about 3.45 p.m. At 4 p.m. the garlands were raised in a different manner from previous years. The garlands, made by sewing parties in the village, included a theme in each one this year. The themes were sewn in to illustrate aspects of the village - the Church, the School, the Cricket Club and the Football Club. The practice of hanging baskets from the garlands was discontinued. Children raised the garlands one by one on a rope up to a man suspended from the crane in a seat. While this was happening the church bells were being rung.

The garlands ready to be raised into position

Each garland represents a different aspect of village life:

  • the Church
  • the School
  • the Cricket Club
  • the Football Club
  • The garlands are placed in position.
    The man placing them in position is in a chair suspended on the crane.
    As a final act, the "normal" spectacle of a villager climbing the pole tool place. This year the climber, Chris Brown, had to wear a safety harness. Unfortunately, his attempt failed not least in part because the new pole, while being the same height as the old pole (nearly 86 feet) is noticeably thicker at the top thus making the task of gripping the pole more tiring. The pole differed in one other respect for the fox was mounted on roller bearings which should allow the fox to spin for the next three years in response to the wind.

    One additional new feature of the day was the presence of market stalls at the northern end of Elmwood Lane and in front of the Methodist Chapel. They drew large crowds, kept the area near Hall Tower field and the maypole very busy and provided an occupation for visitors between events.

    A busy, enjoyable and tiring time was had by all.

    Chris Brown climbing the pole

    The market stalls in Elmwood Lane are well supported
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