ELHAS News - April 2018

Meeting Report April 2018

In April we were delighted to welcome David Teal from Barwick-in-Elmet History Society to deliver a talk about the history of the Barwick maypole. David is a very active member of the Barwick History Society and is a member of the committee as well as being on the editorial board of The Barwicker, the journal produced by the society. He is also the society's principal researcher so was ideally qualified to deliver this talk.

He began his talk with a few facts about the maypole - it is 85 feet high and weighs over two tons, it is constructed in two parts from two trees. Whilst David said he could not say definitively how long Barwick has had a maypole he says the raising of the maypole has always been associated with the return of the sun after winter, and the beginning of the growing season. Describing some of the history of the maypole he told us that now, due to health and safety regulations, it is erected and taken down by using a crane , not the traditional method with ladders and sheer brute strength which was used until 2002. The event happens every three years and is a big occasion for the village.

A major element of the raising of the maypole is the climbing by a village man, to secure the ropes and also to spin the fox weather vane which sits on top of it. When the maypole is down it is repainted and new garlands of flowers made by the village ladies. Naturally there have been some mishaps over the years. The maypole has been stolen by rival villages on a few occasions. The earliest of these was in1878 when it was taken by a group of Garforth miners, in more recent years in 1966 people from Aberford made off with it and demanded a ransom of £20 for Aberford Village Hall funds. Fortunately it was recovered unharmed when one of the villagers received a tip off as to its whereabouts.

On another occasion some lads from Thorner were trying to make off with it but were disturbed by the village Blacksmith and ran off. In 1981 the maypole fell when being taken down. Nobody was injured as a result of the incident but the maypole itself was severely damaged. David's talk was enhanced by two video films from 1978 and 2014 which showed the raising of the maypole and the accompanying celebrations which were thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. The talk was followed by our annual pea and pie supper which is a delightful social occasion and much enjoyed by every body.

Images courtesy of Barwick-in-Elmet History Society

The next meeting on Monday 25th June 2018 will be an illustrated talk by Lucy Moore - entitled "Women in Leeds 1914 to 1918" which will explore the effect WW1 had on women's lives