Upholding a centuries old tradition is taken very seriously in Barwick-in-Elmet, even when huge voluntary effort and strength is required.
The ancient village’s famous Maypole is 86 feet high and weighs very nearly one ton.
Tradition requires volunteers to join forces and lift the Maypole from the tressles on which it was repainted, hoist it on to their shoulders and carry it 200 yards to the village centre.
On Bank Holiday Monday it took more than 60 willing men and women to maintain that tradition, but uphold it they did.
Ropes were then fastened to the Maypole to enable Emsleys mobile crane driver Darren to lift it into vertical position and move it, with great precision, so it hovered just above the five foot deep hole into which it must be lowered.
Hundreds of people watched in awe as this procedure, with enormous attention to safety, was carried out. Polemaster Nigel Trotter, an experienced engineer as well as being chairman of the Barwick-in-Elmet Maypole Trust, gave the crowd a fact-filled commentary.
He explained that the base of the pole, which is the tallest in the country to be taken down and re-installed every three years, must be slotted into a limestone cavity, which effectively grips it tightly.
The cavity is then filled with good village earth by volunteers wielding shovels, who firmly tamp down each layer to provide added strength.
“Even if the Maypole did become loose, which is highly unlikely, it can’t fall down; we have had structural engineers check and confirm that,” Nigel reassured spectators.
Once the tamping down was complete, a member of the mobile crane team, using a cherry picker, went up about 60 feet to disconnect the chains, allowing Barwick’s Maypole to stand freely once again.
More volunteers were holding guide ropes and helped ensure that the re-raised pole is as perpendicular as possible.
A proud Yorkshire village tradition had once again been upheld – thanks to willing volunteers and skilful crane operators, all of whom earned the applause of the crowd.
As well as the street market and fun fair, the day also featured a host of entertainment including Maypole dancing from Barwick School pupils, the Maypole Queen’s Procession, and music from Harrogate Brass Band, Abbey Belles choir, the Dukes ukelele players and the Oakenhoof Folk Arts.
The climax of the big day saw Maypole climber Steven Tarpey attempting to ascend the pole to spin the silver fox weather vane, a superstition thought to bring good luck to the village.
But he was unsuccessful in his bid, reaching half way, because the pole had been made slippery by the rain.