Ossett Pictures - Gawthorpe Maypole Dancers 1961
This picture shows the Gawthorpe Primary School Maypole Dancers in May 1961. My future wife, Janet Hemming is one of the dancers. If you run the cursor across the faces in the picture, you should see the names of the girls. My sincere thanks to Elaine Chappell, Karen Musgreave (via her husband Gerald Fox) and Mary Hirst (via her husband Paul Shepherd) who were kind enough to contact me with the names of the girls that we couldn't remember, which was the majority. We have now identified all the girls in the photograph largely because of your interest in this web page. Thank you!
Back row - left to right: Irene Audsley, Sandra Broadhead, Susan Laycock, Janet Hemming, Mary Hirst and Elaine Chappell.
Middle row - left to right: Margaret Pamment, Janice Ripley, Patricia Wharton, Karen Musgreave and Pauline Hudson (the two girls holding the banner), Sandra Bottomley, Linda Brook and Janet Clegg.
Front row (kneeling) - left to right: Susan Leyton, Kathryn Reynolds, Sandra Kimmings and Susan Allsop.
In 1906 the local school children of Gawthorpe, both boys and girls, were taught the intricate steps of Maypole dancing by Mrs. Stephens a teacher at the village school. In 1927, a Miss Green joined the school and assisted in the instruction of the various dance sequences. These consist of one of the most comprehensive plaiting sequences in the country if not the World. These are; Ropes, The Barbers Pole, The Single Plait, The Double Plait, The Spiders Web, The Gypsy’s Tent and The Centenary Polka. It takes approximately six months to teach the dance steps to the dancers, who are all girls, and as the seniors leave for secondary school at eleven, they are replaced by 8/9 year olds from the earlier years. In this way there is a continuation and approximately half of the girls each year are dancing for the second time.
Initially, the Gawthorpe Victoria Prize Band provided the music on the Saturday and Monday when the dancing took place, and sometimes also the Gawthorpe Temperance Band, which later became the Gawthorpe Brass Band. However, in modern times music has been provided by a single piano loaned specifically for the occasion from the nearest local pub (the Shoulder of Mutton). However, due to financial constraints for the last four or five years, taped music has had to be used.
The Gawthorpe Maypole procession route is approximately 4 1/2 miles with a 20 or 30 minute break at the halfway point. The procession itself consists of decorated floats entered by local schools, church organisations and manufacturing companies. The procession is normally based on a given theme and for example, 1998’s theme was the Football World Cup and 1999’s theme was the procession through the years. The procession has children in a variety of fancy dress costumes; marching bands; the Majorettes; lots of horses; a variety of other competitors and, of course, the May Queen and her attendants. There is also a Funfair, which has been provided by Robinsons for more than 100 years. The Funfair is located within walking distance of Gawthorpe village at the top of Bridle Lane.
Local dignitaries normally invited to partake in the procession are the Mayors of Wakefield MDC and Kirklees MDC. Also the local MPs for the two areas are invited to attend, along with the various councillors for the area.
Due to Mayday only recently being reinstalled as a public holiday the celebration actually takes place on the first Saturday in May whilst on the following Monday, a treat is provided for the local old folks. This has normally meant providing a tea and some sort of concert / entertainment for them. For those unable to make it to that particular venue, Maypole Committee volunteers deliver approximately 200 plated teas to their homes as necessary.