Marking the bank holiday with a dance around the maypole

It’s funny how some traditions continue to be enjoyed while others have fallen by the wayside.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 06 May, 2019, 13:50
Did you ever perform a maypole dance as a youngster?

Today, as we celebrate the Early Spring Bank Holiday, youngsters now, as they did many years ago, will be dancing round the maypole.

It is said that dancing round the maypole originates from a ancient pagan tree-worshipping ritual. The ribbons, suspended from the pole, which dancers hold onto, are believed to symbolise the tree’s branches.

Over the years, the dance has become popular with schools, as teachers organise the annual event to coincide with May day. Away from school, others will be holding their maypole dance today as the nation celebrates a national holiday.

When we featured a photo of children dancing round a maypole in the Gazette’s Facebook page recently, lots of readers got in touch with their memories of taking part in the tradition.

Chris Taylor posted: “Can remember doing this in Whiteleas Infants,” while Donna Guy Boswell said: “I remember doing this.”

Kim Nolan got in touch to say: “I did in the late 80s in the village where we lived, and they still do now.”

Joanne Moore recalls how “All Saints Infant/Juniors did when it was in Harton Lane/Straker Terrace. I remember dancing round the pole with ribbons”, while Angela Davies said: “I remember doing this at West Harton Infants and Thorholme Infants.”

Diane Hart said: “Remember doing this in junior school.”

Another reader who recalled taking part in the dance was Agnes George who emailed: “I remember doing this in junior school,” while Lorraine Walker told how she and her classmates “did it every year”.

Anne Donaldson took to social media to say: “I remember doing this in Australia where I went to school” while others, closer to home shared their memories, including Margy Magpie Mcqueen who said: “Remember doing this always, Joanne Moore.”

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Nicola Ward was another who recalled keeping the tradition alive: “I remember doing this in Ridgeway Infants,” while Chris Barron added: “We had this at the old Stanhope Infants”.

Throughout the coming year, schools, groups and individuals, here and elsewhere, will be taking part in other traditions, such as gathering food for harvest fairs and, of course, bonfire night.

However, one tradition that readers of a certain age will remember, is no longer with us – for obvious reasons: namely Empire Day!

Obviously, Great Britain no longer has an Empire to celebrate, but even as late as the 1960s, schoolchildren took part in mass gatherings in the playground to engage in a bit of pomp and circumstance.

I well remember me and my classmates, as well as little ones from all the other classes, lined up in the yard, “armed” with a Union Jack each.

Some were bigger than others, and one or two were huge.

But all got waved when we began singing such patriotic songs as Pomp and Circumstance and Jerusalem.

It was a bit like a junior Last Night of the Proms.

And, of course, the morning (as I seem to recall) was rounded off with a rousing version of the national anthem. Do you remember celebrating Empire Day?