The Maybe Maypole

Well it wasn’t exactly May Day, that being the first of May, but today was the May bank holiday, and the plan was to take the kids to Jubilee Park (the place that featured in my Halloween post, obviously a park for all seasons) to watch some local school children dancing around the Maypole. I could go on here about the link with the Celtic pagan festival of Beltane, the re-enactment of old folk traditions and customs concerning the Green Man and the rites of Summer etc, but I will leave that to more informative blogs. It doesn’t feel right with a mouthful of candy floss. I will just show you a few photographs of the occasion instead.

It was just a normal, leisurely, bank holiday afternoon. Sat in the park. Being approached by some bearded men with feathers in their hats and bells on their toes.

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The band in the bandstand struck up. Where else would you expect to find a band, except in a bandstand? Perhaps jumping on a bandwagon?

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This guy here offered his drumstick to my children, to hit the drum with as hard as they could. Neither of them would do it. I couldn’t believe it-you want to hear the racket that they make at home. Yet when given the opportunity they play the shy card.

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A processional file started following The Green Man around the park. The procession went anti-clockwise, widdershins, for those of you who care about those sort of things.

 

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Up close to the Green Man, my little boy was afraid of the ‘walking tree thing!’ and kept an out-of-reach-of-branch-arms distance.

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It was a scary experience all round for him. He earlier got half way up the steps of the Edgar Wood-designed Exedra (admit it-you thought that they were just steps, didn’t you?) when the church bells started ringing out and he abruptly turned and ran straight back down.

 

 

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The Green Man was demonstrating, with the help of a narrator and some young dancing children, how he had slept through the Winter months before awakening from his dormancy in the Spring, but being at the back of the crowd my children couldn’t see and were getting restless. So we decided to leave and seek out a real park that had swings and slides and things.

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On the way I showed them this anchor, which is attached to the outer wall of Middleton Library, that once belonged to the Norwegian brigantine Sirene that ran aground in Blackpool in 1892. Any excuse to share a bit of history, their interest waned when they learnt that there were no pirates involved. I should have just lied for entertainment purposes.

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Through one of the old, cobbled town passageways, we left behind the traces of a diluted, earlier tradition to emerge blinking into the concrete jungle of twenty first century Middleton life.

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Still no sign of a Maypole. Next month we’ll search for Juniper berries.

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15 thoughts on “The Maybe Maypole

  1. In gutted I missed this! Just down the road from me and I had no idea it was happening. Argh will have to fix that next year!

    Great post though, very informative. Surprised the church bells joined in with a pagan-based activity but there you go, the people of Middleton do things their own way! I have a friend who is a Saddleworth Morris Man. I shall have to have words with him about keeping this one under his hat.

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    • The initial roots were pagan, I think now it is just regarded as tradition. And as we both know Christianity has not been adverse to incorporating and absorbing pagan things into its practice ever since it arrived on these shores 🙂
      As for Middleton people-oh yes! You know the saying about Middleton folk and it’s church?
      Wooden Steeple, stubborn people 🙂

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    • With maybe an element of airbrushing here, censorship there, but thank you 🙂
      When the time comes, old, wise Jackdaw guy is available as Godfather.

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    • Thank you-your Dreaming The World blog was one of the ‘more informative’ ones I was referring to at the beginning of the post.

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  2. Such delightful photos. I’m glad you had a lovely holiday, Andy. I was especially glad to see the photos of the Morris dancers. Terry Pratchett mentioned Morris dancers in many of his books. And I saw a bit of a Morris dance in a film. But I never understood the significance of the dance really. It’s nice to learn more about it.

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