Sir, I am researching the customs and traditions of the UK and am currently writing up some examples of maypoles and the festivities around them.
There are a couple of examples in Cumbria I would like to know more about and would like to see if any other notable examples exist. Around the country many examples of associated maypoles can be seen but they tend to be the more modern smaller varieties; few villages seem to sport the huge poles of old.
That said, I have come across a couple of examples of maypoles and festivities that do have stories and some history behind them. Both, according to the Cumbrian Directory (www.thecumbriandirectory.com), are still extant.
The first is at Temple Sowerby where, according to the book, Old English Customs and Ceremonies, by F. J. Drake-Carnell, the pole itself used to be provided by the Lord of the Manor.
Margaret Baker, in her Folklore and Customs of Rural England, added that a storytelling contest was held on the village green in which the greatest liar won. First prize was a grindstone, second a razor and there were other, smaller prizes.
It is told that the Bishop of Carlisle happened to be passing one year and went up to the crowd to lecture them on the evils of lying. He ended his speech with “for my part I have never told a lie in my life”, and was unanimously awarded first prize which was thrown into his carriage.
The second example, which I saw in the Cumbrian Directory alone, comes from the village of Milburn which, I am led to believe, sports a 40ft maypole erected on an ancient Celtic burial site.
Great examples these may be but I would love to know whether or not they are still seen, their history and what form they now take. Also, are there any other notable examples of maypoles and May Day customs in Cumbria?
If anybody has any details please e-mail me at stevenewport47.fsnet.co.uk or write to me at the address below. Yours etc,
61 West Avenue,
West Sussex BN11 5NA.