To be honest with you, I didn’t fancy attending the Golcar Lily Day. Mainly because of the look that flickered across my other half’s face when he heard that there might be an appearance of Morris Dancers. I’ve no idea why, but as he’s gotten older he’s developed an aversion to anyone who wears straw boaters and jangles their bells and sticks at you.
But hey, we’ve all recently developed a bit of a soft spot for Golcar (pronounced ‘Gow-kuh’ by the locals) which nestles in the Colne Valley of west Yorkshire. And what with the promise of ‘the best chips in the world’, he was prepared to put up and shut up.
So what’s the story behind Golcar Lily Day? Various theories propound as to why the area is associated with this particular flower. My personal favourite is the one that relates to that old firebrand Methodist missionary, John Wesley. Wesley was said to have been somewhat smitten by the ladies of Golcar when he visited the area in the 18th century. Indeed, he compared them with certain other villagers of Huddersfield – remarking that they were “as gentle as Lilies when compared with the uncouth & ignorant peoples of Bolster Moor & Scapegoat Hill.” And for sure, the lasses of Golcar certainly seem to have a way about them, because on Saturday I noticed an awful lot of heavily pregnant women.
If you’re into your history and your traditions and all of that, then there is information a-plenty thanks to Google. But you’d be mistaken to think that Golcar Lily Day is some sort of ancient tradition in the area. Dear me no. The festival was actually the inspiration of a local woman, only some ten years ago. One of those all-round good eggs who not only had a great idea, but who rolled up her sleeves and dragged the rest of the community along with it.
It’s a decade later now and a certain west Yorkshire hillside village with the most gob-smacking panoramic views going, is now so popular on Golcar Lily Day that they have to provide a Park and Ride facility from Scapegoat Hill (which if you ask me, is somewhat foolish because if you believe what John Wesley said about those residents, they’d probably nick your car. Or be unable to drive the buses down the hill because they’re like, sooo ignorant.)
Once we’d braved the Morris Dancers (who were actually superb, even though my bloke had to hide behind the parish church wall for twenty minutes) we were on a roll for the rest of the day. Never had the phrase ‘Good Old Fashioned Family Fun’ been more appropriately used. We were treated to tractor pulling, flat cap throwing, cup of tea races, belly dancing, a coconut shie and Punch n’ Judy. We had a sneaky preview of the Colne Valley Museum before it re-opens after refurbishment and we ate the Golcar Lily Loaf that the ladies in their 19th century frocks were baking on the range for us. We necked a drinky at the dinky but delectable Golcar Brewery. We bought second-hand books, we scoffed the best-chips-in-the-world from The Duck and Spoon, we sampled pies, cheeses, hot dogs. We engaged in healthy activities such as archery and bouncy castles and we categorically LIED to the children about the fact that there was a massive fun fair just around the corner (“Mum – where’s all that loud music coming from?” “Ah, it’s from those uncouth neighbours up the road in Bolster Moor. They’ll be having an ASBO on them by tea time, no doubt.”)
My oldest n’ dearest bus-obsessed chum, the extraordinary and rather-famous Stuart Vallantine caught a total of 6 buses to and from East Manchester in order to attend the day-out. Between us, we all agreed that in fact, there was far too much going on in order to be able to experience all of the funsome activities in one day; a dearth of pop-up cafes, concerts, stalls and curiosities such as the Golcar Lily Ginnel Trail. Indeed, we were left feeling rather light-headed due to the fact that the entire event is free. Yup. Totally free. Brings tears to a Yorkshire-person’s eyes dunnit?
My favourite moment occurred during one of the many concerts on offer to the public. Colne Valley Boys Choir are the most wonderful troop of local lads. Aged from 6 to 18, the boys are trained by top-class musicians, fellas who – unusually – are not remotely interested in the airs and graces of your usual choirs. And the boys just love to sing; they love the fact that they get to choose their own songs and that no one teks the mick at school (because they’re allowed to sing cool songs, y’see?) Anyway, ten minutes into the performance the choir master explained to the audience that the next song was supposed to be led by a soloist. But the lad hadn’t turned up yet. The choir master wondered aloud whether anyone had seen him. A helpful member of the crowd shouted out; “I noor! Ee’s ‘avin’ a putaytuh outseed!” (translation for non-northerners: “I know! He’s eating a baked potato outside.”)
Anyway, a kind member of the public managed to locate the recalcitrant youth, who was soon ushered into the building sans nosh and yet who still managed to regale us with a beautiful solo.
No one batted an eyelid at this. Nor when another lad turned up late, having forgotten his uniform. He just took his place alongside the rest of the boys. And the performance was only enhanced by this down to earth, ‘we do it – just because we love it’ attitude. Perhaps this phrase marks the true spirit of the Golcar Lily Day – and of the place itself.
And whilst I think on, perhaps it could also apply as to why there seem to be so many pregnant ladies in the village….
West Yorkshire’s *real* Happy Valley?