Crowds turn out to support traditional Gawthorpe Coal Carrying Championships

They've been doing it for as long as they can remember but they can't remember doing it in temperatures topping 20 degrees.

Monday, 22nd April 2019, 3:27 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd April 2019, 3:34 pm
What a difference a year makes? This year's coal carrying championships took place in the hottest weather of the year so far while 2018's event only just went ahead as the country battled the Beast From The East.

But the sun shone and the crowds came out in force to support the 56th Gawthorpe Coal Carrying Championships earlier today (Monday).

For a gruelling 1012 metres, particpants run from the Royal Oak pub on Owl Lane to the maypole on Gawthorpe village green - with the men carrying a 50kg sack of coal and the women 20kg in weight.

And, as our image shows, what a difference a year makes, as last year's event only just went ahead after the country had been hit by the Beast From The East but this year the Bank Holiday sunshine left race-goers sweltering.

There were special cheers for the winner of the second men's vets race, John Hunter who was retiring from the competition after taking part every year for the last 30 years.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In that time the 55-year-old self-employed builder from Seamer in Scarborough rough has been the champion eight times but this year lost out overall to the winner of the first race.

However, he was not disappointed and said he will still come back next year to help out.

He said: "I felt spent at the end - I gave that one everything with it being the last year. I saw it in the late 1980s in The Yorkshire Post and came and had a go in 1990 and won it and I have won my last race - I can't do any more than that. I would have been disappointed if I had not won that.

"I am 55 and the race is the easy part but it is the training that is relentless if you want to get a good position. I like everything about it, the support and the atmosphere. I will come back next year and help out, it has been part of my life for such a long time."

The man behind him, Mick Gomersall, said it was a sad day as he had tried each year to beat Mr Hunter.

He said: "I have always tried to beat him and have never done it, but this was the closest I have got. I won't get the chance again, it is a sad day."

And there was extra respect for retired handyman, David Page, 72, who was the oldest competitor. He completed the uphill course in 21st place and said he had been worried about the heat but it wasn't as bad as he feared.

He said: "The drama that unfolds - you can't make it up. It's fabulous to watch it. Time heals, doesn't it? I may be back next year, I'll see. I am happy because I was taking over a few people, a few stragglers. Usually I'm on my own, isolated."

Danielle Sidebottom was the winner of the first of the women's races in her sixth year of taking part.

She said: "I got involved from working at the local school and was inspired by the children and the local community. They come out in their droves and that is fantastic and I wanted to give them something to shout about.

"Last year in the snow my hands were freezing. This year your throat is burning."

The championships, thought to be the only event of its kind, came about after a bit of banter in a local pub between a miner, a farmer and a coal merchant who was getting ribbed for looking tired. He challenged the other two to carry a sack of coal from the Royal Oak to the maypole and there the competition was born. However, none of them turned up to do the race.

But the Maypole Committee had been looking for an Easter Monday event and the next year it came to be.

Secretary Duncan Smith said: "It is a lovely event and brings people together and is the lifeblood of the community.Lots of community organisations come together to help us and we herlp them. It is a lovely event and compared to last year, this is just glorious."