This film is part of Free

Birdwell Primary School May Queen 1961-1964 & School Centenary

You may remember school processions, or having to perform in a play in front of the parents, as rather dull; not for these children in the early 1960s who clearly relish showing off.

Amateur film 1964 60 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


The innocence of childhood is wonderfully on view in this film of pupils of Birdwell Primary School, taken over several years in the early 1960s. Unhampered by the looming self-consciousness of adolescence, these children are impeccably turned out for the May Queen processions and they delight in performing for the parents. Each year the children become bolder, the productions more complex, and it gets increasingly difficult to guess just what is being performed.

This film is one of several made by Ron Beardshall, a colliery welder and husband of the deputy Head Teacher of Birdwell Primary School, Elizabeth Beardshall, located about 13 miles south of Barnsley. He filmed the School Mayday celebrations each year between 1954 and 1964, as well as some other school events. Schools took up Mayday celebrations in the late 19th century, wishing to introduce an ancient tradition that originated during the relative lull in the farm work calendar, and when the weather favoured outdoor merrymaking. The Church encouraged this to take place soon after the Whitsun feast in order to turn it into a Christian festival. The comedian Charlie Williams was a former pupil at the school.