Unsurprisingly originating over a beer or two in the Beehive Inn in Gawthorpe, the 17th World Coal Carrying Contest takes centre stage in the 1980 Maypole Festival. Here it is accompanied by a broad Yorkshire voiceover, delivered with typical relish – and the mandatory mild sexist quip – and a musical accompaniment reminiscent of Alex Glasgow’s music for Alan Plater’s 1968 play Close the Coalhouse Door.
The Leeds cine club Group 8 film this race, which started in 1963, and has since expanded to include a children’s and veterans’ race and two men’s races. The winning times haven’t changed much, although the film claims that the men are carrying just over 5 stone (approx. 31 kg) and the women just over a stone (approx. 7 kg), which is considerably less than today (50kg and 20kg respectively). The winner, Colin Claypole, wasn’t able to defend his championship; in fact he merely interrupted a run by Terry Lyons who won it every other year between 1977 and 1985. Although it’s the World Coal Carrying Championships most winners come from West Yorkshire, with the furthest afield being from Penrith in Cumbria.