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A KIDSGROVE PROCESSION

Was it a Whit Walk? - Further Comments on the Picture

From Ken Pollard, Teesside:
I do not profess to know anything about the history of Kidsgrove, but having just browsed your web page by chance I think that the picture depicts a Whit Walk.

When I was a small child in South Wales in the early 1950's at the Whitsun holiday weekend, on a Sunday, each of the chapels would exercise the right to parade through the town for the 'Whit Walk', all the congregation dressed in their Sunday best and everyone who did not walk seemed to turn out to watch the walkers. Each group would be led by a band and would sing hymns as they went; the walk was followed by a celebration meal in the chapel hall. I wonder if this is what happened in Kidsgrove also and is what the picture depicts?

In the Welsh valleys the children were always enthusiastic to attend the Whit Walk because together with regular attendance of Sunday school through the winter, attending the Whit Walk led to a place on the annual summer day trip to the seaside at Barry Island which in those days was one of very few trips out of the valley they would make in most years.   ~ Hope this information is of some use.

Philip Leese replies:
While I agree that Whitsun could be the occasion for the photo - sunny morning, folk in shirt-sleeves so fairly warm, workers not at work so probably weekend or a Bank Holiday - what causes me to question whether it is a Whit Walk is the absence of children from the procession. Ken Pollard himself encourages me in this view as he mentions that 'children were always enthusiastic to attend the Whit Walk' in South Wales. The same applied here - perhaps even more so, as the Whit Walks I took part in consisted mainly of children, preceded by the Scout Band.

From what I can see of the photo, this procession looks exclusively adult and dressed in dark clothing. (Whit Walks were when all the girls had new white dresses and boys were encouraged to wash (for once)). There are kids watching the procession, but not taking part, so it looks like the parade of some adult organization. At the front are what look like either policemen's or firemen's helmets. There are no banners, which you would expect from Church (tho' perhaps not Chapel) groups or organizations like Buffaloes or Forresters. It can't be a funeral, because people aren't taking their hats off, nor can I see any soldiers, so I take it that World War I or the Boer War are not involved.

I don't know what that leaves. The only procession currently held is Remembrance, but as I think the postcard was from before Remembrance Day was instituted, that idea also bites the dust.

Having said that Whitsun walks usually involved children, I am not sure how far back the tradition goes and whether it did always involve them. I know they died out in the 60's (though with an occasional revival as charity walks in the 70's) but I don't know when they originated. Sorry it doesn't really settle the matter, but in local history you always have to leave bits for later historians to do...
If you know more about the picture and want to add to the information above, please email Dudley Mall using the link below, and we'll pass your information to Philip for possible incorporation.
Thank you!
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