On the history trail: Pock people loved dressing up and taking part in unusual events

The Corkers of Pocklington.
The Corkers of Pocklington.

If there is one thing that Pocklington people like to do, it is an excuse to get into a fancy dress costume.

There are lots of past photographs of them dressing up and acting the fool to raise money for a good cause. The ‘corkers’ are a perfect example. They were a charity group that was set up by the prominent leaders of the town just after the war to help people in the days before the Welfare State was properly implemented. For the 1951 Festival of Britain they produced a Rag Mag explaining what a ‘Corker’ was. “First think of a cork: in itself a delightful object since its odour and colour paint the liveliest of pictures...mostly of the fine vintages of France, Italy and Spain. Do not be misled - The Corkers, though rubicund of countenance that befits jolly men mostly drink beer”. A phrase of speech which has now left common usage was “He’s a corker” (with a small c).

The rag mag goes on to explain “a corker is a man marked out by a touch of fantasy, of untramelled humour, a bluff good-natured devil may-care ...But not all corkers are Corkers. What is it that entitles a man to the high honour of Corkdom? First he must be by nature of a generous, open-handed disposition with a yearning at all times to help the poor, the needy, and the friendless, to succour the widows and orphans in their affliction”. It goes on to predict that on Saturday 7 July, 1951, “Pocklington, that dour, reticent, rather inhibited little town of stiff upper-lips, will once more go mad. Corkery will ride again. Let it decortiate you”. Pocklington people loved a day where they can dress up and participate in the most unusual of events. A newspaper report itemises the crazy day such the greasy pig competition where the winner went home with the pig! The town deteriorated into good humoured anarchy for the day. From early hours all buses travelling through the town were ‘raided’ and each passenger given a rag day flag when they made a donation. Two corkers in a horse costume stopped a bus by standing broadside into its tracks. Then the pantomime horse entered the bus causing a local delivery boy to laugh so much he fell off his bike. The fun began with the perambulator race, crowds lined the Market Place where the fancy dress parade assembled. The Gala covered a diversity of activities suitable for a summer day. One fifties programme described how, in the afternoon, a highland pipe band led a parade through the town, followed by wheelbarrow and pram races from Figg’s Garage to Railway Street. There were fancy dress competitions. Gala Queen, dog show, tug-of-war and sheep dog demonstrations. As the parade reached Burnby Hall’s sports field, it was time for American Square dancing, a visit to the beautiful baby show or the menagerie, or a gentle watch of the sheaf throwing competition. It all ended with a motor cycle display billed as ‘thrills with flames’.

Thanks to Ken Durkin and Alan Haigh for assistance and photographic contributions.