Milestone anniversaries for popular Kirkby Malzeard tradition and Highside Longsword dancers

The Kirkby Malzeard plough blessing service celebrated its 70th anniversary.
The Kirkby Malzeard plough blessing service celebrated its 70th anniversary.
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The Kirkby Malzeard plough blessing service celebrated its 70th anniversary on Sunday, January 8, at St Andrew’s Church.

The ever-popular occasion is an opportunity for farming communities to ask for God’s blessing on plough Sunday, which traditionally marks the start of the farming year.

This year’s service was especially special for the Highside Longsword dancers, who are also marking a milestone anniversary in 2017 - 30 years of performing and entertaining the district.

Captain of Highside Longsword, Ted Dodsworth, said: “We are proud to have danced the Kirkby Malzeard dance for 30 years as part of this ancient plough blessing service. It is a wonderful village event to be a part of. It was performed by the plough lads and they also brought the plough into the church to be blessed.

“The service is absolutely brilliant, it was a bit nerve-wracking performing, even though we are quite accomplished dancers. We are aware that it is such an honour to be a part of it each year.

“It was great to have the Bishop of Leeds there, he was a real sport. At the end of the dance we ‘behead’ a dignitary, and this year it was the Bishop.

“The church was packed, and it was special having an audience sitting there and watching it all.

“We danced at the front of the church and it was great to see everybody’s faces.

“People support the event because Kirkby is an agricultural area, and the plough is such a symbol of agriculture. There is such a strong sense of community spirit, and it makes the service really special.

"This year money raised went to the Addington Fund for farmers, and I am pleased that this unique event went so well.

“We look forward to it every year, it’s a highlight of our calendar. It is so different to a lot of other events, I think that’s why people keep coming back to support it every year as well.”

On Sunday 14 Highside Longsword will be dancing at the Ripon Cathedral before the 3:30pm service, and the Masham plough blessing.