White clothes, singing and processions

Pentecost is one of the prominent feasts in the Christian year, it is also called Whitsun, Whitsunday, Whit Sunday, and Whitsuntide.

This event is celebrated seven weeks after Easter Sunday, and is on the tenth day after Ascension Thursday. Research reveals that traditionally it is a time of baptism – the name Whit Sunday, or White Sunday, derives from the custom of wearing white while being baptised.

Whitsun was always one of those occasions when it was considered important that you wore new clothes, if you could. In South Yorkshire this developed into a kind of visiting custom and children would visit neighbours and relatives showing off their new clothes, and in return hoped to get a little money.

This desire for new clothes was linked to another strong tradition, which became very popular particularly in and around Lancashire and Yorkshire, the custom of Whit Walks. These processions were organised by the local church or chapel. Those attending the procession would always wear their best clothes – white if possible – and would be led by the local brass band.

At pre-arranged points there would be mass open-air hymn singing and an outdoor tea at the end of the day. In many cases it was the Sunday schools which organised the walks for children – and they could be large affairs indeed, with thousands taking part on the day. Numbers in the Manchester area often exceeded 16,000.

One of this week's featured photographs (the left one on the bottom row) shows the children, parents and leaders making their way through Rastrick on their 1955 Whit Walk procession.

Whitsuntide was always recognised as a holiday time, with local crowds enjoying a day at one of the local leisure spots – Sunny Vale and Halifax Zoo being two favourites. On the opening Whitsuntide at the Halifax Zoo in 1909 it was reported that more than 40,000 people visited. Sunny Vale had tens of thousands of visitors throughout its season, but the Whit weekend was one of the busiest parts of the year.

Holidays were not that complicated or long back in those days, you hadn't much to think about – Easter, Whitsuntide, Rush Week, Christmas and Boxing Day, and that was it.

The town centre was always a sea of faces with processions and banners – all the children in their Sunday best. The procession made its way to Camm Park, which later became the more familiar name of Wellholme Park. Once in the park it was the best bun fight of the year, and of course lashings of Ganson's pop and ice cream.

Then it was time to join in the races which included the egg and spoon race, mums' and dads' races, the three-legged race as well as the straight runs as well. After the Second World War the traditional Whitsuntide processions in many areas became a shadow of their once former glory.

The spirit of the Whitsuntide procession has always been alive at New Road Sunday School in Rastrick with both the walk and outdoor community hymn singing.

The largest featured photograph shows a crowd of children ready to set off on their annual procession and sing. Naturally adults were required to help marshal the children around the streets of Rastrick.

Adults on this photograph include: John Frank; Norman Riley and to the right handside of the children are Harold Riley; Albert Bottomley; Ernest Gooder and Arnold Bottomley.

The third photograph shows the band leading the 1955 Whitsuntide procession through Rastrick – but which band is it?