A MALE only tradition which has been passed down through generations of families has been broken in Goathland for the first time in more than 200 years.
Women have now been allowed to join the Goathland Plough Stots - one of Yorkshire’s oldest traditional longsword teams and what, has always been until now, a male only pastime.
The Plough Stots are one of just five traditional longsword dancing groups in the whole of the British Isles who still dance their own dances as performed as far back as the early 19th century.
But as numbers in other groups across the country are dwindling, in Goathland the group is thriving with 36 members including six women as well as a bunch of enthusiastic children including girls, who are learning the ropes too.
The Plough Stots members include four generations of the same family as well as those with connections with the village who have moved away, but still return to take part in the dancing.
Secretary of the Plough Stots, John Atkinson, said they had to allow women to dance or the tradition would eventually die out.
Two years ago, he decided when just two junior members were left to allow girls to dance too. The women have been the backbone of the Plough Stots washing tunics and getting us home after a night out. I was over the moon when they said they would do it,” he said.
“It had never been done before. I’m pleased and proud. When people say it’s not an ‘in’ thing, for us to put six teams out on our day of dance, it’s never been heard of before. The tradition is more alive than it’s ever been.”
This Sunday (13 Jan), the Goathland Plough Stots will take part in a special Plough Sunday Service at 10.30am in St Mary’s Church in Goathland where they will perform a dance and a plough will be blessed.
And next Saturday (19 Jan), the Plough Stots will hold its traditional Day of Dance in the village when the women will be taking part for the first time, performing dances around the village.
The event will be followed by speeches and a roast beef dinner for invited guests in the village hall. Villager Helen Beeforth dances in the Plough Stots along with her husband Dave and two children Tom (9) and Katie (8)
She said: “I’ve never known anything else. We’ve always been part of the Plough Stots from being a babe in arms.”
Plough Stot member Lorraine Atkinson added: “It’s nice to be part of it. We’ve been on the sidelines for many years.
“Traditionally it has always been men, but I think to keep the tradition going you have got to move with the times.”
Don’t miss next week’s Whitby Gazette for a feature and more pictures of the Goathland Plough Stots.