Arnie's family rides the fastest wheelbarrow in the West (of Doncaster)

There’s a grand wheelbarrowing tradition in the Pawson household.

By David Kessen
Monday, 08 July, 2019, 15:22

Back in the 1950s, a then 20-year-old Arnold Pawson set the tradition.

His son Michael, followed it on.

The Open Wheelbarrow race gets underway. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-04-07-19-BraithwellWheelbarrow-5

And now, Arnold’s nine-year-old grandson, Matthew, has made it a third generation of winners in the iconic Braithwell Wheelbarrow Race, held every year in the rural Doncaster village.

Arnold, now aged 86, won the very first race back in 1953, when the race was held for the first time to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Other than during a brief break in the 1960s, the contest has been running ever year since. It involves teams of two pushing one another in a wheelbarrow over a 2.5 mile route from the church in Braithwell to the Plough pub – now called the Grazing Harts – in Micklebring and back, stopping to down a glass of beer at the pub on the route as quickly as possible.

It usually takes somewhere between 14 and 17 minutes, and the pusher and the passenger can swap roles as many times as they like en-route.

Arnold Pawson (middle), Councillor Martin Greehalgh, his wife Carol, Councillor Nigel Cannings, his wife Margaret, pictured with The Braithwell Wheelbarrow Committee. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-04-07-19-BraithwellWheelbarrow-1

The junior sections are run on a shortened course, and don't involve the glass of beer, and young Matthew followed the family tradition this year by winning the under 11s race, run to Coopers Yard and back, at the big night last Thursday.

Arnold, who still lives in Braithwell, was beaming with pride at Matthew’s success.

He said: “Matthew was over the moon. I’d given him plenty of tips about concentrating and paying attention to what he was doing. But I was so proud of him.”

The 66-year-old race is described as the biggest night of the year in Braithwell, with thousands turning out to watch the race. It also attracts visitors from outside the village, with the celebrations after the race, which is held in the early evening, going on well into the night.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Matthew Pawson, grandson of Arnold Pawson, pictured pushing Harry Wellings to victory in the Junior Race. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-04-07-19-BraithwellWheelbarrow-2

This year saw 56 youngsters entering the infants race for under sevens. That race features children pushing toys in their barrows. The high numbers meant several races had to be run. The main adult race was won by Mark Peart and Matt Leather.

They were among a number of races leading up to the 13-entrant senior race, which has a £100 prize for the winner hanging on it.

As the original winner, along with his friend Dennis Dunstan, and winner of six of the first seven races, Arnold announces the start of the race each year.

Little has changed over the years. But there was a change of the rules 20 years ago, when residents became concerned that some people were entering with customised barrows which had no legs at the back of the barrow, and seats fitted. It allowed them to make a sort of ‘running change’ between rider and passenger, where they didn’t have to stop to swap over.

The intermediate race gets undeway. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-04-07-19-BraithwellWheelbarrow-4

Now everyone has to use one of the race organisers’ own sponsored barrows, so technology cannot help any of the competitors.

“I’m really proud to still be involved,” said Arnold. “The organising committee do a great job, and the police and the council have done a great job closing the road for us for the race.

“The atmosphere is terrific. I think the wheelbarrow race is a fantastic tradition, and it will keep going and going.”

Arnold Pawson, pictured pushing Dennis Dunstan to victory in 1953. Picture: NDFP-04-07-19-BraithwellWheelbarrow-10
The Open Wheelbarrow race gworks its way along the High Street. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-04-07-19-BraithwellWheelbarrow-6