Principal's update - Broad Shoulders

According to Greek mythology, the king of the gods Zeus punished Atlas by making him carry the weight of the heavens on his shoulders.  For daring to lead the Titans into battle against the Olympian gods, Atlas was condemned forever to carry this burden.

Yesterday should have been the annual and world-famous Gawthorpe coal-carrying championships. For those of you who haven’t seen the coverage in the media, every year men and women gather on the outskirts of Dewsbury and Ossett, here in West Yorkshire, to race just over a kilometre on hilly terrain.

The difference between this race and any other is that men carry a sack of coal weighing 50kg and women carry 20kg, finishing at the maypole in Gawthorpe village. Just to put that into context, it would be like a man running up a hill for a kilometre with a fully grown octopus round his neck or a toilet if you can’t imagine an octopus!

The event was thought up in a pub in 1963 following a friendly argument between three men over who was the fittest. If you want to get some idea of how tough these world championships are, stick “BBC Mike Bushell coal carrying” into Google.

The race has been going since 1964 and winners gain legendary status in the area. Dave Jones holds the record time with a remarkable 4 minutes and 6 seconds achieved on two occasions. Terry Lyons and John Hunter have won the race on a record equalling 8 occasions. Catherine Fenton holds the women’s record with 4 minutes and 25 seconds. Janine Burns won the race every year between 1983 and 1993.

Sadly, this year’s event has inevitably been postponed alongside so many of the sporting highlights of the summer. I am certain that many of us will be missing the end of the football and start of the cricket seasons. Wimbledon, the Grand National, The Open golf, Euro 2020 and the Olympic and Paralympic Games will all be sorely missed. But, they will be back.

Most of us, however, possess a deep sense of perspective. Not only will these events return, they are also significantly less important than we used to think. The weight that some of our emergency workers are carrying around their shoulders is significantly more than the Gawthorpe coal carriers.

Our NHS workers are the most obvious group of people carrying this burden, as are our police officers who risk their lives too to enforce the lockdown rules. Other workers are less obvious but still vital in keeping our society functioning, for example, our dustbin men, professionals who maintain key food and medicine supplies and the teachers who supervise the children of key workers to name but three.

Our values of “Work Hard, Be Kind, Be Useful and Go Well” are consistent with these unusual times. All we need to do, to protect those workers and the people who need NHS care, is stay home. I think we can carry that weight.

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