Isle of Wight Observer September 1 1855
Pole Dancing in 1856
RARE FUN AT RYDE
One of the most amusing as well as intellectual of our old English sports and pastime is a competition consisting in the pursuit of an animal greased as to the tail, and in the endeavour to catch and hold it by that appendage. Another is the rivalry to climbing, or rather attempting to climb, a pole similarly lubricated, on the top of which is placed a similar animal. That animal is the prize of scansory or prehensile prowess; amusement results chiefly from unsuccessful exertion; the competitors are clowns in general – and the animal is always a pig.
The refined mind will admit that this diversion beats cock fighting by much, if it is not very superior to chess or billiards. To a more robust taste, if not to a stronger intellect, it may appear insufficiently exciting, and capable of improvement in that respect. Something has been done towards filling the room for that improvement, as witness the following copy of a handbill published at Ryde, in the Isle of Wight:-
On Thursday, August 9th 1855, at Four o’clock in the afternoon, (weather permitting)
A GREASED POLE
Will be suspended from the Pier at the end of which will be placed a Box containing a Pig, which, with five shillings will be a prize to any one residing in the Island, who will walk along the Pole, let out the Pig, and bring it ashore without the aid of a Boat.
All wishing to try, must be dressed in Guernsey Frocks, and enter their names at the Pier Toll House, before Two o’clock on Thursday.
Should the weather prove unfavourable on Thursday, the Sport will take place on SATURDAY, the 11th, at the same hour.
Ryde August 6th 1855
G BUTLER Printer, “Observer ” Office, Colonnade, Ryde.
The horizontal arrangement of the greased pole, and the pig over the water is a great improvement upon the perpendicular on terra firma. The fun of failure is much enhanced by the consequent ducking, besides which the sport has the interest of danger to the competitors. If one of them, in failing, knocked his head against the pole, he would perhaps be stunned, and then he would not only tumble into the sea, but would never rise out of it. However, some attendant emissary of the Humane Society might succeed in spoiling this consummation of the sport; and geese swim, therefore instead of suspending the pole over the sea another time, it would be adviseable to set it over a tank of boiling water. A close plantation of spikes would answer the same purpose at less expense.
But what public-spirited party is it that has been thus treating, or offering to treat, the Isle of Wight people to games? Whoever that person may be, the Ryde Pier proprietors ought to be particularly obliged thereto; for no doubt the attention held out by the pig and the “Pole Dance” to the intelligence of the Island was calculated largely to augment the receipts at the Toll House alluded to in the above quoted announcement.