THE BURNING TAR BARREL EVENT AT OTTERY ST MARY
WHAT: TAR BARRELS OF OTTERY ST MARY’S
WHERE: TOWN CENTRE, OTTERY ST MARY, DEVON, EX11 1BZ
WHEN: MONDAY 5TH NOVEMBER 2018
COST: FREE ADMISSION
‘Goodness Gracious Great Barrels of Fire’
The exact origins of the celebration are unknown but there are various reasons and myths of why it began. The only thing that is known is that it started after the gunpowder plot in 1605 and is now over 400 years old.
The West Country has always had a history of torchlit processions and burning of barrels as well as following the annual tradition of rolling lit barrels down the streets on November the 5th. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that the rolling of the barrels was a little too tame and that there was way much more fun in carrying them through the streets, and therein the new tradition was born. Whilst this practice was initially followed by everyone, it soon fizzled out and now Ottery is the only town in the country that still carry these blazing barrels on the streets celebrating Nov the 5th in a slightly different way to the rest of us.
Each of the 17 local public houses sponsor a barrel to be lit and carried to the river. The day begins with a women’s and children’s event, but the main attraction is the responsibility of the men. Only those men who have been born in the town or who have lived there most of their lives can carry the barrel. Generations of the same families compete against each other in a battle of nerve, strength, and stamina, fighting to remove the 30-kilo barrel from the runner. The crowds also try to join in the action to get near enough to feel the warmth of the barrels flame.
During this incredible fire festival, the population of the town doubles as people from all over the world come to witness the festivities. As the men carry the last of the barrels down to the River Otter they all then join making one of the biggest bonfires to be seen in the region. On one side of the river is the bonfire and on the other reflecting in the water are the flashing neon lights as the annual funfair starts up to entertain everyone in the family.
An amazing fireworks display is on offer that will mark the end of the day’s celebrations for another year and certainly end the evening with a bang.