Ottery St Mary Tar barrels
Event Date & Time: 5 November 2006 - 16:00 - 0:00
Ottery St. Mary is internationally renowned for its Tar Barrels, an old custom
said to have originated in the 17th century, and which is held on November
5th each year. Each of Ottery'scentral public houses sponsors a single barrel.
In the weeks prior to the day of the event, November 5th, the barrels are
soaked with tar. The barrels are lit outside each of the pubs in turn and
once the flames begin to pour out, they are hoisted up onto local people's
backs and shoulders. The streets and alleys around the pubs are packed with
people, all eager to feel the lick of the barrels flame. Seventeen Barrels
all in all are lit over the course of the evening. In the afternoon and early
evening there are women's and boy's barrels, but as the evening progresses
the barrels get larger and by midnight they weigh at least 30 kilos. A great
sense of camaraderie exists between the 'Barrel Rollers', despite the fact
that they tussle constantly for supremacy of the barrel. In most cases, generations
of the same family carry the barrels and take great pride in doing so. It
perpetuates Ottery St Mary's great sense of tradition, of time and of history.
Opinion differs as to the origin of this festival of fire, but the most widely
accepted version is that it began as a pagan ritual that cleanses the streets
of evil spirits. It is an incredible night to remember - one of the biggest
bonfires in the South West is ignited on the banks of the River Otter and
behind it are the flashing neon's of the annual fun fair.