November 5th is a special day here in the UK, it is the day we have fireworks and burn a Guy on a bonfire all because Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament back in the 1605. Yes I agree us Brits are a funny lot, but this has to be one of my favourite traditions, one I missed during my Canada years, I do love a firework, the smell of a bonfire and a sparkler.
Three miles from where we live now however they do things slightly different. In Ottery St Mary they have what is called Tar Barrels. 17 barrels of various sizes are tarred over a 12 month period, straw and paper placed inside and then set alight at which time they are carried on boys, women or mens shoulders around the streets. The Tar Barrel tradition is hundreds of years old. No one is sure why it started, various reasons for burning the barrels have included fumigation of cottages and as a warning of the approach of the Spanish armada.
I was very excited to go along tonight to experience our first Tar Barrels. It was insane, dangerous, mad, hot, exciting, busy and I loved it. Health and Safety does not play a large part in the event! Long may that continue. The Streets are crammed with people and this fully lit flaming tar barrel appears at speed, scattering people left right and centre, you dare not take your eye off it as you never know where it might next go, charging up and down, at times being dropped before being hoisted aloft again and weaving an erratic path along the roads. It is carried till it disintegrates, when it is dropped on the floor and left to burn out.
I have written enough I hope the following photos convey the heat, madness and excitement of the evening. Personally I can’t wait till next year!