Looking for something to do for Bonfire Night, I went to Ottery St Mary to see a Devonian tradition. It involves running up and down a crowded street with a flaming tar barrel. The event becomes more and more popular every year and the sleepy little village is over run with visitors intent on a little excitement.

I took my camera and tried to get close to the action to get some photos. I can tell you there was no time for chimping (looking at the LCD) If you don’t keep your wits about you you could get burned.

The tradition has been going since the Gunpowder plot of 1605 but may stem from rituals designed to fumigate buildings and scare away evil spirits. Doesn’t seem to work with onlookers though.

Check out the video on British Pathe of it taking place in the 1960’s http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=41127

Here are some of the photographs.  I’m just waiting for my eyebrows to grow back.

The first of the larger barrels is paraded round outside the Volunteer Inn in the square

A carrier dives out of the way to put out his flaming glove

The carrier finds some space


The Carriers find it hard to run with the crowd hemming them in

Finally finding some space a carrier runs through the crowd


someone else risking their camera

The barrel is handed over in the air

I'm just nipping down the Co-Op for a burning barrel dear.

It seems all that protects the carrier is a couple of layers of clothing and some sack gloves

Here that bloke has a flaming barrel on his head.

Photographer dives for safety

As the time progresses the barrel burns down and eventualy collapses.

A crowd gathers for the bonfire, probably waiting for the flames to die so they can put jacket potatoes on