Exeter, Devon UK • Feb 27, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Satire Fantastic or frightening? The Flaming Tar Barrels of Ottery St Mary.

Fantastic or frightening? The Flaming Tar Barrels of Ottery St Mary.

Rachel McEwan dives into the infamous local tradition of Tar Barrels.
1 min read
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Image: Megan Haynes

On a cold and dark November evening an electric atmosphere blanketed the town of Ottery St Mary. The time had arrived for the annual, local tradition…the tar barrels.

One online post read:

“I was driving and saw in the distance blazes of moving fire and thought I’d best go and help! Then I arrived, and everyone is cheering them on! Only a few minutes ago someone ran right past me with a flaming barrel above their head and directly into the group behind! I thought it was the end for me until I realised the white light wasn’t heaven, but fire! There are children doing it too! I thought to myself, where are their parents? Then I looked around and saw that they were the ones cheering the loudest!”

Clearly, this person is out of touch with modern entertainment.

Coaches shipped in seas of students to view the spectacle. The national anthem (an array of techno music and club anthems) blared from speakers played on the roof of a local shop, the music fading in and out – someone obviously hadn’t bought Spotify premium. Herds of people swarmed into the streets buzzing to watch the ceremony.

The families of Ottery St Mary had put forth their tributes for the tar barrel hunger games. A battle with fire. The crowd debated their favourites, like choosing horses to bet on. Who will crawl away, singed and miserable, to the pop-up St Johns ambulance tent outside Londis? And who will survive the games of glory and stand triumphant? To become our champs. Our victors.

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