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The Hunting of the Earl of Rone

I have to admit to scepticism about this.   I grew up in North Devon from 1982, and lived two parishes away from Combe Martin.  North Devon is not a place where a lot happens.  We visited Combe Martin regularly.  We read the local paper, in fact we read both of them, even when the main story was about a goose or something.

The Hunting of the Earl of Rone strikes me as exactly the sort of event that would have been made up as an elaborate leg-pull for grokels, along the lines of the ancient rural practice of signpost-twirling, and the sign that fell down and was replaced by a neat not-quite-replica that read 'Wheretheellarewe', and hence went unnoticed by the local council for a couple of years.

But maybe it's real, and I just didn't notice it. Or maybe it began as a joke, and somehow took on reality. 


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
26th May, 2016 15:56 (UTC)
It has a two page entry in A Dictionary of English Folk Customs by Christina Hole, written 1976, complete with speculation on its origin and a fairly detailed account of what went on. However, it is listed as a defunct custom, last celebrated in 1837.

A lot of the biggest events in the folk calendar are post-1980 revivals of genuine old local celebrations that died out - or were banned - in Victorian times, and this sounds like another. From the account of an observer in 1837, it sounds like a glorified pub crawl - 9 pubs, apparently, with most of the participants "pretty well done for" by the third. Sounds remarkably similar to many such festivals today. :-)
26th May, 2016 16:07 (UTC)
That suggests that the section of that website entitled 'The Old Texts' might not be entirely made up, then.

I don't know whether to be pleased or disappointed. :-D

26th May, 2016 16:23 (UTC)
According to Steve Roud's The English Year, (the Bible of calendar customs) it stopped c. 1837 probably due to concerns over drunkeness and other similiarly shocking behaviour. It was researched and reconstructed by local enthusiasts in the 1970s, and performed as part of the town's carnival, but the revival didn't properly take off until 1978. It's been staged every year since then, and is "one of the most important features of Combe Martin's year. It accurately recreates all the known details of the old celebration, although it's added a few new features to allow more people to take part.
26th May, 2016 18:35 (UTC)
Maybe it was a secret in the 1980s, guarded jealously by the people of Combe Martin and not told to Outsiders from two parishes away... :-D
27th May, 2016 02:36 (UTC)
Could well be!

On my recent work trip to the Seychelles, while chatting to a local, she explained that people in the different districts of Mahe (the main island) had their own specific customs and turns of speech, unnoticeable to foreigners, but making their home district immediately obvious to other Seychellois. The island of Mahe is 163 kilometres square.

26th May, 2016 18:36 (UTC)
... Vurriners. The word comes back to me. Vurriners.

I remember an old gent from our village going to Plymouth and coming back reporting that he had been to Vurrin Parts.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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