Hatherleigh Carnival parades cancelled

Following many rumours around the town of Hatherleigh, the Carnival Chairman, Mark Reddaway posted a notice on the Hatherleigh Carnival Facebook page confirming: “… that there will be NO Tar Barrels or Carnival procession on the 14th November, 2020.

‘This statement is in response to the rumours that have been going around Hatherleigh and surrounding areas that an event is going ahead on the 14th November. The matter was raised at a recent Town Council meeting prompting the Carnival Committee to officially respond.

‘Due to COVID-19, we are unable to adequately safeguard the numbers of general public we would expect to attend our event. Thus, we would fail to provide the necessary safety measures to guarantee we would meet the current legal requirements and safety guidelines set out by PHE.

‘Due to the current pandemic, we Hatherleigh Carnival Committee, are conscious that we do not unnecessarily put any of the people of Hatherleigh and surrounding areas at any greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, and would like to distance ourselves from any persons who would like to do otherwise.”

However, further to that notice, the fun doesn’t necessarily have to stop, as a further notice revealed: “As you will have likely seen by now, Hatherleigh Carnival will not be holding any attendance-based event this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

‘However, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate!

2019 tar barrels – Copyright Rupert Stockwin

‘This year, we will once again be holding competitions we would LOVE to encourage people to take part in: decorated shop windows, decorated houses, decorated scarecrows/guys.

‘As lots of you will now have extra time on your hands that would have been spent on [decorating] a float, we would love to see some more entries into these competitions this year! You can go as big or small as you like …

‘We ask that you are able to leave your decorations up for ‘at least’ the weekend of the 14th-15th November; however you are more than welcome to put your decorations up before then and leave them up for longer! We would love to see people wandering around town over the weekend (especially in fancy dress!!!), and taking in all of the fabulous entries!

‘Our interactive Scarecrow trail/map will be released very soon. Just don’t forget to stick by government guidelines on distancing etc.

‘If you are unable to go all out with decorations, then we would encourage anybody who can to put out something small like flags or bunting over Carnival weekend, just to add to the ‘party-that-isn’t-a-party’ atmosphere for people walking around town over the weekend.”

For details and deadlines of what promises to be a fun, socially responsible and socially distanced weekend, plus plenty of pictures of what has gone on before, have a look at the Hatherleigh Carnival page on Facebook. You will also find details about the colouring competition plus more about the Scarecrow Trail and Photo Competition.

This isn’t the first time in history that the carnival has been ‘rested’. As Monica Jones of the Hatherleigh History Society told The Moorlander:
“In 1911, Lilian Pillivant decorated a bicycle as a hospital ward and with some of her children went around with collection boxes, the early collections were for the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and the Hatherleigh and Meeth Nursing Home.

‘Because of these collections and donations it meant that it entitled numbers of people to free treatment. It was so popular that the following year Victor Brooks, Charlie Bolt and Jack Metherell helped to organise decorated wagons and horse riders to join in and so Carnival started.

‘It was suspended during WWI and restarted in 1919, it was also suspended during WWII and restarted by Ernest Pillivant (son of Lilian) on 21st June, 1945, as a joint celebration of the end of the war. The Carnival then went to the nearest Wednesday to Guy Fawkes Day until 1986 when it changed to the nearest Saturday. The running of the Tar Barrels and flaming torches goes back even earlier than the Carnival.”

The celebrations certainly do go back much further than this reported re-shaping of Hatherleigh’s Carnival. A short piece under the heading of ‘Local Notices’ taken from ‘Hatherleigh Magazine’ in 1878 reported:
“NOVEMBER FIFTH – Young Hatherleigh, again this year, had its fling under the energetic and able leadership of John Worden. Our little town is very advanced in demonstrations, and this year Guy Fawkes doings were on a larger scale than ever. A tar-barrel drawn through the streets at 6 o’clock in the morning, and peals from the church bells disturbed our slumbers, and reminded us of the advent of the well-known anniversary of the Popish Plot of 1605 (which in God’s providence was frustrated).

‘Then in the evening, at eight o’clock, a torchlight procession (nearly 200 torches, the bearers dressed in various costumes), headed by the brass band, perambulated the street. After the procession, the remainder of the tar-barrels were drawn round the town, and the whole was concluded with a display of Fireworks and a large Bonfire on the Island.”

Again a few years later, an early article from a page in the Western Times (Tuesday, 8th November, 1887), which reported on the ‘Guy Fawkes Celebrations’ in several local towns and villages: “HATHERLEIGH.

‘The ever-memorable ‘Fifth’ was commemorated on Saturday evening with almost increased vigour and enthusiasm by Young Hatherleigh. Large handbills posted in the town gave the inhabitants an outline of the programme that might be expected. After a few tar barrels by the juvenile guys, a monster procession was formed, headed by a band, carrying banners and mottoes, with effigies, &c.

‘The costumes of some of the young men were more effective than on any former occasion, and the whole presented a very imposing appearance. After another display of large barrels and fireworks, including one or two smaller processions, a large bonfire was lit on the Island, which terminated the proceedings of the evening.”

Mrs Jones continued: “The photograph is from 19th November, 1919. Most of the serving men would have returned home from WWI, there was a lot to clear up after the 11th November, 1918 [the end of the First World War]. The country was also recovering from the Spanish Flu which killed so many all over the world of course.”

As a Hatherleigh resident, I shall be really looking forward to seeing the barrels in 2021. The early morning torches and barrels, plus the evening carnival parade followed by more torches and barrels has been kept going, hampered only by this horrible disease, right up to last year. Fingers crossed for 2021!

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Author: Peter Embling

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