Processions take to the streets over the weekend to celebrate the village’s rather unique spring bank holiday tradition...
WITH a skirl of music and a crash of drums Combe Martin’s annual Earl of Rone has taken to the streets once more.
Throughout the May spring bank holiday weekend there were several parades as colourful characters including the Hobby Horse, Fool and a company of ‘Grenadiers’ set off in search of the elusive ‘Earl’.
Accompanied by the sound of drums, flower ladies, dancers and musicians they hunted high and low, thither and yon, before parading their captive through the streets on Monday evening.
The hapless earl is periodically ‘shot’ by his grenadier escort, before being revived by the Hobby Horse and Fool to be marched onward.
The procession reaches the beach at sunset, where amid a frenzy of drumming and dancing an effigy of the earl is cast into the sea.
An intriguing blend of folklore, myth and legend, the true origins of Combe Martin’s unique custom are unknown, but it was revived in 1974 after being banned in 1837.
Local legend says the ‘earl’ was Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, who was forced to flee from Ireland in 1607 and was shipwrecked on the coast.
Hiding in the woods and surviving only on ships’ biscuits, he was eventually captured by a party of Grenadiers sent from Barnstaple.
There is no historical evidence to support this and how his story became mixed up in Combe Martin’s custom is unknown, but the village continues to celebrate its very unique tradition.