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TOM BROWN - The Hunting Of The Earl Of Rone

TOM BROWN - The Hunting Of The Earl Of Rone
S & A Projects ISBN: 9780993046827

Dr Tom Brown is probably best known in these parts as a singer and musician, but he is also an academic researcher of British customary traditions and vernacular arts, and it is in this guise that he has revised and updated this short examination of the annual ceremony known as The Hunting of the Earl of Rone, which takes place in Combe Martin, North Devon.

The ceremony itself involves dressed parades through the town, and the ritual hunting of the Earl by a troop of Grenadiers, who shoot the Earl, only for him to be revived by a Hobby Horse and a Fool, before eventually being tossed into the sea. Sound familiar? Well, this volume explores relationships between this ceremony and others, not just in England, but across Europe, with a passing reference to the Burry Man of South Queensferry, too.

There’s a detailed consideration that the Earl refers to the late 16th / early 17th century Earl of Tyrone, Hugh O’Neill, and gives insight into the Nine Years’ War and the socio-political setting thereof. Further ideas are posited as to just exactly what the local connections were between the (largely unwilling) local conscripts and the Irish campaigns.

We then get an analysis of how and why the event has developed and changed over the years, all written in an easily-readable style, yet complete with citations and bibliography for those who wish to read further. Yes, it’s mainly about a local event for local people, but it’s always fascinating to see bigger pictures emerging. As Tom concludes; “[It] has always been open to interpretation and means different things to different people… Long may it be so.”

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 122 of The Living Tradition magazine.