Steve hangs up his gloves after 50 years

PUBLISHED: 09:00 10 November 2013 | UPDATED: 10:43 11 November 2013

Tar Barrels 2013. Steve Woodley bows out after fifty years of rolling tar barrels. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref sho 8238-45-13AW. To order your copy of this photograph go to www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on Photo Orders

Tar Barrels 2013. Steve Woodley bows out after fifty years of rolling tar barrels. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref sho 8238-45-13AW. To order your copy of this photograph go to www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on Photo Orders

Archant

FLAMING barrels lit up the streets on Tuesday as some 12,000 visitors descended on Ottery to experience the town's most famous tradition.

Tar Barrels 2013. Bryce Willis has a taste of his first barrel rolling. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref sho 7696-45-13AW. To order your copy of this photograph go to www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on Photo OrdersTar Barrels 2013. Bryce Willis has a taste of his first barrel rolling. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref sho 7696-45-13AW. To order your copy of this photograph go to www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on Photo Orders

But as the organisers tidy up from this year’s event, Steve Woodley is hanging up his singed gloves for good after half a century of barrell rolling.

Steve, who works in the forestry department at Clinton Devon Estates, lived in Ottery until 1981 and was given the honour of being the first to pick up the factory barrel.

“I’m sad this is my last one because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it over the years,” he said. “But you’ve got to stop at some point – those barrels are very heavy - and I thought 50 would be a good number to go out on.”

“I think the biggest change I’ve seen over the years is the number of people that come to see it – there used to be a lot less.”

“When I started there were maybe a few hundred people who came to watch the children’s barrels – now it’s thousands. I will definitely miss it.”

But as Steve bows out, a new generation Ottregians are eager to take his place, and seven-year-old Bryce Willis grabbed his first chance to get involved with both gloved hands.

His mum, Amy Roberts, said Bryce was ‘fired up’ for his first go and described her pride at her son’s achievement.

She said: “He was so excited afterwards just wanted to do it again – he can’t wait for next year!”

“We didn’t push Bryce in to it - he saw his brothers and sisters doing it last year and he made the decision himself.”

“I think it’s in their blood. Most kids his age would say ‘I’m not doing that!’ if you gave them the chance. I’m really proud of him.”

Graham Rowland, chairman of the carnival committee, said he expected the rollers involved on Tuesday would be looking forward to 2014 already.

“The day after, everyone who was involved talks about the night before,” he added. “But by Thursday they’ll already be thinking about next year.”

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