I mentioned this rather bizarre custom on my AudioBoo but realise that it does need some images to go along with the story. So , let me introduce the Burryman. The first recorded mention of this tradition was around 1687 but it is believed the tradition may go back 900 years.
It is not a task for the faint hearted,the job of Burryman. The current one has just completed 13 years, the one before did the job for 25 years. It is a long day, starting with a couple of hours being covered by burrs ( from the burdock plant) that the burryman should collect himself. Once dressed, complete with two flower topped sticks , he is ready to do the rounds of the town. Stopping at various significant spots and most of the pubs and hostelries. At each he is offered whisky ( with a straw , as he can’t drink normally). By about 6pm he has finished again until next year.
What is this all about ? Even the current burryman can only offer possible explanations. Maybe he is the “green man” which pops up all over Celtic folklore and further afield, representing fertility, vegetation etc. Or perhaps he is a Scapegoat figure who is casting out the evil spirits. Noone can come with a definite answer. But it is interesting that it seems important to the townsfolk that the tradition is maintained and he gathered quite an entourage as he travelled around, preceded by a boy ringing a bell and announcing his presence.
If you’d like to see him for yourself, come back next year, the day before the Ferry Fair.