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From The Exeter Gazette

28 May 1885


"This curious custom was observed on Tuesday under very favourable auspices. According to tradition, the copious stream which rises at the foot of some limestone rocks, about a quarter of a mile from the village, and supplies nearly the whole of the village with water, in the days of antiquity ran dry, and the inhabitants, in their distress, offered a ram in the dry channel to propitiate the goddess of the stream, who immediately caused the water to resume its wonted course.

Since that time a ram has been annually sacrificed, and the stream has never failed; but, in consequence of the treatment it received, its bed required a periodical clearing; and when England became Christian it was thought appropriate to connect this annual cleansing with the feast of Whitsuntide.

Accordingly, on the evening of Whit-Sunday every year, the stream is diverted into anoth channel, and until recent times the ram was always roasted in the dry bed of the stream just before the water was turned back into it, and the festivities in connection with the ceremony were held in a field adjoining the stream. Latterly, however, the "Fayre" has degenerated, the ram being roasted and the merrymaking held on the Queen's highway.

With a view to restore ancient custom, and to provide innocent recreation for the inhabitants and their friends, who make the Fair the occasion of family reunion, an energetic committee last year enlisted the sympathy of the landowners and others, and arranged a programme for the day's proceedings; and though their efforts were partially frustrated by unfavourable weather, the success was sufficient to encourage them to renew the attempt this year.

On 2.30 on Tuesday, a procession was formed in the National Schoolroom and proceeded to a field near the Vicarage, kindly lent for the occasion by Mr. C. Knowles. In front was the ram, adorned with flowers and ribbons, borne on high by the two sacrificing priests. Then came the Bovey Brass band, followed by a little four-year-old "Queen of the May", seated on a throne carried by four of her courtiers, and followed by others, all suitable attired and bearing floral canopies.

On reaching the field, the May Queen was seated on her throne under a may-pole, and her courtiers - eight boys and eight girls - having paid due homage, took their places and gracefully interlaced the ribbons around the pole, to the strains of music supplied by the band. This ended, the vast concourse of visitors were attracted by the savoury odour proceeding from the altar on which the ram was being roasted, and afterwards entered into a keen competition for the dainty morsels.

An exciting donkey race, athletic sports, dancing, and like amusements, with a repetition of the May-Pole dance were all thoroughly well enjoyed; and as the shades of night closed in on the bright and balmy day the crowd dispersed, declaring that such a holiday had never been held in Kingsteignton within the memory of the present generation."

*Ram roasting still takes place in Kingsteignton, most recently on 31 May 2010


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