The fifth of November
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot
I see no reason
Why Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot
Here in the UK it’s Guy Fawkes Night, more commonly referred to as Bonfire Night.
Traditionally, children have grown up singing versions of the rhyme you read above, eating toffee apples, treacle toffee sweets, Parkin and baked potatoes. These goodies were usually consumed whilst standing around a bonfire and watching grown ups light fireworks, sending colourful explosions into the night sky…usually in the rain. Oh the fun we had!
When I was a little girl, I loved the whole experience of Bonfire Night, except having to wait and wait and wait for my Dad to get home from work to light the fireworks. It was exciting going out in the dark, holding sparklers and writing my name and watching all the beautiful fireworks that seemed to light up the whole sky.
Many children would make a “guy”, an effigy of Guy Fawkes to throw on top of the bonfire before it was lit. They would drag it round the neighbourhood asking for “a penny for the guy”, and any money collected would be used to buy sweets and fireworks for the big night. (You must remember that this was way before health and safety deemed it wrong to sell fireworks to under 18’s.)
Guy Fawkes Night
The origin of Guy Fawkes Night goes way back to 1605 and a plan to return the religion of England to the Roman Catholic Church.
The men behind the Gunpowder Plot were Catholics who wanted to blow up the Palace of Westminster during the opening of Parliament. The aim was to kill everyone inside including King James 1 and his heir Prince Henry.
On the night of 5th November 1605, 36 barrels of gunpowder were discovered hidden in a storeroom beneath the Palace of Westminster.
Near the barrels was a man calling himself John Johnson. He was found to have fuses in his pockets and was quickly arrested.
After days of intense torture the man confessed his part in the conspiracy and declared his real name to be Guido (Guy) Fawkes.
The rest of the Plotters were rounded up and arrested and eventually put to death. I’ll spare you the details.
In January 1606 Parliament passed ‘An Act for a Public Thanksgiving to Almighty God every Year on the Fifth Day of November’.
As the years have passed, celebrations with bonfires and fireworks have been adopted into common culture and effigies of the pope have changed to effigies of Guy Fawkes.
If you do choose to celebrate with fireworks and bonfires this year, please stay safe. Keep hoods up, gloves on and trousers over wellies! Follow the firework code and please, please, please check for any wildlife that may have inadvertently taken up residence inside your unlit bonfire.
Enjoy yourselves and have fun!
Until next time…