Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot
This incendiary rhyme was part of my childhood, along with children begging ‘A penny for the guy’ in the run up to Bonfire Night on November 5th.
In those days Halloween wasn’t the popular festival it is now, so it was the home made guys that looked ghoulish. Mis-shapen scarecrow figures, often with a plastic devil mask for a face, slumped in a redundant pushchair.They would have looked at home in the League of Gentlemen’s Royston Vasey.
Children collected firewood to build their bonfires.
Fireworks could be purchased for pocket money, often supplemented by those famous pennies.
Ric racs and bangers terrified pets and small children. Mothers were advised to sew up their children’s trouser pockets to avoid accidental or deliberate injury.
The traditions of Bonfire Night combine with the story of Guy Fawkes and his failed attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605. He plotted with a group of English Catholics, and there are traditions that involve the guy representing the Pope, rather than Guy Fawkes.
Explosions have been part of the entertainment and commemoration since the earliest days.
Ordsall Hall in Salford has its own link with Guy Fawkes. The hall is the setting for the planning of the Gunpowder Plot in William Harrison Ainsworth’s novel Guy Fawkes, published in 1842.
There are many bonfire traditions up and down the country. Treacle toffee, parkin and other traditional foods are still part of the celebration. It’s a great time to remind ourselves of warmth and light and colour, as the dark days of winter approach.
Nowadays it’s a safety conscious evening of fun, fire and fireworks, and publicly organised bonfires have made life easier for all concerned, including the emergency services. Manchester holds a series of public bonfires in local parks.Nowadays firework displays are a far cry from a rocket in a milk bottle, a few damp squibs, sparklers that don’t catch light and a catherine wheel.