Remember, Remember The Fifth Of November

Bonfire (photo Daniel Perkin)

Bonfire Night

Bonfire night is when we celebrate and remember, remember the failure of Guy Fawkes to blow up Parliament in 1605! (Anybody want to have another go?😁)

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

Gunpowder treason and plot

I see no reason why gunpowder treason

should ever be forgot

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ‘Twas his intent

To blow up the King and the Parliament

Three score barrels of powder below

Poor old England to overthrow

By God’s providence he was catch’d

Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring

Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King!

Traditional folk rhyme

The Guy

In my childhood I always thought we lit a bonfire and put a guy on the top of it because it was a re-enactment of history and to remember the fate of Guy Fawkes. This was totally wrong of course, as Guy Fawkes met his demise by leaping from the gallows breaking his neck (we all know that,right?) Thereby, avoiding the grisly fate of being Hung, Drawn and Quartered.

Why do we burn the guy? As we know, the real Guy Fawkes wasn’t burned at the stake. All my childhood belief in the ritual of burning a homemade body of stuffed old clothes topped with a mask was wrong! Burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes is just to celebrate foiling a plot to blow up Parliament and not because he died that way.

Bonfire word origin

I also, always thought that bonfire meant ‘good fire’ Another thing I’ve got wrong is the word ‘bonfire’ doesn’t mean ‘good fire’ as I thought it did! The French word for good ‘bon’ apparently has nothing to do with it. (I’m in good company for believing we stole the French word and prefixed it to ‘fire’, as Samuel Johnson thought the same!) The origin for the word is from Middle English and is ‘bone fyre’ literally ‘fire of Bones’.

Bone Fyre

But in worship of saints iohan the people woke at home & made all manner of fires.

On was clene bones & no wode & that is called a bone fyre

A nothir is clene wode & no Bones & that is called a wode fyre fore people to site & to wake there by.

John Mirk, 1486

Penny For The Guy

When I was a child, I would sit on the cold pavement beside my stuffed with newspaper dummy that was dressed up in my dad’s old clothes, until I got as floppy, slumped and limp as it was, and repeat the phrase, ‘Penny for the guy, penny for the guy’. And watch with delight, when the great big copper pennies clinked into the conveniently placed cap on the ground in front of my guy fawkes,. Of course, the money gained was immediately spent on fireworks! A rocket that would be placed in a glass milk bottle, a Catherine wheel and some sparklers. Sparklers are still my favourite fireworks today! To be enjoyed while eating pie and mushy peas.

Enjoy Guy Fawkes Night and stay safe!

That’s it for now,


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