Anyone in the UK of my advanced age will remember this rhyme from childhood. It commemorates what is known here as Bonfire Night. Here in the UK we have fireworks on the 5 November to celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes and his group of what would now be called terrorists. In 1605 a group of catholic dissenters plotted and nearly succeeded in blowing up the House of Lords along with the King. Guy Fawkes is the only one really remembered as he was the one caught in the cellars of the House preparing to light the fuses of 36 barrels of gunpowder. This would certainly have destroyed them all.
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Bonfire night was a thing for children. Where we lived, on a relatively small estate, wood, cardboard and anything flammable was collected in preparation for the great night. Each street or small group of streets had its own bonfire. All the kids took part in the collection and construction of the fire was overseen by one of the older boys. There was much rivalry between streets and pilfering of flammable material from rival fires in advance was rife. One year in a despicable act of sabotage, one group set fire to ‘our’ bonfire two nights before – in an attempt to win that particular local bonfire battle. Our sense of righteous outrage knew no bounds. This of course spurred us all into further demands from our parents for more wood, more cardboard – more anything flammable to ensure that our 5th November conflagration was the best ever.
Fireworks were included but as I hated them, I didn’t take a great deal of notice other than remaining indoors. Yes after all this effort, I would allow myself to be taken to see the fire and possibly hold a sparkler and at the first hint of anything making a bang, would insist on being taken home. Adults were in charge of the fireworks and they appeared briefly in the early evening, to set them off in individual back gardens. I refused to experience more than one or two (through the window) of any that my parents had bought for me, so they were very short displays. They gave up buying them by the time I was seven or eight.
One of the main reasons for my hatred of them was the dreaded ‘banger’. These were fireworks that simply went ‘bang’. It sounds so innocent now, but I used to be petrified of one going off anywhere near me. In addition there were the terrifying Jumping Jacks that supposedly followed you with them banging and cracking all over the place. I am feeling quite faint just writing this.
Bonfire night now is a much longer affair. Fireworks are now adult entertainment and they are being used for at least a week either side of Bonfire Night – or Firework Night as it is now frequently termed. You can hear their noise every night here with some at 2 am on Sunday morning last weekend. These seem to be just one step up from the chaos of our childhood parties but now with alcohol and much bigger bangs.