History of Guy Fawkes


 

Guy Fawkes or Bonfire night goes back in time to the failed plot known as the gunpowder plot This plot was planned to destroy the Houses of Parliament in London on the 5th November in 1605. It is said that Guy Fawkes (also known as John Johnson) and twelve other conspirators planted gunpowder under a pile of wood in the unused undercroft of the House of Parliament.

 

Their plan was exposed when someone was warned not to attend the meeting on that particular night arousing suspicions. Fawkes eventually admitted that he had not acted alone and all the plotters were executed except Percy and Catesby who were killed resisting arrest.

 

On the 31st January 1606 it is believed Robert Keys, Thomas Wintour, and Ambrose Rookwood were hung where they had planned to blow up the parliament. Guy Fawkes, although he was very weak after being tortured still managed to scale the ladder to be the last one hung.

Guy Fawkes no longer celebrated in Australia

 

In Australia we sadly do not celebrate Guy Fawkes Night anymore since the late 1970s. The use of fireworks by the Australian public was banned due to the risk of personal injuries from general misuse. There is one exception; you can still buy fireworks on the 1st of July on one day only in the Northern Territory. You are only allowed to set them off after 6pm on July 1.

Not sure at time of writing as to who governs this ruling on that particular day. I do know that the shop in Darwin was really busy when we walked past.

Celebrating every 5th November

Guy Fawkes or Bonfire Night was a long awaited night of expectation as a child. I can understand the safety aspects and reasons behind cancelling this great celebration. Many children took too many risks when lighting their firecrackers and rockets. This often caused injuries to unsuspecting victims, from pranks played by their friends.

The pranksters would set the larger crackers off behind people, which caused these injuries. Quite often a cracker or rocket would be lit and when it did not go off when expected the person would go to relight it. As they approached, it would suddenly explode. This caused many adults and children alike to have fingers blown off or suffer eye and facial damages. And for this reason they cancelled the celebration and sale of fireworks to the public.

What Guy Fawkes meant to us kids

We celebrated this event every year with great expectations of having a bigger and better bonfire than the year before. We lived in Wembley, in Western Australia on an acre property, with a couple of cows and sheep. We would spend hours preparing our bonfire for this night. My sister and I would drag all the dead branches that we could find quite often dragging them from the side streets to try and make it bigger than ever.

Once we were satisfied that we had made it bigger, we would dress up an image of Guy Fawkes to place right on top of the bonfire. We would draw a face and make up a frame like that of a scare crow and dress it up in some of dad's old clothes.

The anticipation of this great night was incredible. On one particular morning on the 5th of November my sister and I went out to make sure everything was just right. To our horror we found our bonfire strewn all around the ground. At first we thought the worst of our neighboring kids, thinking they had wanted to destroy our fun.

It wasn't until the following year that we caught the culprits in the act. It was our own cows, they were having a ball like two kids charging in and bunting the sticks and branches all over the place. They kicked up their heels and took off when they saw us coming. In the following years we made sure they were locked away in another paddock.

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Types of Crackers

There were all different sorts of crackers; from memory some of these were:

 

  • Tom thumbs- These were tiny little crackers that were bought on a string. You could set them off on a string or set them off separately. These were all red and green in color and each were about one mm thick and about 20mm long. Yes they were tiny and were pretty harmless but made a bit of noise especially when set off on the string.
  • Big Tom Thumbs-This was another one that was twice the thickness and twice as long and went off with a much louder bang.

 

  • Sparklers- You can still buy these today as they are harmless. These when lit, look like their name suggests they sparkle in the dark.
  • Pin wheels- You wouldpin these on a wall or post and when lit they would spin around like that of a wheel showering sparks as it spun.

 

    • Rockets- These were the best to see. They looked as they sound, a rocket with a stick protruding from the base. We used to place these upright in a bottle or tin whatever we could find and light the wick. Within a few seconds it would take off showering sparks of different colors into the night sky. Some would go off with a loud bang before falling to the ground.

 

Rockets were the ones causing most injuries to people as I explained earlier in the article. Today instead of having this pleasure the governments spends thousands of dollars on exorbitant displays of fireworks. These displays are not always relating to the original Guy Fawkes Night. Some are held on New Year's Eve to celebrate the old year out and the New year in. Others for different celebrations.

Wish we could still have Bonfire Night.

 

 

Guy Fawkes or Bonfire night

In Conclusion

Yes they did cause injuries; but if you were sensible and careful everyone could have a lot of fun. It was usually the daredevils that took chances causing these injuries.

This would have to be one of my best memories from my childhood. We had a ball, watching as the sky lit up with our rockets and other types of crackers. Preparation and expectation before that night was a main part of that fun time.

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