Bonfire Night (for the benefit of those not too familiar with British history), is more accurately known as Guy Fawkes Night and is celebrated on November 5.
Guy Fawkes was a gentleman with Catholic tendencies who was clearly having issues with the Protestant Government of the time (1605) and decided that the best solution would be to blow up the Houses of Parliament! Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for the Houses of Parliament and the people inside, he was caught while setting up the barrels of gunpowder. His demise was sealed at that moment and he was sentenced to death as a message to all future anarchists. Given that the Houses of Parliament are still there, one must conclude that it was an excellent deterrent!
My first recollection of Bonfire Night was it being in the park, just around the corner*, which Valerie and I crossed to get to school. It was a community affair which somebody organized, and which entailed making a “Guy” (replica of Guy Fawkes) out of sacks stuffed with straw and then dressed with old clothes and a hat. Then there would have been requests for logs, branches and pretty much anything else that would burn
Just across the road from us was Jackson’s Boat Yard and on this occasion they supplied an old lifeboat which formed the mainstay of the bonfire. Guy Fawkes would have been duly tied in place at the top and, at a predetermined time in the evening, the bonfire was lit.
The families brought fireworks with them which they set off once the bonfire was burning, and there was cheering when Guy Fawkes caught fire and collapsed into the bonfire.
Once the bonfire was reduced to a small pile of burning wood and many glowing ashes, we put potatoes in amongst the ashes and waited for them to cook. I loved that smell of baking potatoes. Then, with a lot of fast finger movement and much “ooching and ouching” (because they were hot), we peeled off the skins, applied salt, and ate them ………….. Yummy! The potatoes were the best part of my evening. Well ……. that and staying up past my bedtime of course.
I would have to guess that our “lifeboat” bonfire was around 10-12ft high, and the circle of glowing embers for cooking potatoes around 8-10ft in diameter. To a little 7 year old lad, it would have appeared huge! That bonfire was still burning when we went home and to bed and, if I am remembering correctly, it was still smoldering the next morning.!
*See Dear Diary – Page 7