…the Fifth of November; Gunpowder, Treason and Plot!
I feel like this could be one of the rare historic events that people know the date and month more than the actual year. Could you tell me off the top of your head when the assassination attempt took place? I had no idea, and so went looking to find out a little bit more about ‘Bonfire Night’.
Bonfire Night is a celebration of a foiled assassination attempt on James I, King of England in 1605. This was primarily a religious conspiracy, led by Guy Fawkes, to restore Catholicism in England. Now a household name, the first weekend in November is always marked with firework displays and bonfires in remembrance of his failure. It turns out, that in 1606, an Act of Parliament helped to cement this day in our heritage by marking it as a day of thanksgiving.
This act was abolished in 1859, as religious toleration was growing; the day was seen as a divide between the success of the Protestants, and the failure of the Catholics. But throughout the 19th century, firework parties and bonfires became far more common, and the old folk song appeared around 1870. While many know the first verse(or four lines), I’d never heard, nor been aware of the whole song.
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England’s overthrow.
But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
A stick and a stake
For King James’s sake!
If you won’t give me one,
I’ll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!”
This appears to be a collection of different sources – but it was really interesting to see the story the song tells!
I love fireworks, and that love has been rekindled this year, after a couple of years of not attending fireworks displays. The explosions of colour, and the sheer range of shapes, patterns and cracks that people have thought up are amazing, and so imaginative. This week in both kids group and youth, we were looking at the creation of fireworks and how beautiful they are; and there really is a sense of magic about them.
Have you been to any firework displays or bonfires this year? If so, have you thought at all about the reason we celebrate? For any non-UK readers – do you think Bonfire Night is a totally bizarre celebration? Get in touch and let me know!