Saturday, November 4, 2017


Gunpowder treason and plot,
Remember, remember the 5th of November,
Shall never be forgot.

So goes the rhyme that every schoolchild growing up in England learnt. It wasn't a pubic holiday, as it had once been, but it was a day with bonfires, fireworks, baked potatoes and treacle toffee. There will be no fireworks at this house but I shall enjoy my Gomphrena 'fireworks' in their place.

Despite having been in North America for 50 years we still remember that night in 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his followers rolled tens of barrels of gunpowder into a rented cellar beneath the House of Lords, with a plan to blow up the King and all the Parliamentarians. It was another case of religious intolerance. Following the death of Elizabeth 1 it had been hoped that the new King, James 1, would have a more kindly attitude to the Catholic recusants. It was not to be and his soldiers combed the land searching for Catholic priests who might be hiding out in the large country houses of Catholic families. (We have seen many priest holes in these houses on our visits back to England). The plot was foiled when the cellars were searched after what seems to have been a tip off. Guy Fawkes was arrested, tortured until he gave up the names of all who had been involved in the plot, after which he was hanged, drawn and quartered.
As a child there would be a bonfire in every neighborhood any spare plot of land. We would go around gathering wood to build a big bonfire and then make an effigy of Guy Fawkes( it used to be one of the Pope) to place on the top. Some children would take the effigy in an old pram collecting money for fireworks. "Penny for the Guy" was the oft' heard cry.
Last night we watched a new production by BBC recounting the events prior to and after November 5th. Nothing was spared in their portrayal of the agonies the Catholics endured. There were a number of complaints to the BBC about the ghastly scenes. I don't think we understood as children what it was all about. We just knew he was a bad guy who tried to kill the king. We had no idea of the suffering and treatment the Catholics endured in order to practice their religion. I am now asking myself. Did Catholic children stay home on bonfire night?
But more importantly has anything changed in the world?


  1. Thank you for explaining Guy Fawkes Day, Jenny - it was never clear to me why the effigies were burned in bonfires on that day. Sadly, the differences between people and their beliefs doesn't seem to be something the human population has yet learned to deal with constructively.

  2. When I walk at the gym I have been memorizing poetry. Someone asked me why, and I said it is so I can keep my sanity when we are all sent to the Gulag for protesting. A joke, of course, but sometimes I worry about where and how this mess we are in will end. Thanks for the history lesson.