Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Bonfire Night

Remember, remember 
The fifth of November;
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
We see no reason 
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Back in the early days of the 17th century, religious intolerance was rife in Merrie England.  James I of England (James VI of Scotland) was on the throne, the first of the Stuart dynasty to rule this faire countrie.  Catholicism had been subject to repression for decades but James, despite being a protestant, relaxed some of the more repressive laws.  Until he discovered that his wife had been sent a rosary by the Pope.  He denounced the Catholic church and ordered all Catholic priests to leave the country.  Catholics who refused to take an oath of loyalty to him as head of the church were to be fined heavily.  And so, in 1605, a group of Catholics under the leadership of Robert Catesby planned to smuggle into the cellars under the House of Lords 36 barrels of gunpowder, to be exploded on 5th November when the King was at the state opening of Parliament.

But the plot was revealed and Guido (Guy) Fawkes was discovered in the cellars, where he was to have ignited the gunpowder before escaping across the river Thames.

Since then, there have been bonfires and fireworks every year to commemorate the fact that this terrorist plot - for that is what it really was - came to nought.  I say since then, but the first recorded celebration was in 1607, at Canterbury.

It was in 1952 that the members of Brighton Lions Club agreed to pool their fireworks and put on a display at the Brighton Girls' Orphanage.  The practice continued for some years until it was decided to mount a large, public display to raise funds.  And that has continued ever since.  The surprising thing is that since I have been involved, some 27 years, there has been just one year when the display had to be cancelled because of rain.

Unfortunately, we will not be having a display this year as the outfield at the county cricket ground is being returfed and the work has proved more extensive than was at first thought.  When this became apparent it was too late for us to find an alternative venue, so for once, I shall be at home on the evening of Bonfire Night.  But it's about £15,000 that Brighton Lions won't have, so we shall have to be careful how we spend money for the next year.

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