Deputy Group Editor
1:01 AM 4th November 2023
Remember, Remember The Fifth Of November!
Bonfires are traditionally lit on the 5th November throughout England as this was when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
Image by 27707 from Pixabay
Who was Guy Fawkes?
What was the Gunpowder Plot?
Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in York, England and spent a decade fighting for Spain against Protestant rebels in the Spanish-controlled Netherlands. He also personally petitioned the king of Spain for help in starting an English rebellion against James. He was a member of a Catholic group of people who wanted to remove King James from power as he was a Protestant. James did not support religious tolerance for Catholics. In fact, Catholics were not fully emancipated in England until the 19th century.
The Gunpowder Plot was devised and Guy Fawkes and a few of his conspirators had arranged to light a fuse on some barrels of gunpowder which were being stored in a rented cellar below the House of Lords. This was to happen on 5 November 1605 during the opening of a new session of Parliament.
When the plot was uncovered Londoners started lighting bonfires in celebration and in January 1606 Parliament declared 5 November as a day of thanksgiving and Guy Fawkes Day became known as a festival.
Today an effigy of Guy Fawkes (often known as a ‘guy’) is still made and burned on the bonfire, along with setting off fireworks. Children in some parts of England walk the streets carrying a ‘guy’ and asking for “a penny for the guy”. They often chant the rhyme “remember, remember the fifth of November.......” This is quite similar to the American practice of ‘trick-or-treating’ which is now found in England today around Halloween.
Wildlife and bonfires
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) is urging people to build bonfires on the day they are to be lit to save hedgehogs and other wildlife from appalling suffering. This will not only save wildlife from burning to death but will also stop the bonfire from getting soaked should it rain the night before!
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
If a large bonfire must be built in advance, protect it whilst building by putting some chicken wire, at least one-metre-high, all the way around the bottom.
This should be held in place with stakes and the wire should slope outwards from the bottom at an angle to make it difficult to climb, as hedgehogs are good climbers!
In case you have missed anything light the fire from one side only and keep people away from the unlit side so that any hedgehogs can hopefully escape in peace.
If, whilst building, a bonfire is left unattended, for however short a time, it's imperative to check for young children, hedgehogs and other animals, including family pets, before lighting.
As hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet of the bonfire, check by gently lifting the bonfire section by section with a pole or broom.
Never use a spade or fork as these can stab them. Using a torch will help to see and listen for a hissing sound, as this is the noise they make when disturbed.
Going to an official organised fireworks display is a far safer option for both humans and animals!
For a happy, safe Bonfire Night follow these important rules:
Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash
Keep all fireworks safely in a firmly closed box
Make sure you follow each instruction on the fireworks carefully
Light all fireworks at arm's length
Never throw fireworks
Never keep fireworks in your pockets
Light sparklers one at a time, wearing gloves and never give sparklers to a child under five
Keep a bucket of water nearby for any emergency and for finished sparklers
Make sure any pets are kept safely out of harms way and indoors
Hedgehog populations are in decline in the UK, with a survey run by the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) indicating an alarming decrease in numbers over the last decade. The exact reasons for the decline of hedgehogs in Britain are not known for sure, although several factors are acknowledged as playing a part, including an increase in intensive agriculture and use of pesticides reducing the amount of prey available (hedgehogs feed on beetles, caterpillars and earthworms amongst other things).
Image by 12019 from Pixabay