It was Barbara Faulkner’s fourth visit to Capel Ladies Club to give us one of her many entertaining talks. This time, appropriately enough, it was all about Guy Fawkes.
We heard all the back story of how Guy Fawkes, a converted Catholic, was disillusioned by the continuing persecution of Catholics by Protestants in England. Having unsuccessfully tried to raise a Catholic rebellion in his own country, he went to Spain to join the Catholic cause in wars against the Dutch Protestants. It was here he became an expert in using gunpowder, and when the plotters back in England formed their plan to blow up Parliament they persuaded Guy to return and join their conspiracy. The rest is history and the story of how the plot was foiled and plotters arrested and later executed is well-known to us all.
For years afterwards Gunpowder Treason Day was decreed a Public Holiday, with church services, the firing of cannons and celebrations. Fireworks were added in the 1650s, and effigies of Guy Fawkes, or sometimes of the current Pope, were burnt on bonfires. Anti-Catholic feeling persisted up until the mid nineteenth century when laws about tolerance and freedom of worship were finally passed in England. However the customs around Guy Fawkes Night have persisted and are still very widely observed in our modern times.
We all reminisced about our childhood Bonfire Nights with soup, sausages and sparklers, and Catherine Wheels that refused to spin properly, and modest boxes of fireworks for family displays, so different from the organised, more sophisticated (and probably safer) gatherings today! At the end of Barbara’s talk we all repeated the old rhyme, “Remember, Remember the fifth of November…….” and let off party poppers en masse! A fun evening!