How Falmouth remembers the 5th November

Josephine Walbank

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

Gunpowder treason and plot

We see no reason Why Gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot ….

Photography: Lauren Jane Shepherd
Photography: Lauren Jane Shepherd

On the 5th of November in 1605, a group of thirteen young Catholics, including Guy Fawkes, plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Today, 411 years later, Guy Fawkes remains Britain’s most notorious traitor, celebrated every year with bonfires, fireworks and the burning of an effigy resembling him.

After a precession of monarchs who were repressive of Catholicism, a group led by Robert Catesby planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament to improve the life of English Catholics. However, the plot failed because one member of the group sent an anonymous letter to a friend Lord Monteagle, telling him to not attend Parliament on November 5th, and the letter was discovered. 36 barrels of gunpowder were stored in a cellar directly underneath the House of Lords. Guy Fawkes, who was tasked with lighting the fuse, was found in the cellars of Parliament with the gunpowder and was arrested. Yet interestingly, it is believed that the gunpowder used in the plot would have actually done very little damage to Parliament, because experts now claim that the gunpowder would have “decayed”, and would not have sufficiently exploded even if it had been ignited.

On the night that the Gunpowder plot failed, bonfires were lit to celebrate the King’s safety, and every year since the event has been commemorated with fireworks, bonfires and burning of effigies which resemble Guy Fawkes and sometimes even the Pope. Today, as part of a continuing tradition, the monarch only enters Parliament once a year on the “State Opening of the Parliament”, and beforehand the Yeomen of the Guard search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster using lanterns to make sure there are no conspirators hiding in the cellars.

Today, Bonfire Night isn’t just celebrated in Britain: over time the tradition established itself in British colonies, so it is still celebrated in countries as far away as New Zealand and Canada. In the UK, celebrations continue throughout the country, but the only place in the UK that doesn’t celebrate Bonfire Night is in York at St. Peter’s School, which is Guy Fawkes’ former school, because they refuse to celebrate the occasion out of respect for a former student.
One of the ways in which the traditional celebrations have changed over time is, as a result of the use of the Guy Fawkes mask inspired by Alan Moore’s graphic novel ‘V for Vendetta’ (in which the main character was loosely based on Guy Fawkes, undertaking a modern day attempt to overthrow the government), on November 5th supporters of the ‘Anonymous’ anti-capitalist group take part in a ‘Million Mask March’ against political oppression whilst wearing the Guy Fawkes’ mask featured in the film.

In Truro on the 4th of November at Tremorvah Playing Field, there will be a huge fireworks display and bonfire, with over 1000 people attending last year, the event promises a great atmosphere. Gates open at 5pm, the bonfire will be lit at 5.45pm and the fireworks set off at 6.45pm. They will be selling hot food, sweets and drinks, as well as sparklers and glow sticks. A Guy competition will also be taking place during the evening. All proceeds raised during the evening will go to the local charities ‘Cornwall Air Ambulance and Penhaligon’s Friends’.

On the 5th November, Falmouth Cricket Club will have a firework display put on by the local fire brigade.  The gates open at 6pm and the fireworks themselves start at 7pm. The Local Cornish radio station Pirate FM will be attending the event, and will be playing music alongside the display.  Food, drink and entertainment will also be available.

In St Ives on November 5th, a fireworks display will take place at Porthminster Beach. The show starts at 6pm, and hot snacks, a BBQ, Toffee Apples and a Bar will be available throughout the evening.

Also at St Ives on November 5th, in Hemingford there will be another firework display. This will take place in the Park Field off London Road St Ives, PE27 5ER.  The Gates open 5:00 pm, the Bonfire will be lit at 5:30, and the fireworks show starts at 6:30. There will be various foods available including burgers, hot dogs, baked potatoes and a Hog Roast. The Hemingford Football Club will be providing Mulled wine, and the Axe and Compass will be serving alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. There will also be a Funfair with candy floss and tea. The organisers are local volunteers raising money for good causes, and the refreshments are provided by various service groups who are fundraising for their causes. Tickets for the event are sold at the Curiosity Gallery Market Hill in St Ives, the family ticket for 2 adults and 3 children costs £10 on the door, (but you can save £6 by purchasing the ticket in advance), a single adult ticket costs £5 and a child ticket is £2. Single tickets will also be sold at the gate on the night.

Photography: Lauren Jane Shepherd
Photography: Lauren Jane Shepherd