Please to remember


Please to remember
The Fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason plot.
I see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

In 1605, a group of English Roman Catholic conspirators were discovered to have stored some 1,800 pounds of gunpowder in a cellar under the House of Lords in the British Houses of Parliament. The idea was to wipe out King James I of England (VI of Scotland), his family, and most of the aristocracy (the Lords) by putting a match to the whole thing during the State Opening of Parliament.

One of the conspirators, however, was concerned that some of those who would be blown up were Catholics and wrote a letter of warning to Lord Monteagle. On November 5, 1605, the cellars were raided, and Guy Fawkes was discovered and arrested. Under torture, he revealed the names of his co-conspirators, who were rounded up or killed trying to evade capture. In January 1606, Fawkes and a number of the others were tried and found guilty of treason. They were hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Guy Fawkes and the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 are remembered every November 5 in England with fireworks and bonfires on which effigies of Guy Fawkes are burned (gruesome entertainment for children, when you think about it). One of the best parts was tucking potatoes at the base of the bonfire to bake in the embers. By the time the fireworks were over, the potatoes were cooked. The skins were charred and you always burned your fingers, but no baked potatoes have ever tasted as good as those.

In the days leading up to the 5th children used, when I was growing up, to haul the effigies around on makeshift carts or pushchairs (strollers), chanting, “Penny for the guy,” and collecting money for fireworks. I don’t know if they still do.


5 Responses to Please to remember

  1. Gerald says:

    Didn’t see any kids with guys this year at all. Fireworks seem to have been limited to Friday, Saturday and Sunday, three very noisy nights — only a handful earlier this month and late October. Some years it has been horrendous and in some parts of the UK anti-social behaviour is far too common.
    I hope the fireworks are now done until New Year.

  2. passante says:

    Burning the guy is horrible really, but I am still sorry to think that another old custom has died out. I read on various blogs about vandalism in England at Halloween and on Nov. 5th. That makes me very sad. I wonder why some people have to destroy things in order to have a good time.

  3. Dan Ward says:

    I was introduced to the “Please to remember” verse by the movie V For Vendetta. Quite an interesting film…

  4. Elisabeth says:

    Yesterday morning, Marty (my boyfriend) mentioned to me, as we were barely waking up, that it was Guy Fawkes day. I knew about it from having had a brief fling with a Brit, about 10 years ago.

  5. passante says:

    Well done, Marty!

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