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Friday, November 05, 2010

Happy Birthday

Today is Golfyball senior's 405th birthday. Many happy returns Dad. Hard to believe that it was on this day in 1605, as my Nan was giving birth, a group of Catholics were trying to assassinate the King of England.  

That may not be entirely true....

My concious version of events as gleaned from conversations around bonfires while watching fireworks in my childhood is as follows:

"Guy Fawkes and his mates got caught under the houses of parliament in London trying to blow it up with some barrels of gunpowder.  He was burnt to death when they caught him."

That may also not be entirely true....

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot.
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot...

Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in the city of York, some 200 miles North of London. On November the 5th 1605 he was found underneath the Houses of Parliament about to ignite a large quantity of gunpowder. He was aged 35.

Born a protestant, he converted after his father died and his mother remarried to a Catholic.

It's not hard to see what set Guy on his pathway. in 1586, at the age of 16 he must have been all to aware of the the public execution of Margaret Clitherow in York, who was found guilty of harbouring priests in her home. As a catholic himself, he must have been terrified and angered.  Youthful rebellion and religion have a lot to answer for.

When he was 21, he sold up everything he owned in York (he'd inherited several properties) and joined the Catholic Spanish Army. During his 10 years in the Army, he commanded a unit of soldiers and learned all about explosives, was known by the name "Guido" and he met up with his old school friend from York "Christopher 'Kit' Wright".

The Catholics of England had lost all faith in King James. Even though he was married to a Catholic, he had not endeared the catholic population to his heart and if fact, their treatment under him had worsened. Rebellion was in the air. It was this that drove Guy & Kit to join Robert Catesby's conspiracy back in England and develop the now infamous "Gunpowder Plot"

The plot had involved tunneling under the Houses of Parliment, although this proved unfruitful and eventually another of the plotters, Thomas Percy, hired a cellar under the building. The plotters used coal and wood to disguise the barrels of gunpowder which the smuggled into the cellar in preparation for the State opening of Parliament on the 5th of November.

However, something wasn't going to plan. A letter was anonymously sent to Lord Monteagle, which you can take a look at here: Letter to Lord Monteagle  There's been much debate of the source of this letter, and Francis Tresham (one of the plotters) was a possible suspect not least because his sister was married to Lord Monteagle. The letter warns him to stay away from the state opening as there will be trouble.

Monteagle shared the letter with the King and on the 5th was amongst the men who found Guy (Guido) hiding in the cellars ready to ignite the powder.  Guy claimed his name was John Johnson, but after the discovery of the 36 barrels of gunpowder he was arrested and taken to the Tower of London.

Guy Fawkes was mercilessly tortured and gave up the names of the rest of the plotters, all of whom were hunted down and convicted of high treason, the punishment for which was death. In the end they were each Hung, Drawn and Quartered. Not a pretty sight.

In the UK, we "remember the 5th" every year by celebrating the capture of the man. We get together in large open spaces, build bonfires, make effigies of Mr Fawkes to burn on the bonfires, and set off thousands of pounds of gunpowder in the shape of fireworks. It's a great night out for all the family. Which brings me neatly back to my dad.

In the village that we grew up in, every year, he used to run the annual fireworks display throughout the 1980's.  He'd get people to bring their junk for burning to a field that he'd organised from one of the farmers. He'd manage fundraising to pay for the fireworks. He'd sort out food and drink for the villagers to enjoy for the evening, and he even went to the trouble of manufacturing wax and hessian flamming torches for the villages to use to light their way to the field. There's nothing better than warm wax dribbling through your fingers while you munch on a hot dog or hamburger and the heat of the fire turns your cheeks rosey red in the Autumn night.

I hold those events very dear to my heart and without my dad they never would have happened. I also completely understand why he gave it up. Health & Safety and the chattering classes could never enjoy such rebelliousness, even if the rest of us did. And of course, it was bloody hard work - especially on your birthday.

Thanks Dad, and a very happy birthday.

And on the subject of what to do tonight?  Get out there and see a firework display.  There's not a huge number of movies on the subject of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot, so nothing for me to recommend if you don't fancy watching grown men blow small things up.  That is, but for one notable exception.

I shall leave you with "V for Vendetta", the official site for which, is here: http://vforvendetta.warnerbros.com/

Take care.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous
 

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