Folk-Lore/Volume 23/Guy Fawkes' Day

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Folk-Lore, Volume 23
Number 4 (December)

Guy Fawkes' Day

Folk-Lore.

TRANSACTIONS OF THE FOLK-LORE SOCIETY.


Vol XXIII.]
[No. IV.
DECEMBER, 1912.

GUY FAWKES' DAY.

BY CHARLOTTE S. BURNE.

(Read at Meeting, March 20th, 1912.)

The recrudescence of old customs in modern shapes, and the assumption of common forms by practices which have different origins, are matters of firstrate importance to the proper understanding and appreciation of folklore. The changing forms of a given custom, and the history of the circumstances and influences which have led to changes in any ascertained case, are therefore worth noting and recording.

The observance of the Fifth of November has an interest of its own. It shares with the Twenty-ninth of May, and with that alone, the peculiarity of being a specially English Calendar festival, referable to a known political event. But the distribution of the observance seems to be somewhat unequal, and the manner of it varies in different places. In the following notes I propose to call attention to these variations, and to suggest that some features at least of the celebration may have descended to it from an earlier festival

To begin with London:—We are all familiar with the. sight of parties of little boys carrying effigies about the streets on the fifth of November, shouting rhymes and hoping for coppers. What eventually becomes of the effigies I know not, but on November 5th, 1910, I saw children eagerly collecting some clippings of trees and hedges from the little forecourts and gardens in Kensington. "What are you going to do with them?" I asked. "Why, burn 'em!" replied a little boy, hastily stooping to pick up another stick before his companions could get it. They were far too much engrossed for further conversation, but the sticks were not suitable for ordinary fire-lighting, unless in a much more poverty-stricken class than these children appeared to belong to, so I conclude that they were meant for bonfires, if any space for lighting them could be found.

There were, I think, more Guy Fawkes effigies than usual in London in the year 1903, a sign, too probably, of want of work among the casual labourers. One procession, which I saw from my window in Kensington about the middle of the day, deserves notice:

"The 'Guy,' an unusually large one, was mounted in a small cart drawn by a pony. It was preceded, first, by a man ringing a bell, and then by two dancers, wearing costumes resembling that of a clown and masks of the common painted kind sold in the shops at this season, who danced up the street in front of the effigy in the real old style, lifting the arms in the air alternately, in time to the motion of the feet. [They did not sing or shout.] For musicians they had a man playing on a shrill long tin whistle or pipe, and another following the cart beating a drum. A man in women's clothes walked beside the cart, occasionally cutting a clumsy caper, as well as his clinging skirts would allow. The rear of the procession was brought up by the clown, capering and curveting and shaking his money-box. It was a poor vulgar show, no doubt, but it retained in its debased state several of the principal features of the old morris-dance. There were the time-honoured figures of the Fool and the Bessy, accompanying the dancers; the drum and penny whistle represented the ancient tabor and pipe; while the bell which the Fool formerly wore hung at his back, was now carried in the van to inform the householders of the passing of the show (very possibly the original purpose for which the bell was introduced)."[1]

In 1911 again I noticed a similar party, obviously composed of the "unemployed." There were only two dancers, but one of them was dressed in woman's clothes, a most persistent accompaniment of morris-dancing parties. What the fate of the effigies was I cannot say, and there was no rhyme or "ditty" used in either case, but on November 5th, 1901, I noted the following debased formula shouted by parties of boys carrying "Guys" down the same street in Kensington:—

  "Please to remember
  The fifth of November
   Should never be forgot.
  Guy, Guy, Guy!
  Hit 'im iu' the eye!
Stick 'im up the chimney-pots, and there let 'im lie!"

In 1893 I came across Guy Fawkes in the watering-places of the south-eastern counties, where the observance of the day assumes much greater importance. At Hastings I saw placards announcing the grand procession which would pass through the town on the occasion, carrying effigies (if I remember rightly), and winding up with a bonfire, in which, as a quondam "Bonfire Boy" of Hastings afterwards told me, the effigies were burnt. The rhyme they sang he gave me as follows:—

"Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot;
I see no reason why Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
A stick and a stake
For King George's sake!
Holla, boys! holla, boys! make the town[2] ring!
Holla, boys! holla, boys! God save the King!
  Hip, hip, hooray!"

At Eastbourne, according to the same informant, the festival is postponed to the ninth of November (Lord Mayor's Day).

At Rye, in 1893, I saw placards similar to those displayed at Hastings

"announcing the intended doings of the 'Borough Bonfire Boys,' the route to be taken by the procession, and the place determined for the bonfire, in which the effigies would be consumed, and warning all persons against giving anything towards the funds for the bonfires if not solicited by the authorised 'Bonfire Boys.'

"At Folkestone I saw the procession itself, on Monday [evening, November 6th]. It consisted of carts or waggons (cars they were styled), decorated, and containing tableaux vivants contributed by the different Friendly and other Societies in the town. Thus, the Ancient Order of Druids sent a party of Ancient Britons; the car provided by the [late] Rev. E. Husband's Working Boys' Club represented 'Algeria,' where Mr. Husband [was then] staying; the Mutual Benefit Society's car represented 'Labour,' as exemplified by a blacksmith at his forge shoeing a live pony. The Butchers' Trade Car (sent, I fear, by one firm only, not by the trade) conveyed a live bullock, with a man with a pole-axe standing by his head. The Fire Brigades also took part in the procession, and so did no less than four fife-and-drum bands. The whole was lighted by torches and Chinese lanterns, and followed a prescribed route through the town, stopping at intervals to collect money, which was given to the Victoria Hospital. ... I learnt the following particulars [from the Secretary, Mr. C. Buzan, nursery-gardener]:—

"The 5th November was formerly kept in Folkestone with a great deal of rowdyism, squibbing in the streets, breaking windows, and mischief of all kinds, accompanying the usual carrying of effigies, and burning them in a bonfire on the outskirts of the town. Especially was this the case in the older streets, as High Street and Tontine Street. But I could not learn that the fishing population took any special part, or that there was any feud between them and the landsmen on that occasion. Some five or six years [before my visit] an attempt was made by the Friendly Societies of the town to remedy the disorder by organising a joint procession on the lines of the celebration at Eastbourne, which should occupy the [hooligans] by drawing them to its line of march. They retained the effigies and the bonfire, and paid their expenses and remunerated themselves by the collection made on the way. This only partially succeeded in checking disorder, and when, after November 5th, 1890 (as I understand), there was a difficulty about the accounts, this young man Buzan, and some friends, resolved to reorganise the affair on a plan which he had seen carried out by the Temperance Societies at Ashford, of which place he is a native. They got every society of working men or boys in the town to send delegates to form a Carnival Society, as they drolly call it. Every member of this society pays one penny a week through the year, which entitles him to a ticket for their annual dinner, and leaves a margin for the expenses of the procession. They also obtain subscriptions towards the expenses from the leading men of the town, so that all the money collected on the line of march is clear profit, and is handed over to the Victoria Hospital in the town. They carry no effigies, and 'strictly avoid personalities,' said Mr. Buzan; neither is there any bonfire. The result"

forms a marked contrast to the very decadent survival I witnessed in London ten years later. It

"is curiously like a mediæval [Corpus Christi] trades procession, such as lingered within memory at Shrewsbury, and, as I believe, still exists in some Midland towns. But the present form of the Folkestone custom is quite modern, though"

unconsciously to the performers it reverts to an old type.[3] Any expression of popular feeling seems liable to reproduce old traditional forms.

What sort of celebration lies at the back of the modernized Folkestone custom may be seen by the example of Lewes, where Bonfire Night is a perfect saturnalia which involves shuttering or boarding up windows and the importation of a hundred constables from Brighton. Several Bonfire Societies are formed in the town, which get up independent processions with bands, fancy dresses, tar-barrels, Bengal lights, and effigies filled with fireworks. Not content with Guy Fawkes, they also represent the Pope and any notorious criminals of the year. At five o'clock they meet in Commercial Square, where a mock Archbishop leads the "Bonfire Boys' Prayers," which consist of a doggerel condemnation of Romanism and the Gunpowder Plot. Then the grand procession forms up, marches to a special tune through the streets, and breaks up again into its component parts, each of which wends its way to its own gigantic bonfire, where its own effigies are burnt.. An interesting incident is that the Borough Boys throw a burning tar-barrel from the bridge into the river, which marks the boundary between the town and the Cliff, which is the local area of the Cliff Boys.

The ceremony has undergone ups and downs and modifications from time to time, of which Mr. Arthur Beckett, from whose Spirit of the Downs (cap. xviii.) I have taken these particulars, gives a full account. "The event," he says (p. 205), "is looked upon in the light of a local ritual," . . . and the professed horror of Romanism is only an "excuse for a license for men to lose their reason during a few short hours in the year" (p. 204). He attributes the prevalence of Bonfire festivities in the south-eastern counties to the example of Lewes.

He is probably unacquainted with the observances at Guildford, of which Miss Freire-Marreco sends me an account.[4]

Guildford was for many generations notorious for its riots. Its Fifth-of-November disturbances were special, and all who had any grievance against their fellow-townsmen united to use the occasion for acts of revenge. All the tradesmen in the High Street closed their places of business early in the day, and many of them barricaded their shop fronts and provided appliances for extinguishing fire. The rioters, generally known as the guys, assembled outside the town, and entered the High Street early in the morning. They came marching along in military fashion, many of them carrying lighted torches and bundles of chips and faggots. They were armed with formidable bludgeons, and were disguised in all kinds of grotesque costumes. "Their cry will never be forgotten by anyone who ever heard it. It was a thrilling, piercing note of peculiar intensity, and was a warning for all peaceable citizens to be on their guard." A huge bonfire was rapidly built and lighted opposite Holy Trinity Church, and upon it were piled all kinds of gates, palings, and palisades that had been broken down by the victorious rioters and taken from the houses of all to whom they owed a grudge. Sometimes even doors, carts, and household appliances were seized and burnt. Fireworks were let off; the rioters danced round the fire, and went up and down the street, insulting those they met, breaking windows, and doing other damage. It was known that many otherwise peaceable citizens took part in the riots, and more than once a disguised rioter found to his horror that some of the woodwork he was helping to destroy came from his own premises.

In 1863 the Guys came out on the Prince of Wales's wedding-day, March 10th, as well as on November 5th. That year Mr. P. W. Jacob was elected Mayor on the understanding that he should continue in office till the riots were put an end to. He was Mayor for four years. In 1864 a police-constable died of the wounds he received in the fray, but his assailants were not captured. In 1865 occurred the worst riot of all, in which another policeman was almost killed. Mr. Jacob armed the constables with cutlasses, swore in special constables,—some of them men who were believed to be connected with the riots,—sent for a body of Lancers, and had the streets cleared. Four men were afterwards brought to trial. This was the last serious riot. That of 1866 was quickly dispersed by cavalry, and a final attempt in 1868 was broken up by the police and special constables.[5]

I have also a few notes from the south-western coast:—

At Exeter (so I am told) the crowds that assembled for the annual bonfire and burning of tar-barrels in the Cathedral Close were so rowdy that the military were regularly turned out to preserve order, and one year, it is said, were forced to fire on the crowd. The celebrations have been discontinued only quite recently, and on account of the danger to the cathedral fabric from the close proximity of the burning tar-barrels.

At Teignmouth the day is considered a holiday. The shops shut early, and the people hold a regular festival, firing off rockets, burning notorious persons in effigy, etc.

At Ilfracombe I have a childish, but distinct, memory of seeing parties of boys carrying effigies on November 5th, 1859. They brought them round to the houses, sang, or rather shouted, the rhyme "Remember, remember, the Fifth of November" (as on page 411), rang at the doors, and asked for money, as the girls did with dolls on the First of May. One party, I remember, carried, not an effigy, but a living man with his face blackened. I heard of a living man being also carried round at Bridgewater in 1910.[6]

There is, I think, good ground for the surmise that "Guy Fawkes" did not originate the Fifth of November celebrations, but merely took over a pre-existing custom observed at the season, and transferred it to a different date. In the first place, the date is popularly known as "Bonfire Day" or "Bonfire Night" equally with "Guy Fawkes' Day," and, further, there is not always a "Guy"! The Folkestone effigies have been dropped, as we have seen, of late years. At Bosham, near Chichester, there is reported to be a procession of "Bonfire Boys" in fancy dress winding up with a bonfire, but there is no "Guy." At Liphook, in Hampshire, the boys "let off fireworks, light a public bonfire, and for days beforehand run about in masks, but they have no Guy."[7] According to the same correspondent, Guy is never seen at Wakefield in Yorkshire either. Another testifies that he is unknown in Swaledale, and the same is averred of Lincolnshire by Miss Peacock in the north of the county, and by a correspondent of Notes and Queries in the south.[8] Unpopular public or local characters are sometimes burnt in effigy, but there is no regular Guy, or at any rate only recently. Neither, says Miss Partridge, are Guys known at Redditch in Worcestershire. When I was making collections for Shropshire Folklore I was told that it was, or had been, customary at the farmhouses to have each one a bonfire on the Fifth of November, which agreed with the impression I had derived in childhood from servants and labourers when I talked to them of what I had seen at Ilfracombe. I only heard of carrying or burning effigies at Ludlow, where "Bonfire Day" or "Night" was a rowdy occasion, and the "Guys" frequently represented unpopular local personages, as well as the historical Fawkes.

From the evidence so far one might have been inclined, nothwithstanding the cases of Lewes and Guildford, to suggest that effigy-burning was a seafaring custom, but the inland instances of Ludlow, Bedford,[9] South Nottinghamshire,[10] Cheltenham, Minchinhampton,[11] and Nailsworth (Gloucestershire), and Headington, near Oxford,[12] in all of which places "Guys" are in evidence, forbid this idea.

In Lancashire, according to Harland and Wilkinson's Lancashire Folklore,[13] the Fifth of November is kept "in towns by the effigy of Guy Fawkes being paraded about the streets and burnt at night with great rejoicing, and by the discharge of fireworks. In the country the more common celebration is confined to huge bonfires, and the firing of pistols and fireworks." In some places the boys go about begging coal for the bonfire for some days previously. But the practice of effigy-burning or otherwise is not invariably a matter of town versus country, for in the villages of South Nottinghamshire it was always usual. Local religious sympathies, as Miss Peacock suggests,[14] no doubt had a great deal to do with it. Mr. C. C. Bell, our authority for Nottinghamshire, testifies to the Protestant bigotry which prevailed among the villagers in his younger days. And the Lancashire towns were notoriously Presbyterian in the seventeenth century. In Staffordshire, on the other hand, where the observance of the day is practically confined to boys with squibs and crackers, there are little settlements of hereditary Romanists down to the present time.[15] Whatever be the cause of the variations, the existence of annual bonfires without effigies certainly suggests[16] that the bonfire is an older institution than the effigy-burning, and therefore older than 1605.

Scotland and Ireland were of course little affected by the plot against the English Parliament, and even Wales probably took it philosophically.[17] Accordingly, we do not find the Fifth of November observed outside England. But we do find autumnal bonfires lighted at "Hallowmas," or the Eve and Days of All Saints and All Souls (Oct. 31st, Nov. 1st and 2nd). In North Wales in the early eighteenth century, according to Pennant, a great bonfire was made on Allhallows Even (Oct. 31st) in a conspicuous spot near every house; divination by white stones marked and thrown among the ashes was resorted to, and the family said their evening prayers turning round the dying fire.[18] If a stone were missing in the morning, he or she to whom it belonged would die during the year. In Scotland, in Perthshire, Aberdeen, and Buchan, the fires were kindled for the village or parish, as well as for individual farmers' families, similar divinations were resorted to, and sometimes a burning faggot was carried round the fields.[19] In Ireland, owing perhaps to climatic causes, in place of bonfires, candles are distributed and burnt, and the boys think themselves privileged to loot their neighbours' cabbage-gardens.[20] In the Isle of Man, Hallowmas is observed by Old Style, and the bonfires there therefore coincide with Martinmas.[21]

To turn to other details of the Hallowmas festival:—Burns's "Hallow E'en," with its long list of love-divinations practised that night in Ayrshire, is familiar to us all. Even recently "bobbing for apples" was a favourite sport of the season in Wales, and Pennant mentions the distribution of "soul-cakes" to the poor. Aubrey tells of the dole of "soulcakes" on the English side of the Marches, and Tusser speaks of the provision of seed-cakes for the ploughmen's Hallowmas supper. Now several of these customs,—divinations, and begging for apples, cakes, and ale for the festival,—still linger in England, but divorced from the firecustoms. It would be strange if the latter had never existed. And, in fact, a few cases of them have been recorded. Sir William Dugdale noted in 1658 that "anciently" the master of the family used to carry a bundle of lighted straw about his corn on All-hallow Even,[22] and a correspondent of the Gentleman's Magazine, 1788, noted "a custom observed in some parts of the kingdom among the Papists" of carrying blazing straw called a Tinley round their grounds on the Eve of All Souls.[23] In the same periodical, in November, 1784, it is stated that "at the village of Findern in Derbyshire the boys and girls go every year in the evening of the 2nd of November (All Souls' Day) to the adjoining common, and light up a number of small fires amongst the furze growing there, and call them by the name of Tindles."[24] In the same county, Derbyshire, in the early nineteenth century, the Dufiield people used to celebrate their Wake,—or rather that of Kedleston, the next parish,—which fell on the Sunday after All Saints' Day, "as the fifth is in other places, minus the Guy." On moonlight nights for some time previously the young men harnessed themselves to a cart and looted all the dead wood they could find; they collected money to buy coal, and early on the Monday morning made "a splendid fire," after which they went off with noise and "rough music" to the squirrel-hunt in Kedleston Park, as related in Folk-Lore.[25]

Besides the bonfires, there are other customs connected with Hallowmas which are now observed on Guy Fawkes' Day. The ringing of the church bells, which forms so marked and constant a feature of the Gunpowder Treason celebrations, was one of the special rites of Hallowmas, when the bells were rung all night on the Eves or Vigils of the two consecutive feasts of All Saints and All Souls. The practice was specifically forbidden as "superstitious" by both Henry VIII. and Elizabeth.[26] The Hallowmas "soul-cakes," which lingered in Shropshire almost within living memory, are replaced in the North of England by the Fifth of November Lancashire "parkin" or South Yorkshire "thar-cake,"[27] an unleavened cake of oatmeal, butter, and treacle.[28] The annual license to rob the neighbours' cabbage-gardens on Hallow E'en in Ireland (where the boys burn the old stumps and fumigate others' houses with the smoke),[29] compares with the Oxfordshire boys' belief, often carried into practice, that they are at liberty to take forcible possession of any firewood, provided they have repeated the bonfire rhyme.[30] In Yorkshire and Lincolnshire it is thought that anyone may lawfully shoot all over the manor on Guy Fawkes' Day, and the belief was frequently put in practice in the early part of the nineteenth century. The licensed rowdyism of the south-country towns also agrees with this. These additional points of likeness between the old and the new festivals make the transference of the bonfires from one to the other the more probable.

Mr. John Nicholson[31] describes the Fifth of November as a much-observed holiday in country places in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The harvest has been finished, the stubble grazed off, the hedges trimmed; the thorns and clippings are saved up for a great bonfire, and the boys gather stores of fuel for weeks previously. On the eve of the great day the youths go round the village and strike the doors of the cottages with babbles, i.e., leather bags each having a stone inside and a string attached to it. At 11 a.m. on the Fifth, the eldest apprentice in the village goes to the church "to put the bell in," i.e., to ring a signal bell at the sound of which the apprentices leave work and the children school, and the holiday begins. "The church bells ring vigorously all day; amateurs help the regular ringers to keep them going, and much ale is consumed in the belfry. Some farmer lends a field and gives straw for the bonfire, and all bring their contributions. In the evening the fire is lighted; guns and pistols are fired, squibs and rockets let off, and youths run about with burning besoms dipped in tar; while the children dance and shout,

'Gunpowder plot
Shall never be forgot
So long as Old England
Stands on its spot.'"

But there is no mention of a Guy nor of a procession. In fact, but for the date and the rhyme, the whole festival might be just the same had the "plot" never been "contrived To blow up the King and the parliament alive."

Though the day is not kept in the East Riding villages with the ceremonial usual in towns, yet you will notice that it is not relegated to the small boys only, as in most country places, but observed as a general holiday, equally with the Duffield Hallowmas Wake in Derbyshire. The reason why it thus flourishes probably lies in the fact that Yorkshire and Derbyshire are among the few counties in England where the servants' annual hirings take place in November, when the year's work on the land is completed, and the winter season begins. For the first of May and the first of November are still reckoned by old-fashioned people as the beginning of the two seasons. Summer and Winter, and the beginning of Winter, among Celtic and Teutonic peoples alike,[32] was anciently the beginning of the year. And to farming men of Peakland and the East Riding, who move from place to place at the beginning of November, Winter is in a very real sense the beginning of the year. A general holiday, rejoicing over a year's work completed and a year's wages earned, and a bonfire to make a clearance of the year's accumulated rubbish, even to the old brooms with which it has been swept up, forms a very appropriate winding-up of their term of service, even apart from any more mystical associations, any "looking before and after," any memories of the Departed, any pryings into futurity, that may accompany the sports. If Guy Fawkes' Day superseded Hallow E'en, it superseded not only a festival of the Church, but an indefinitely ancient New Year celebration.

In the Island of Guernsey, Guy Fawkes was of course unknown. But in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, on New Year's Eve, the boys were wont "to dress up a grotesque figure which they called "le vieux bout de l'an, and after parading it through the streets by torchlight, to end by burying it on the beach in some retired spot, or to make a bonfire and burn it.[33] The practice fell into abeyance, but "some time in the second quarter of the nineteenth century an English family of small farmers started a Guy Fawkes celebration in the island. To the country people the name 'Guy Fawkes' meant nothing," but the resemblance to their ovv^n custom must have struck them forcibly, for they invariably called the "Guy" the "bout de l'an," or, as they spelt it, "budloe."[34]

And now I want to launch a theory. The dates chosen for annual bonfire festivities are always on the eve of the festival, not on the day itself. We have the Beltane fires on May Eve, the St. John's fires on Midsummer Eve, the November fires on Allhallows Eve, the Yule-log on Christmas Eve: we also have the carrying of the Clavie or burning tar-barrel round the town of Burghead (in Morayshire) on New Year's Eve, and the similar fire-festival of Uphellya Night in Shetland on the same date. I should like to suggest that fire-festivals here and elsewhere mark the end of the old year or the end of a particular season,—according to the calendar observed,—just as the lighting or giving of new fire marks the beginning of a new one. The bonfire is a destruction of the bad luck and rubbish of the past, so that it shall never return to vex the future, something as the destruction of the property of a dead man by fire or water prevents his ghost from returning to haunt the living. For bad luck and ghosts have this in common, that they are both conceived of as something haunting, clinging, difficult to be got rid of. It may be remembered that, when Mr. T. W. Thompson mentioned to a gipsy woman that he proposed to visit a rival family of gipsies, she begged him to do no such thing, for he would come back and bring all their bad luck and poverty and disease in his clothes and give it to her children.[35] And only a few months back an Irishman told me of "the Parson's Bush near me home at Elphin, where a parson kem to a violent ind, and whin some men wint to cut it down it bled, and they had to lave it, for that was his shilter, his Purgatory, clinging to the leaves, for ye can have yer Purgatory anny wheer and they say the air is full of sperrits."

Just as the ghost is banished by burning its clothes, so, it strikes me, is the bad luck of the past year or season banished by burning its rubbish on the eve of a new one. It would take the wide reading, the industry, and the skill of a Dr. J. G. Frazer to work out and fully establish this idea, and I will now only mention one or two cases which seem to support it. The North Indian Diwali or Feast of Lamps is held on the last day of the moon in the month Kartik (October-November). On this night all the houses are cleaned, set in order, and lighted up, to receive the souls of the dead, who are expected to re-visit their homes. A woman takes a winnowing-sieve and a house-broom and beats them in every corner of the house, saying, "God abide and poverty depart!" The well-known Holi Festival of the Hindus has probably, says Mr. Crooke, been adopted by them from the Dravidian tribes. It occurs in early spring, at the full moon of the month Phalgun. On this occasion, in Nepál, a decorated wooden post is burnt in front of the palace, and represents the burning of the body of the Old Year, And among the hill-tribes of Mirzapur, the Baiga or village priest burns a stake, a rite which is called sambat jalána, "the burning of the Old Year." From this date the New Year begins, says Mr, Crooke.[36]

At the meeting of the Anthropological Institute on March 5th last, Mr. N. W. Thomas showed a photograph of one of the groves in which the women in some of the tribes of Southern Nigeria throw all their old brooms and pots at the end of the Old Year. They do not burn them, but store them as it were in these groves, where they are never touched, for it would bring back all the bad luck of last year to disturb them.

To sum up:—I take it that the celebration of Guy Fawkes' Day may be considered as an ecclesiastico-political festival instituted in the early seventeenth century. It was, and is, confined to England, where it took root sporadically, more in the South than the North, more in towns than in the country, and its observance was a good deal affected by local theological leanings. It superseded the older festival of Hallowmas, taking over the bonfires, the bell-ringing, and the general liberty which characterized the older festival, and in some cases also the festival cakes. But it did not adopt the divinations, nor the charitable old custom of remembrance of the departed, which was out of harmony with the theology of the time; and Hallowmas lingered on beside it with "maimed rites" as an ecclesiastical festival and an agricultural date. The First of November and the First of May are still, in country places, the dates for beginning and leaving off fires, housing the cattle for the winter and turning them out to pasture in the summer. May and November, or Whitsuntide and Martinmas, are the times for entering into yearly or half-yearly tenancies or service contracts in many parts of England as well as in Scotland; and, most curious of all, the chief magistrate of every municipality in England still observes the ancient pre-Roman calendar, and enters on his year of office in November.

Charlotte S. Burne.

  1. Folk-Lore, vol. xv., pp. 106-7. I must apologise for thus repeating myself, but this and another similar extract seem needful to the coherence of this paper.
  2. Generally bells.
  3. Folk- Lore, vol. iv., p. 40. The late Mr. Alfred Nutt added this note to the above:—"Substantially the same practices and the same modes of carrying them out obtain at Hampstead. I have, unfortunately, not kept my programme of the last fifth of November procession, but a good account, with illustrations, may be found in the Daily Graphic for November 6th [1893]." Some interesting details of the observance of the festival in the seventeenth century will be found in The Treasury for December, 1912.
  4. Abridged from G. C. Williamson, Guildford in the Olden Time (1904), pp. 184-187.
  5. The weapon used by the ringleader in 1865 is in the possession of Mr. Williamson, the authority for the above account. It is a thick staff some three feet long, thickly studded with square hobnails and projecting iron "brads," with a sharp spike at the upper end, while the lower end is roughened to give a grip. It is painted green, and is marked "V.R." in imitation of the staves of the special constables.
  6. At Ramsgate fifty or sixty years ago "boys personated Guy Fawkes, and not lay figures as is usual in most places." J. L. André, in Folk-Lore, vol. v., p. 343.
  7. Folk-Lore, vol. xiv., p. 89.
  8. County Folklore, vol. v. (Lines.), p. 211.
  9. Folk-Lore, vol. xiv., p. 188.
  10. Ibid., p. 187.
  11. Miss Partridge writes:—"Both bonfires and Guys are known in this district (Minchinhampton). About four years ago a notorious offender against morality was burned in effigy on Nov. 5th at Nailsworth, two miles from here. But both bonfires and Guys are less common than twenty years ago." At Cheltenham, so Miss Moutray Read informs me, "fireworks,—squibs for the most part,—are the great feature of the anniversary, but bonfires and Guys had their share of attention, and the first four lines of the bonfire rhyme given on p. 411 were sung."
  12. Folk-Lore, vol. xiv., p. 188.
  13. P. 252.
  14. Folk-Lore, vol. xiv., p. 89. At Coventry, which was a noted Parliamentary stronghold in the seventeenth century, the Fifth of November is celebrated uproariously. For days beforehand boys with masks or blackened faces go from house to house begging for money to expend on bonfires and fireworks. (Oral information from residents, November, 1912.)
  15. It was in an old house on the borders of Staffordshire and Worcestershire, very familiar to me, that the conspirators took refuge after the Plot was discovered, and were finally run to earth.
  16. As was pointed out by a correspondent of Folk-Lore, vol. xiv., p. 90.
  17. The nearest approach to a Welsh celebration of Guy Fawkes I have met with is at Newport (Mon.), which is of course politically in England. There, according to an unpublished note of our late member, Mrs. Dunnill, the boys every year roll a blazing tar-barrel down Stow Hill,—a principal thoroughfare of the town.
  18. (Ellis') Brand, Popular Antiquities etc, vol. i., p. 389 (1848).
  19. Statistical Account of Scotland, in Brand, vol viii., p. 388; and W. Gregor, Notes on the Folk-Lore of the North-east of Scotland, p. 168.
  20. Folk-Lore, vol. xviii., p. 438.
  21. A. W. Moore, Folklore of the Isle of Man, p. 122.
  22. Brand, op. cit., vol. i., p. 391.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Vol. xiv., p. 189.
  26. Brand, op. cit., vol. i., p. 394.
  27. Folk-Lore, vol. xix., p. 337.
  28. At Grinton and Reeth in Swaledale gingerbread, and sticks of a kind of toffee known as "Tom Trots," are made and eaten. (Information from correspondents.) At Ramsgate muffins split and spread with treacle are provided. (Folk-Lore, vol. v., p. 343.)
  29. Folk- Lore, vol. xviii,, p. 438.
  30. Several Oxford variants of this appear in Folk-Lore, vol. xiv., p. 176, and Brand, op. cit., vol. i., p. 398.
  31. Folk-Lore of East Yorkshire, p. 15.
  32. Sir J. Rhys, Lectures . . . Celtic Heathendom (Hibbert Lectures), pp. 514, 676.
  33. Guernsey Folk-Lore, p. 36.
  34. E. F. Carey in Folk-Lore, vol. xvii., p. 449.
  35. Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, April, 1911, p. 270.
  36. Popular Religion &c of Northern India (2nd ed.), vol. ii., pp. 295, 319.