Folk-Lore/Volume 5/Guy Fawkes on the South Coast

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Folk-Lore, Volume 5
Number 1 (March 1894).
Guy Fawkes on the South Coast
by Alfred Nutt

Miss Burne communicated the following notes on present Fifth of November observances in the South of England:—

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.

At Rye I saw similar placards, 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, the 6th inst. 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 Rev. E. Husband's Working Boys' Club represented "Algeria", where Mr. Husband is at present 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 poleaxe standing by his head. The Fire Brigades also took part in the procession, and so did no less than four fife-and-arum 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 did not get a very good view of it, but I afterwards obtained a printed programme, which gave me the name of the secretary, Mr. C. Buzan, who is employed in a nursery garden at Folkestone, and from whom I learnt the following particulars:—

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 ago 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 hobbledehoys 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 is curiously like a mediaeval 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 custom is quite modern, though it reverts apparently to an old type. Still, the changing forms of an old custom, and the history of the circumstances and influences which have led to a change in one ascertained case, may not be without interest to members of the Folk-lore Society, though I scarcely think with Mrs. Buzan, to whom I explained the reason of my questions, that the result of my inquiries will be "a little en-courage-ment" to them.

[Substantially the same practices and the same modes of carrying them but 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. —A. N.]