Celebrated on November 5th in Newfoundland.
If you are lucky enough to live in Newfoundland ; most of you are familiar with Guy Fawkes Night. Do you know just who Guy Fawkes is? Are you familiar with the origin of this celebration? Just how did his name become synonymous with Bonfire Night in Newfoundland?
Guy Fawkes Night originates from a conspiracy that dates way back to the year 1605; in London, England. It was a very daring scheme hatched up by a radical group of English Catholic people. Lead by Robert Catesby; their sole intention was to overthrow the ruling English Protestant government and establish a Catholic Monarch on the throne. So they plotted to bomb the House of Lords in Westminsterl; with King James 1 in it.
The Gunpowder Plot
Now; just how did they go about this lavish scheme you say? Well; they leased a room under the Parliament building and They proceeded to fill this room up with 2 tons of gunpowder. Obviously security; at the time, was lax and this activity went unnoticed for quite some time. But rumors began circulating in the city of a plot to bomb the House of Lords. Eventually; the authorities got wind of this dastardly deed. On the morning of November 5, 1605; King James 1 and his members of Parliament were set to re-convene. Due to the present rumors of a threat a thorough search was conducted of the Parlisment Buildings. Low and behold; they found one Guy Fawkes lurking in the cellar; guarding a massive collection of explosives.
The Capture of Guy Fawkes
Now Guy was not about to co-operate with the authorities and acted quite confused as to why he was being arrested. He confessed that his name was John Johnson and claimed he was just guarding the contraband for a local man named Mr. Percy. He was sticking to his story! King James was soon made aware of the deadly plot and Guy’s non-compliance. So; he decided a little torture was in order. Well after a couple of days of this; old Guy started singin’ like a jaybird. He gave up his true identity, implicated the co-conspirators and confessed to the crime. They were all arrested, found guilty of high treason and sentenced to hang, drawn and quartered in London. on January 31, 1606. Over the years; the scheme to bomb the Parliament became known as the ”Gunpowder Plot.”
Celebrating King James 1
To honour the King’s escape from this conniving plot; the Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the day (Nov 5) by lighting huge bonfires. This tradition began in the United Kigdom and soon spread to all the British Colonies. In present day Canada; it is mainly celebratd in Newfoundland. Due to bonfire regulations in major cities, the whole celebration has been toned down to a social event. But in the more rural communities, bonfires roar!
Who is Guy Fawkes
So what of Guy Fawkes? How did he get involved in these shenanigans? Guy was born in to a Protestant family in York, England in 1570. He converted to Catholicism after his father died and his mother remarried to a Catholic gentleman. At the age of 21 he left England to travel the continent. He soon became a mercenary for wars and associated himself with like minded individuals. And so began his scheme to start a Catholic rebellion in 1604. Upon his death; it was reported that he was not actually hung like his co-conspirators. As he was called to meet his fate; he jumped off the platform, breaking his neck and died immediately at the young age of 36. So there you have it! That’s what happened to Guy Fawkes.
To this day; when Parliament convenes in Westminster, a thorough search of the cellars is conducted. It is very much a ceremonial search by official recreators, dressed in period attire and carrying old fashioned lanterns.
So there you have it. The story of the night Guy Fawkes got caught in the great scheme to overthrow the Protestant Government. Do you celebrate Guy Fawkes Night? Do you make a roaring bonfire to commemorate his failure?