Saturday, 19 August 2017

Penny For The Guy

An English tradition that had cemented itself into Waitara's culture in the 1950's was the observance of Guy Fawkes Day.

Why we celebrated a pyromaniac/arsonist with great gusto many thousands of miles away from the fable origin remains somewhat of a mystery?  My best guess is that it was one of the vestiges of "Mother England" that remained in our psyche at the time.

As children we were not worried about origins.  November 5th was an excuse for buying skyrockets, catherine wheels, sparklers and crackers from the local stationers and Chinese grocers.

There was a also a competition run by the town to see who could produce the best 'Guy'.  This involved stuffing old and discarded trousers, shirts and jackets with hay or newspaper so that the effigy resembled a human.

We wheeled these around the neighbourhood in a wheel barrow shouting "penny for the guy", although in truth, very few pennies were forthcoming.

The local children then paraded heir Guy Fawke's creations down one of the main streets of Waitara where they were judged by a local panel and prizes awarded.  I have to report that my efforts never made it to the winner's dais but we had great fun nevertheless.  (An example of another town's celebration can be seen in the image below).

The fate of the 'guys' was preordained.  They were all incinerated as part of the big community fire down at the Waitara Beach domain. This was the time where we lit our fireworks and placed rocket sticks in an old beer bottle holder so they blazed upward.  Sparklers were the chosen fancy of the younger set who were closely supervised.

While fireworks are still sold in New Zealand to celebrate November 5th I suspect that the legend of Guy Fawkes is no longer understood by those who make such a purchase.  Times change, and our Asian community and civic authorities use fireworks to celebrate other major events on the calendar.

Guy Fawkes Day 1912 – History Geek