"In a few days, it will be 'Bonfire Night'. 'Bonfire Night' is usually celebrated at large organised events, centred on the burning of a large stack of wood and extravagant firework displays. Topping most bonfires is usually found, a stuffed effigy of 'Guy Fawkes.'
When I was a child, growing up in the 1950's, the making of bonfires and all the other paraphernalia and rituals surrounding the bonfire was largely the domain of children; not adults! If mum was good, we might ask her for 'A penny for the Guy' which we'd made, besides allowing her to make some toffee. And if she was very good, we'd expect her to make some parkin to eat; a traditional Northern England sponge cake flavoured with syrupy molasses, oatmeal, and ginger.
About two to three weeks before 'Bonfire Night' children would go 'chumping.' While naturally, all old wood would be collected, we would also collect all manner of wood from all kinds of places. We never started 'chumping' too soon before Bonfire night, as the sooner we had built our stack of wood to burn, the more likely it was that it would be stolen in our absence. As a general rule, it would be largely boys who did the 'chumping' and the raiding from other bonfire stacks, but often a few Tom boys might be let in on the act. Every gang in the neighbourhood wanted to have the biggest and the best bonfire stack ever built, and one's pride would never allow a gang to see a better bonfire stack than theirs, without doing something about it!
Once our bonfire stack had been erected, we would take it in turns for one of the gang to bunk off school for a day and guard the stack in the absence of the others; raising the alarm by banging a dustbin lid in alarm if another gang came to steal your wood pile. The week prior to November 5th, every gang in the neighbourhood would go on 'raiding parties', the purpose of which was to steal from the bonfire stacks of others. There were occasions however when some gangs would take the ritual a bit too far and would raid other stacks, hoping for a good fight! A few of the more adventurous ones might even get up from their beds around midnight when all the neighbourhood was asleep, and after meeting up with a few friends as arranged, would visit as many other bonfire stacks which were higher than theirs and set them alight! Although the offence of Arson still carried a potential life sentence on the statute books, it didn't stop the determined bonfire makers from my estate in lighting a good fire before Bonfire night, especially if it belonged to another estate gang!
When I think back, I recognise in the years of my youth, a rebelliousness that bordered on sheer criminality which existed between the various gangs of boys and girls. It might be argued that while we hadn't intended to go as far as Guy Fawkes and his comrades in attempting to blow up Parliament and killing the king, we were prepared to place our freedom at risk by the fights we engaged in, causing a few bust noses, the wood we stole and the acts of arson we committed. But this was the 1950's and these were the ways of the times we lived in!
From all the books I have written for children between 1990 and 2000, one of my best sellers in the 5-9-year-old reading category has been the 'Action Annie Omnibus.' This is a book of twelve seasonal stories which the late Dame Catherine Cookson loved so much, that a few years before they died, she and her husband Tom funded the very first limited publication of 'Action Annie.' All money from its sales went to a children's charity. The late Sir Norman Wisdom also loved the Action Annie stories, that following its first publication, he came across from the Isle of Mann where he lived to Mirfield Library to read from the book to over two hundred children and adult attenders. Brigit Forsyth (Thelma of 'The Likely Lads' television fame), also recorded the stories for radio transmission.
Among the twelve seasonal stories in the book, the story for the month of November is 'Annie's Bonfire.' This story tells about Annie making her very own Guy Fawkes to put on the bonfire stack, but when the time comes to burn her Guy, she has grown attached to him so much that she cannot bring herself to burn him.
The single story of 'Annie's Bonfire,' as well as the Omnibus of twelve seasonal stories can be bought as an e-book from www.smashwords.com or the 'Action Annie Omnibus' is also available as a paper/hard copy from www.lulu.com and www.amazon.com All profits from the sales of all my books since my first book publiction in 1990 (over £200.000) will continue to be given to charitable causes in perpetuity." William Forde: November 1st, 2016.