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Was Guy Fawkes' night once compulsory in England?

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Ask4
757707.  Thu Nov 04, 2010 9:30 am Reply with quote

Newbie post alert. I came across an interesting "fact" about Guy Fawkes' Night recently. Apparently, it was illegal in England, until 1959, not to celebrate the anniversary of Guy Fawkes' arrest. Does anybody out there know whether or not this is true?

I've seen this piece of information repeated on several web sites from "The Big Site of Amazing Facts" (and why not?) to the BBC Cambridgeshire web site, but didn't come up with any more detail, (e.g. details of the piece of law that would have applied and the penalties for non-compliance).

It seems to me that this law would have been almost impossible to enforce - presumably the reson why it was quietly dropped at the end of the fifties. If true, I'm guessing that this was some obscure Jacobean law that just got overlooked and left on the staute book until somebody had a legal spring clean.

I understand that Guy Fawkes was educated at St Peters School in York and that, to this day, the school makes a point of not celebrating the death of an "old boy". Did the school ever find themselves falling foul of this law?

 
Jenny
757759.  Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:30 pm Reply with quote

Welcome Ask4 :-)

I feel sure somebody will be along with an answer shortly...

 
monzac
757767.  Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:52 pm Reply with quote

G'day Ask4. Welcome :)

 
mckeonj
757781.  Thu Nov 04, 2010 4:14 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
Also known as "Firework Night" and "Bonfire Night," November 5th was designated by King James I (via an Act of Parliament) as a day of thanksgiving for "the joyful day of deliverance." This Act remained in force until 1859. On the very night of the thwarted Gunpowder Plot, it is said that the populace of London celebrated the defeat by lighting fires and engaging in street festivities. It would appear that similar celebrations took place on each anniversary and, over the years, became a tradition. In many areas, a holiday was observed, although it is not celebrated in Northern Ireland.

from:
http://www.novareinna.com/festive/guy.html

 
Zebra57
757816.  Thu Nov 04, 2010 7:21 pm Reply with quote

Welcome you may like to look up the celebrations in Lewes Sussex which are QI

 
ali
757821.  Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:02 pm Reply with quote

I get the impression that the act (3 Ja. I, c. 1) made November 5th a public holiday - but there isn't much on t'web to confirm or deny it; and most of what there is reproduces the Wikipedia article verbatim.

 
Ask4
757916.  Fri Nov 05, 2010 10:39 am Reply with quote

Thanks, everyone, both for the welcome to the forum and for the info. Sounds like a case of copying errors and Chinese whispers. Copying errors because as per the article above, the 1606 Act seems to have been repealed in 1859, rather than 1959 - as elaborated here:
Quote:

The publication in 1857 of author David Jardine's A Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot only stoked the flames [of anti-Catholic sentiment] higher, and in 1859 the thanksgiving prayer of 5 November contained in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was removed, and the 1606 Act repealed.


from:
http://www.pepysdiary.com/p/313.php

Chinese whispers, because it sounds as if someone has mis-described an Act proclaiming a public day of thanksgiving as as an Act making celebration mandatory and the error has been picked up by others. I haven't yet seen the full wording of the 1606 Act, but Parliament passing an Act proclaiming a day of thanksgiving sounds much more believable than Parlaiment actually trying to achieve the impossible and police the observance of a national celebration.

Only a reading of the Act could kill this one stone dead, but I'm now 99%+ sure that the "strange but true - it was once illegal not to celebrate Guy Fawkes' Night" factoid is going straight onto the bonfire of General Ignorance.

 
ali
757963.  Fri Nov 05, 2010 12:37 pm Reply with quote

Ask4 wrote:
the 1606 Act


Minor quibble (if you stick around you'll get used to them) - technically it is a 1605 act as it wasn't 1606 until March 25th.

 
Zebra57
758304.  Sat Nov 06, 2010 9:01 pm Reply with quote

ali wrote:
Ask4 wrote:
the 1606 Act


Minor quibble (if you stick around you'll get used to them) - technically it is a 1605 act as it wasn't 1606 until March 25th.


The new calendar has tripped up many an historian. Urguably is 5th November the real date? I understand that the dates are correct we just lost the days when the new system came in. There was concern amongst the public then about stolen time.

 
swot
758402.  Sun Nov 07, 2010 8:13 am Reply with quote

As an aside, one of my fellow chemists mentioned on Friday that in her Catholic school, she was taught that Guy Fawkes was a hero, not a thwarted terrorist as I was taught in my mental Anglican school. Her friends who went to different Catholic schools were taught the same, and everyone who was not educated by Catholics was not taught that Fawkes was heroic or doing the right thing.

 
suze
758424.  Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:02 am Reply with quote

Very true.

Celebrating Guy Fawkes Night in places like Northern Ireland, Glasgow, or Liverpool has decidedly sectarian overtones - and so it tends only to be the more fundamentalist elements who do it. (And the effigy atop the bonfire is often the Pope.)

I'm not sure how much it is celebrated in other parts of the Commonwealth - while I'd heard of it as a kid in Vancouver, it wasn't a major occasion (and as a Catholic, I don't suppose I'd have been allowed to go to bonfire parties even it had been).

 
Efros
758426.  Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:08 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Very true.

Celebrating Guy Fawkes Night in places like Northern Ireland, Glasgow, or Liverpool has decidedly sectarian overtones - and so it tends only to be the more fundamentalist elements who do it. (And the effigy atop the bonfire is often the Pope.)

I'm not sure how much it is celebrated in other parts of the Commonwealth - while I'd heard of it as a kid in Vancouver, it wasn't a major occasion (and as a Catholic, I don't suppose I'd have been allowed to go to bonfire parties even it had been).


I presume that must be an N.Ireland thing I lived in Glasgow for nearly fifteen years and never saw a pope burnt in effigy on Nov 5th. I do remember some time ago when Eid, Diwali and Nov 5th were all about the same time. The streets around where I lived were like Beirut at times, rockets flying along the roads, bangers in closes, the sound is amplified by the close giving a deep boom. Not a time to be nervous.


Last edited by Efros on Sun Nov 07, 2010 6:17 pm; edited 1 time in total

 
exnihilo
758458.  Sun Nov 07, 2010 10:44 am Reply with quote

I was born in Glasgow and live here now, and I concur with your analysis.

 
Fleabag
758477.  Sun Nov 07, 2010 12:05 pm Reply with quote

I'm in Liverpool and have never been aware of any sectarian undercurrent around Guy Fawkes night, and it's certainly WIDELY celebrated (for about a month either side!!!). My partner's experience is that some isolated teachers promoted Guy Fawkes as a hero, but this wasn't an official stance in his education. He and his friends celebrated Guy Fawkes Night.


Last edited by Fleabag on Sun Nov 07, 2010 6:25 pm; edited 1 time in total

 
Zebra57
758564.  Sun Nov 07, 2010 6:09 pm Reply with quote

Welcome to QI Forum Fleabag. I think that in the distant past there were sectarian overtones to November 5th but it is now a wholly secular event possibly being replaced in the future by Halloween.

 

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