Fireworks Down on the Farm

The author with her little dog on the farm, fields in 1953.

The author with her little dog on the farm, fields in 1953.

How many children used to chant the rhyme Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November, waiting with excitement for the day to arrive? When I was a small child living on a farm in the early 1950s bonfire night was such a special occasion.

For weeks leading up to November 5 it was the main topic of conversation at our small village school. Pictures of bonfires, fireworks and, of course, the guy himself were drawn and carefully painted, the best ones hung on the school walls. ‘Tuck-shop’ money was saved to be spent on
sparklers, and at home on the farm all our burnable rubbish was placed on a site specially set aside for this occasion. Two days before the great event Dad would place some sawn-off tree branches in and around the fire to make it safe and secure.

My sister and I made the guy – always in secret in case Dad wondered where his old shirt and cap went to at that time every year! In the farm kitchen, Gran and my mother made bonfire toffee, toffee apples and the large meat pies that were eaten with the potatoes Dad would roast in the embers of the fire.

Finally the great day arrived, and as different families from the village began to descend on us, some on cycles and others on foot, I’d run around in great excitement willing cows to eat faster and deliver milk quicker than usual on this special day.

At around 6.30pm everyone would gather around the fire, which had previously been covered by a large tarpaulin in case of rain. Dad

A nostalgic bonfire scene from a Brock’s Fireworks shop window poster.

A nostalgic bonfire scene from a Brock’s Fireworks shop window poster.

would step over the special fencing he’d erected to keep everyone away from the fire, and with shouts and yells from all around he’d light a brightly- coloured taper which in turn lit the fire.

A few minutes later the men from the village started to light the fireworks, and during the next two hours the sky would light up with rockets showering down magnificent colours of greens, reds and sparkling yellows; Catherine wheels whizzed round on a pole previously hammered into the ground; Roman candles spewed out their brilliant colours and boys were shouted at by their harassed mothers for letting off their own special bangers and jumping jacks. Unbelievably one or two babies slept in their coach-built prams throughout all this noise. Gran pottered around offering her homemade treacle and toffee apples to everyone (special recipe of course!)

At approximately 8.30pm my mother and some of the other ladies would bring out the hot meat pies, Dad would place the baked potatoes on large trays and everyone would tuck in hungrily.

Then came the final event of the evening. Sparklers were given to everyone, and on the word “Go!” each would be lit simultaneously to the sounds of weary voices singing.

Eventually it was time for everyone to go home, and as the villagers began to leave the field
and move off down the lane, leaving the young romantics having a kiss and a cuddle round the dying embers of the fire, our parents would be grateful there’d been no accidents. I’m sure, though, that in their adult hearts they’d enjoyed the evening every bit as much as we had!

Lesley St. Clair

 

Things that went bang in the night.

Things that went bang in the night.