The Eve of All Holies is done - and now on to Guy Fawkes Day

In the Christian calendar Thursday marked All Saints or All Holies Day which means, of course, that Wednesday was the Eve of All Holies when by contrast all the wicked spirits roaming about were supposed to make an appearance.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 2nd November 2018, 9:41 am
Updated Friday, 2nd November 2018, 10:43 am

These days you are more likely to encounter ghosts, witches, skeletons and other fearful sights on the shelves of the big supermarkets as we embrace some of the American enthusiasm for Halloween.

Back in my young days there was plenty of activity before the big night as we hollowed out a big turnip, cut out the eyes and jaggy mouth and inserted a candle ready for a trip round the local streets.

With lanterns blazing we’d call out ‘‘Please help the guisers’’ which produced a demand for a song or a story.

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Today you might be lucky to get a joke from an old Christmas cracker but our patrons were more demanding.

Most families held Halloween parties where children and adults joined in the games.

Dookin’ for aipples was the favourite with a big zinc bath placed on the living room floor filled with water and floating apples.

In you went with teeth at the ready to grab one of the bobbing fruits which could only be done by pushing it to the bottom of the bath with your head well under the water.

Those who were feart to dook were given a helping hand and were soon soaking but happy.

Another favourite involved scones covered in treacle strung across the room.

We had to locate and eat them with our hands behind our backs. Sticky but happy faces were the result.

We had scarcely finished celebrating Halloween when we were preparing for November 5.

The origins of this day take us back to 1605 when a group of plotters including the infamous Guy Fawkes tried to blow up King James VI while he was attending Parliament in London.

Guy and his mates were intercepted and died brutal deaths for ‘gunpowder, treason and plot’’.

The king ordered that henceforth the day should be remembered always and he certainly got his wish.

In Windsor Road in the 1950s we spent days gathering planks of wood and old bits of abandoned furniture to build a big bonfire on waste ground.

An old suit and a hat went to make the effigy of Guy Fawkes which was mounted on a bogie (a home made cart) and dragged round the houses to collect a “penny for the guy”.

The pennies paid for fireworks, which we called ‘‘squibs’’, as well as sweeties and lemonade.

The days before the fifth were tense as we guarded our bonfire in case the boys from Summerford (the Summies) came to steal our wood.

On the night, the guy was placed on an old chair and lifted to the top of the fire. Once the blaze was well under way it was time to let off the squibs.

Roman candles, jumping jacks and rockets launched from lemonade bottles were favourites but the bangers were king.

Children love a fright and a squib going off without warning certainly did the trick.

As the night wore on we sat round the fire with back and shoulders freezing and faces ablaze to watch the end of the guy for another year.

Things are very different in today’s safety conscious world but we have not turned our back on the past completely.

As the crowds flock to Callendar park next week they will be reaching back in time to when our ancestors held back the darkness with festivals of fire and light which promised warmer, brighter days to come.