Pet friendly fireworks

It’s the 5th of November today, over 400 hundred years since the gunpowder plot that it sort of commemorates. It has toned down a bit in recent decades, we tend not to burn people on bonfires any more.

Guy Fawkes (aka Guido Fawkes and Guido Johnson) was actually tortured – “the gentler Tortures are to be first used unto him et sic per gradus ad ima tenditur [and so by degrees proceeding to the worst]” – and he revealed the identities of his fellow plotters.

They were to be “put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both”. Their genitals would be cut off and burnt before their eyes, and their bowels and hearts removed. They would then be decapitated, and the dismembered parts of their bodies displayed so that they might become “prey for the fowls of the air”.

On 31 January 1606, Fawkes and three others – Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood, and Robert Keyes – were dragged (i.e. drawn) from the Tower on wattled hurdles to the Old Palace Yard at Westminster, opposite the building they had attempted to destroy. His fellow plotters were then hanged and quartered.

Fawkes was the last to stand on the scaffold. He asked for forgiveness of the King and state, while keeping up his “crosses and idle ceremonies” (Catholic practices). Weakened by torture and aided by the hangman, Fawkes began to climb the ladder to the noose, but either through jumping to his death or climbing too high so the rope was incorrectly set, he managed to avoid the agony of the latter part of his execution by breaking his neck. His lifeless body was nevertheless quartered and, as was the custom,  his body parts were then distributed to “the four corners of the kingdom”, to be displayed as a warning to other would-be traitors.

They were gruesome times, but they weren’t burnt..

On 5 November 1605 Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the King’s escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, “always provided that ‘this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder'”.

An Act of Parliament designated each 5 November as a day of thanksgiving for “the joyful day of deliverance”, and remained in force until 1859.

Bonfires were accompanied by fireworks from the 1650s onwards, and it became the custom to burn an effigy (usually the pope) after 1673, when the heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, made his conversion to Catholicism public. Effigies of other notable figures who have become targets for the public’s ire, such as Paul Kruger and Margaret Thatcher, have also found their way onto the bonfires, although most modern effigies are of Fawkes.The “guy” is normally created by children, from old clothes, newspapers, and a mask.

Things like that were still practiced in New Zealand fifty years ago. I’m not sure when we switched to just toned down fireworks.

Isn’t it a bit odd that we ‘celebrate’ with fireworks but none actually went off on 5th November  1605?

Back to the present, pets and wildlife scaring has already started over the last few nights. If you want to enjoy some fireworks and spare your pets put headphones on and watch something that really went up in London.

Leave a comment


  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  5th November 2016

    I would have dobbed in my fellow-conspirators under the tortures of the day. The knotted rope was one of the simplest but most effective-the rope was put around someone’s head at eye level,tied and then twisted like a tourniquet. People would confess to anything with that.

    Modern burning in effigy is one of those things that says more about the person doing it than the person whose effigy it is.

  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  5th November 2016

    I have known two people whose dogs have been injured when they were terrified by fireworks-and in one case, a dog was killed. Some idiot threw a firework at a time when nobody would expect that fireworks were around, and the dog took off into the road so fast that they couldn’t hold him. The other dogs have been hurt when they crashed into doors as they tried to escape the noise.

  3. If you want to watch some fireworks tonight Newshub is livestreaming a display in Wellington from 9 pm.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  6th November 2016

      There were a couple of loud ones down the road, then they were quiet enough for my dog to sleep through-other dogs were not so lucky from the sound of it.

      When I was little, my parents used to buy the same old ones in a blue bag every year, that assortment never seemed to change. Other people had much more exciting ones than we ever had, but too bad, my parents were very stingy about fireworks. It was so often cold and wet on the 5th, no matter what it had been like leading up to it.


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