Remember, Remember! The 5th of November

More likely than not, if you grew up in the Bahamas, you know the significance of this English verse:

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, guy fawkes

Guy Fawkes (1570 – 1606)

“Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!”

Though the Bahamas gained independence from England more than 40 years ago, a great deal of our culture remains steeped in the traditions of our British ancestors.

One of these traditions is Guy Fawkes Night.

At the dawn of the 17th century, a Catholic Englishman, Guy Fawkes, was part of a group of conspirators who plotted to blow up the British Parliament when it opened on November 5th, 1605. Their objective? To kill King James, a Protestant, and inspire an uprising of English Catholics, who were being persecuted on religious grounds.

Fawkes and his fellow conspirators rented a cellar beneath the Parliament building. Over a period of months, they amassed nearly two tons of gunpowder, which they concealed beneath firewood and pieces of iron.

Fearing fellow Catholics might be harmed in the explosion, the group sent an anonymous letter to a Catholic friend, warning him not to attend the Parliamentary opening, and hinting at the reason.

Unfortunately, this letter found its way to the King, who ordered a search of the cellars beneath Parliament. The stash of gunpowder was discovered and the plot was foiled.

Guy-Fawkes

Green Turtle Cay Guy Fawkes Night 2014 (Photo: The Abaconian)

Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were eventually tried and executed, and their failed plot resulted in even greater persecution of British Catholics.

On the evening of November 5th, 1605, Londoners were encouraged to light bonfires to celebrate the King’s escape from assassination.

Later, an Act of Parliament designated November 5th a day of thanksgiving for the deliverance of the King.

In subsequent years, effigies of Guy Fawkes were burned on the celebratory bonfires.

Our English ancestors brought these traditions with them to the New World, and then to the Bahamas where, as British Loyalists, they later fled to avoid persecution during the Revolutionary War.

Today, nearly 250 years later, Guy Fawkes Night is still celebrated throughout the Bahamas. “Guys” are constructed using old clothing, newspapers and masks, and burned on giant bonfires.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, guy fawkes

Green Turtle Cay kids with their “Guys” (Photo: Island Roots Heritage Festival Committee)

Green Turtle Cay’s Guy Fawkes Night is observed on the Saturday evening closest to November 5th.

This year’s event, which serves as a fundraiser for the Island Roots Heritage Festival, takes place at Settlement Point this Saturday, November 7th.

The fun begins at 6:00 p.m. There will be food, games, fireworks and of course, a big bonfire on which to burn “Guys”.

Prizes will be awarded for the best effigies in several categories.

UPDATE (11/6/15) If you’re coming from the Abaco mainland, Guy Fawkes Night organizers have arranged a special evening ferry run. The ferry will leave the Treasure Cay dock at 6 p.m. and leave Green Turtle Cay at 10 p.m. Return fares are $19 for adults and $12 for children.

  5 comments for “Remember, Remember! The 5th of November

  1. Reggie Paterson
    November 5, 2015 at 1:51 am

    Amanda, I’m glad that Guy Fawkes night is still celebrated somewhere in Abaco. In all the years I’ve been here, I’ve seen it happen sometimes, but it does not seem to be a continuous tradition anywhere around the Hub of Abaco. Growing up in Nassau back in the ’60s, my extended family had a party every year, each family bringing its own Guy, and there were fireworks galore as well. Coming about a week after Hallowe’en, when the skies over Nassau would be alight with fireworks, it was an exciting time for us kids. I wonder if it still goes on like that.
    Reggie

    Like

  2. Alison
    November 5, 2015 at 3:21 am

    I didn’t know much about Guy Fawkes until I moved to London, but I find it really interesting that the Bahamas celebrates him, too. Interesting read, thanks for sharing!

    Like

  3. November 7, 2015 at 6:20 am

    quite interesting! i was stateside for nov 5 but i wonder if it was celebrated anywhere on long island

    Like

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