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Photo-a-Day Archive
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Photo-a-Day  (Friday, 5th November, 2021)

Big Bommie


Big Bommie
Big Bommie in Saddleback Road, Norley Hall.

Photo: Mick Byrne  (Panasonic DMC-TZ100)
Views: 2,248

Comment by: Thomas(Tom)Walsh on 5th November 2021 at 01:04

Bonfire Night.
Penny for the Guy
(A few 'Uncle Joe's' in your pocket)


Remember, remember the fifth of November - went the old nursery rhyme , thinking of that ditty sends me on that well trodden path to times of yore . It's sadly but undeniably true that bonfire night has lost much of its 'glow' it has been greatly diminished by the emergence of Halloween; something almost unheard of in the 1950s apart from its religious significance , ' trick or treat' has largely replaced ' Penny for the Guy' and pumpkins have superseded pomegranates .

Before the Halloween phenomenon ' Bommie night' to children in the excitement stakes was second only to Christmas. The whole 'shebang ' started weeks before the big night. Collecting items of every conceivable sort - old furniture , doors ; flock beds- I remember making regular appearances in the early 1950s , no doubt as people started to buy spring interiors ;orange crates, carpets , anything that would burn and when you think about today old tyres how dangerous was that ! Every ' Bommie ' would have at least one which was used as a crown on the wigwam shaped beacon.

Weeks before the big event it seemed like every corner and been commandeered to house a Guy Fawkes , sat in a ' tan-sad ' or old pram if wheels were not available then Guy would have to sit on the pavement propped up against a wall or gas lamp .Every passerby would be regaled by
' penny for the Guy' followed very politely by Mr.or Mrs. if you were not sure a a lady's marital status ,Miss; you can't risk offending a potential benefactor ! More often than not the youngest of Guys Fawkes's retinue would be encouraged to ask the question, it was obvious even to children that the younger' the child the better the response. An old lady from my street ,Mrs Kelly would always give an 'Uncle Joe's 'or a piece of 'Cough Candy', the same reward if you ran an errand for her.

Far and away the best pitch was outside a pub failing that a shop - you soon realised that you couldn't just set up stall anywhere the fancy might take you , there would be consequences if you did, ranging from your Guy meeting an early demise or your 'bommie 'being 'pogged'
( collapsed ) or worse still a rival gang raiding your stash of flammable pieces to take away in triumph to augment their own pile. Weeks before the 5th lads would take it in turn to guard their precious cargo lest rival gangs would come from other streets to help themselves to your hard got treasure .

Money raised from the ' Penny for the Guy ' endeavours would be pooled to buy fireworks and 'Uncle Joe's Mint Balls' it wouldn't be bonfire night without a few' Uncle Joe's' in your pocket ,
one enterprising shop gave 4 in a little three cornered bag if you spent half a crown on fireworks;
I remember the notice saying ' sparklers do not count to the total ' . All this in preparation for the big night -and it was a big night .Children for weeks had been looking forward the lighting of the bonfire . It was always a Dad who lit the fire often using paraffin as a accelerant! Imagine that today! Enough to send health and safety officer into a spin like a Catherine Wheel ,this type of firework was particularly liked by girls, it would be pinned to a gate or fence when ignited would spin at great speed spilling colours of every hue into the night air , in the process leaving a scar on a gate or whatever had been used as a host .Younger children would be satisfied with a sparkler; older boys were obsessed with 'Penny Bangers ' they did exactly as it said on the packet - just make a bang. Boys would find it amusing to startle each other and would find great delight in placing one behind a group of girls to watch the histrionics unfold , quite cruel when you think about it.'

Another cruel aspect of the night as far as poor old Guy Fawkes was concerned, when amid great cheers his effigy is thrown unceremoniously onto the flames to be engulfed in seconds.
I, along with the vast majority of children hadn't a clue what this was meant to symbolise . I think teachers missed a golden opportunity to use the event as history lesson , linking bonfire night with The Gunpowder Plot .'The plan was to blow up The House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on 5th November 1605; it wasn't used at my school, or if it was I must have been too excited to remember , I can (almost) however recall the nursery rhyme in full -

Remember remember the the fifth of November
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King!

To the more gentle side of the celebration Mothers would make treacle toffee, a must for that night , pomegranates would make a yearly appearance, another treat were potatoes baked in the edges of the fire as were chestnuts , I think older readers, like me will remember how good they tasted ; bizarrely the soot smudged round your mouth seemed to add to the taste !

When I was a child almost every corner shop sold fire works - separately and in boxes. Better off families with the wherewithal would buy a boxes ,this didn't sit well with boys in the family as they didn't have bangers ; usually a Rocket , a Roman Candle , a Catherine Wheel , a Snow Shower. Traffic Lights and a few others whose names escape me , I can however remember the names on the boxes - Wessex with a silhouette of Guy Fawkes with tall wide brimmed hat looking over his shoulder furtively; I always thought it quite a scary image for children, and of course the old favourites Brocks and Standard . Incidentally bangers were made illegal 1997.

The following day acrid smoke hung over the town , like a wet blanket ,skeletons of mattress and other materials that hadn't burnt in the previous night's infernos, scattered across every piece of spare land. Early risers might even see the drying embers of the fires breathing their last , so to speak. Children would have feeling of anticlimax, the chance to earn extra pocket money from. ' Penny for the Guy' lost for a year. The excitement of the previous weeks gone up like smoke. Still, Christmas to look forward to ,only seven weeks away but to children that seemed an age. Then the realisation that there would be another chance to earn pocket money- Carol Singing !

I am aware that in my younger days the law was not very rigorous regarding the sale of fireworks. The law has been tightened significantly in recent years and in many respects - They may not be sold to anyone under 18 years they must be sold in boxes it is illegal to split and sell separately they may only be sold between- 15 October to 10 November. 26 to 31 December . 3 days before Diwali and Chinese New Year. You must not set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except for: Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnightNew Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1am. I know some people will think these regulations are thought up by killjoys but I think the vast majority think the law should be tightened much further, a view I'm sure would be. echoed by all the cats and dogs in Wigan!

Comment by: Kim on 5th November 2021 at 07:25

Looks like one of those bonfires in Northern Ireland with the pallets.

Comment by: Shaun Devlin on 5th November 2021 at 08:13

Wouldnt want to be breathing fumes off that lot when its lit.

Comment by: Poet on 5th November 2021 at 08:19

I remember many different streets having their own bonfire . We knocked on doors collecting rubbish for weeks . Sometimes the kids from the other street would try to raid it and add the wood to their own . We called this pogging .

Comment by: TerryW on 5th November 2021 at 08:29

That it, Mick, no moaning or condemning people off a council estate?

Comment by: Syd Smith on 5th November 2021 at 08:43

You wouldn't this this kind of thing being celebrated on private housing estates.

Comment by: irene roberts on 5th November 2021 at 08:45

I can remember watching the darkening sky through the classroom window at primary school on November 5th, wishing the hands of the clock would hurry to four o'clock and home-time. "God-bless-us -through-this- night- til- morning -light-appears.-Amen!....Good afternoon, Miss... Good Afternoon, Everyone" we gabbled irreverently at breakneck speed, and then we were free! By six o'clock we were outside, ribboned plaits covered by hand-knitted bonnets, and there it was, waiting on the night air...the smoky, heady, unmistakeable smell of Bonfire Night!

Comment by: Veronica on 5th November 2021 at 08:52

The smell from that lot will be overpowering from the plastic objects. I wouldn't like to breathe in the fumes.

Comment by: Linma on 5th November 2021 at 09:00

Bit too close to those houses.

Comment by: PeterP on 5th November 2021 at 10:41

Funny council not dismantled it for being too close to the houses

Comment by: Dave on 5th November 2021 at 10:45

Wonderful picture Mick, Well Done. A treasured memory. To see a whole line of these reflected in the windows was magnificent! There was an absolute huge one, close to St Joseph's, which got into the local papers, when I was a lad. Wonder if Frank captured it? We waited all year for this one day, our Bommie was paramount.

Comment by: Mick on 5th November 2021 at 11:00

If I was prime minister, and wanted to stop this silly burning of a Guy, I would get some history boffin to pretend that he had found out that Guy Fawkes relatives where from Africa

Comment by: WN1 Standisher on 5th November 2021 at 11:04

I'll echo Peter and Linma, I'm surprised Elf and Safety have allowed this to be built there, they'll have the fire brigade on standby when this goes up.

Comment by: Roy on 5th November 2021 at 12:44

That's not a 'proper' bommie, it looks a right mess, not a tree branch in sight, which, i suppose these days is no bad thing. As was said earlier, what a smell is going to come from that heap of rubbish, keep your windows closed folks !!!

Comment by: TerryW on 5th November 2021 at 12:49

I knew you couldn't resist, Mick.

If you were Prime minister we would all suffer.

Comment by: Wiganer on 5th November 2021 at 13:19

Bonfire night or is it weeks should been stopped what with all this climate change going on.
It just contradicts everything.
Old people, animals, wildlife all suffer.

Comment by: WN1 Standisher on 5th November 2021 at 13:33

I remember one year the gang ' obtained ' a 20 foot telegraph pole for our bommie. A hole was dug and said pole put into the ground as a 12" centre pole. The bommie we built was bigger than the one in the picture, and although it got raided a couple of times, was a fine blaze on the 5th. The centre pole was still smouldering a week later. Another year, we had one of the gang guarding ours whilst we went raiding another one. He built a cave in the bommie to keep out of sight. Unfortunately, another street decided to set fire to ours and he had to jump out quick when it went up in flames. We did get our own back later though.

Comment by: Mick on 5th November 2021 at 14:18

In the 50s us Sheviers held our bommie on the rec, and one night some lads from Crooke village came up to raid it, one of them had a catapult and shot at my older brother hitting him in the eye with a lead pellet, which caused him to loose his sight in one eye.

Comment by: irene roberts on 5th November 2021 at 15:24

There WAS a lot of rivalry and "pogging" of bonfires, and though we didn't live in the present time, with knife and gun crime, catapults could be dangerous. We tend to look at them through rose-coloured glasses when we read of today's "ASBO" youths, but, similar to Mick's brother, my cousin James lost an eye due to a simple pea-shooter.

Comment by: Broady on 5th November 2021 at 15:31

The ones in Belfast are normally for the July “festivities” The ones I saw would make the above look like a camp fire.

Comment by: Ray on 5th November 2021 at 15:32

Many houses in this particular part of Norley Hall are not Council houses.
They were purchased when the Conservative Government gave Council
tenants " The Right To Buy " around 1980/81, depending on certain rules.

Comment by: Cyril on 5th November 2021 at 15:38

I'm with you Wiganer and and in support that this silly pagan celebration of Samhain, now disguised by Guy Fawkes to be stopped. Pagans too would light bonfires and make noises by banging drums etc. to celebrate their deity, now folks set off fireworks that make bangs - and the louder the better. The producers and folks setting off these explosives don't care about the wild and domestic animals that become terrified and even die by these loud explosions, also I wonder what the world leaders up in Glasgow shall make of the cordite and bonfire smoke laden air over the weekend, especially so with Boris saying Britain is leading the way with lowering carbon emissions.

Pagans would also place produce in the fire to appease the spirits so to ensure a good harvest in the coming year, then carrying on this tradition folks would put potatoes in the embers to roast.

Comment by: WN1 Standisher on 5th November 2021 at 16:02

Pogged many a bommie in October/early November but we never carried weapons. Nothing more dangerous than colourful language. Sorry to hear about your relatives Mick/Irene.

Comment by: irene roberts on 5th November 2021 at 16:12

I'm with you Cyril, as far as animals are concerned. We were always told to keep our pets indoors when I was a child, but, as a child, I didn't understand the fear felt by them. It's going dusk now and my heart goes out to the frightened animals tonight, especially those with no home. Fireworks were bad enough when we were children, but some of them are like bombs today!

Comment by: Mick on 5th November 2021 at 17:10

Irene, it was Amanda's dad John who lost his eye.

Comment by: John G on 5th November 2021 at 17:13

Mick: According to people like Richard Attenborough, the human race evolved from Africa. And spread outwards around the globe. So your ggggggggggggggggggggggggreatgrandad came from Zimbabwean near Shevington.

Comment by: Tonker (off Wigan World) on 5th November 2021 at 18:08

Talking about "pogging" other bommies, reminds me of this ......
When I was a lad, living in Haydock, we 'collected' all the gates off a terraced row called "twenty eight row" (there was 28 houses in it!). We put them all on our bommie, then our bommie was 'pogged' by the Station Roaders.
Then their bommie was pogged by the Lime Streeters.
It was quite funny, seeing the men walking back to 28 row, carrying their front gate which had been 'rescued' from one bommie or another. I heard one had even reached as far as Piele Road bommie.

Those were the days, those was!

Comment by: Maureen on 5th November 2021 at 18:43

The fireworks just sound like bombs around here,and I'm sure it must terrify some poor animals, I have a little chihuahua who funnily enough doesn't seem too bothered by them thank goodness..my Mams poor dog who was a puppy off my then dog used to tremble and shake something shocking,sometimes he would vomit when the fireworks started..and now watching the news firefighters are being attacked...roll on next week,I say that because the fireworks normally carry on into the following week.

Comment by: Pat McC on 5th November 2021 at 19:20

I'm with you too Cyril. We have to bring our pet sheep into the shed because the noise terrifies them. Thousands of bonfires across the UK tonight will contribute to even more air pollution. Crazy!

Comment by: Cyril on 6th November 2021 at 00:45

Your poor sheep PatMc, we have had two dogs that were totally terrified and would crouch in a corner to try and escape the noise, and yet, like Maureen's Chihuahua, another two we had was never bothered at all. We would put the ones that was terrified in a bedroom and stay with them with the radio or TV on loud. You're right Irene as children we never thought of things like that we just looked forward to seeing the fireworks.

I'm not a killjoy and not totally against all fireworks, like as Tom mentions the Roman Candles, Catharine Wheels and suchlike were very colourful yet not really noisy, it's just the ones that sound like your in the middle of a war zone and which seem to get louder and louder each year.

Maybe the answer lies with fireworks not being sold and organised displays between certain hours, it's now 12.45 am and there are still bangs and fizzles to be heard.

Comment by: Veronica on 6th November 2021 at 12:33

Surprisingly it wasn't too bad in my neck of the woods! Tonight's the night though
( Saturday) with the V1 rockets, perhaps air raid shelters should be the answer these days! I am no kill joy but I do think organised bonfires are the best nowadays.

Comment by: Cyril on 6th November 2021 at 20:46

Tom, I've been reading on the net that a lot of Catholic schools didn't/don't teach about Guy Fawkes or 5th November, maybe as the government of James 1 said some measure should be taken for commemorating this horrifying instance of Catholic perfidy, and passed the Observance of 5th November Act which caused even more anti-Catholic opinions amongst the public which lasted well into the 19th century.

A few facts here that I didn't know about Guido. https://www.theinsuranceemporium.co.uk/blog/guy-fawkes-facts/

A tin hat could be the order of the night Veronica, especially with the size of some of the rockets, if they came down and hit someone on the head they'd cause serious injury I'm sure.

Comment by: Veronica on 6th November 2021 at 23:07

It's gone quiet now Cyril I don't need my colander now. We did learn about Guy Fawkes - they didn't keep it from us poor persecuted Catholics. Anyway it was the turn of the Protestants as well with that awful Bloody Mary! ;~)

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