British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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414                               GUNPOWDER PLOT.                       [NOV. 5.
" The fifth of November, Since I can remember, Gunpowder treason and plot; This was the day the plot was contriv'd, To blow up the King and Parliament alive; But God's mercy did prevent To save our King and his Parliament.
A stick and a stake
For King James's sake! If you wont give me one,
I'll take two, The better for me,
And the worse for you."
This is the Oxfordshire song chanted by the boys when collecting sticks for the bonfire, and it is considered quite lawful to appropriate any old wood they can lay their hands on after the recitation of these lines. If it happen that a crusty chuff prevents them, the threatening finale is too often fulfilled. The operation is called going a-progging. In some places they shout, previously to the burning of the eflfigy of Guy Fawkes,
" A penn'orth of bread to feed the Pope, A penn'orth of cheese to choke him ; A pint of beer to wash it down, - And a good old faggot to burn him."
Halliwell's Pop. Rhymes, 1849, pp. 253, 554.
Formerly, it was the custom for the undergraduates of Pembroke College, Oxford, to make verses on the 5th of November, and to have two copies of them, one to present to the master, the other to stick up in the Hall, and there to remain till a speech on this occasion was spoken before supper.—Pointer, Oxoniensis Accidentia, 1749, p. 109.
At Lewes on the 5th of November in each year, a great torchlight procession, composed of men dressed up in fantastic garbs, and with blackened faces, and dragging blazing tar barrels after them, parade the high street, while
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