Since the failed Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, people across the country have celebrated Bonfire Night on November 5th. In Scotland, the night is one of community wide celebration and wholesome fun, despite its origins being a lot more sinister.
The night was once a time of rowdy and raucous festivities - described as an evening of “prankish fun”. Before it was rebranded as fireworks night in 1910 by firework manufacturers, bonfire night saw Scots of all ages bring together any kind of material that would burn, and create sizable bonfires.
Often these would be made in fields or on hill tops, but pictures show they were even created in the middle of streets surrounded by tenement buildings.
One Scottish tradition was the burning of Guy Fawkes. Effigies of Guy were made across the country, usually consisting of a jacket and trousers stuffed with straw. They would often then be wheeled around towns while the owners shouted “penny for a Guy” with the money raised going towards buying fireworks.
Guy would then be placed on top of the roaring bonfire.
Older traditions have seen people leap across half-consumed bonfires in excuse that it was an old custom. In more heavily safety conscious and policed times, it’s rare to see such a reckless acts taking place.
Fireworks like the Catherine Wheel were extremely popular during festivities. Many Scots would gather for more initmate fireworks displays before the larger scale town displays become common place.
The first firework that was ever let off in Scotland has been traced as far back as 1507 where “fireballs” were used by James VI.