They came in their thousands to town for one of the best Rye Fawkes Celebrations ever. Flaming torches lit the streets and a burning boat, the emblem of the Rye Bonfire Society, was dragged around the town as has happened for years immemorial.
Don’t let the 400 year celebration of Guy Fawkes throw you, there were torchlight processions and burning boats in the streets of the Ancient Town as far back as the Fifteenth Century. Rye celebrated the raid on France when the men of this town, aided by their friends at Winchelsea regained the Bells from Rye Church which had been looted by the French the year before. The French boats were hauled out of the Harbour, set on fire and dragged around the streets. The celebration of that great victory was remembered every year, so Rye’s flaming torchlight processions were performed in these ancient streets long before Guy Fawkes met his end. That is what the Bonfire Boys tell us anyway.
Who was Rye Fawkes this year? The Cheeky Girls were in America and a well know singer let the Bonfire Boys down so Dickie Bird stepped into the breach. Who was Dickie Bird you may well ask. No not the famous umpire, but none other than our popular Mayoress, Jessica Neame who braved the treacherous ride on the Sedan Chair and risked being set on fire by flaming torches in the “Dickie Bird” outfit to perform the annual ritual of setting fire to the Bonfire.
This year the fire was built in the shape of a large ship as a tribute to the 200th. Anniversary of Trafalgar. The fireworks were tremendous. Four minutes of colour and noise that will remain in the memory till next year’s bigger and even better show comes along. Well done to all concerned, no doubt there was a great deal of money collected for the local charities the Rye Bonfire Society supports
From “Rye’s Own December 2005 issue.