What were those Bonfire Nights in Rye of more than fifty years ago really like? So many stories are passed down by those senior citizens who were there. They tell of amazing burning boats being carried around the town, of fireworks being thrown in the streets and of famous film stars being Rye Fawkes. At least thirty tableau every year, and four or five marching bands. There were bloaters cooked on the bonfire and Dances at the Monastery. The story of how the Rye Wheelers relayed a flame, lit by the Mayor of Westminster, from London Bridge, sixty miles by tandem to light the 1950 Rye Bonfire on time is a legend of local folklaw.
Then there were the people, the great bonfire boys of the past, names like Frank Taylor, Alf Horner, Bobby Edwards, Frank Hall, Dudley Bear, Maureen Bear, Charlie Tomlin, George Fletcher, John Winter, Ernie Odell, Clifford Bloomfield, Bill Carey, Jim McConnell, Tom Upton and so many others.
In addition to preparations for their explosive night of the year, the Bonfire Boys and Girls of those times found the talent, time and ‘tanners’ to present Variety Shows, Pantomimes, Kiddies Parties, Christmas Present Delivery, Sideshows and Teas at Rye Sports Days, Dances, Film Shows, the list is endless.
Times have changed but the Bonfire Boys of today have stayed as true to their traditions as modern restrictions and new laws allow. Those Bonfire Boys of old, and a few of them do still survive, would take their hats off to the men and women of today’s Rye Bonfire Society who put so much effort into making today’s Celebrations into such a fine spectacle.
From November 2003 issue of “Rye’s Own”