Jimper has been a member of Rye Bonfire Society since he was a boy. Here he tells of a bonfire night incident from the past


Rye again and Bonfire Night on Conduit Hill. The old Monastery was doing a roaring trade, for then it was a place to party the night away. The night was like many others dark, cold, wet, a real November bonfire night. A group of lads, no doubt by their haircuts, army lads from Lydd, were coming out. As I tried to enter, one of the boys turned to his mate and produced quite a large brown packet sized parcel, which I immediately recognised as a thunder flash as used on the ranges while practising warfare. He promptly lifted the lid from the dustbin standing by the door, dropped it in and slammed the lid back on. The group legged it. The three people following were barged inside as I made a rapid entrance to the hall. “Look out,” I said and at the time the present from the lads exploded with an ear shattering bang.

It Could Have Been So Much Worse
It Could Have Been So Much Worse

It was only with good fortune that no one was on the receiving end at the time for on going to investigate the damage, there was only the naked bottom of the bin left. We never did find the bin or lid, only one of the steel handles was found wedged into the doorpost of the off licence fifty yards away. The other handle was never seen. Thunder flashes were a curse on Bonfire Night. They were capable of doing you harm especially if you tried to protect your girlfriend from one by putting your foot over it.

The home-made rousers were tame compared to them. Once, while engaged in letting the display of fireworks off, someone had thrown a thunder flash amid the gang. I got the full benefit of it as my mates shouted out a warning. That year we were up to our knees in mud and where we had dug the mortars in and erected the fireworks, had trodden the ground up rather deeply. Luckily the bomb tossed at us had stuck well in and I got no more than a liberal coating of mud and a ringing in my ears. It was fun but we were playing with gunpowder and it is with luck that no one got hurt each year. Today such things are banned and with the threat of terrorism now on everyone’s minds, such practises would not go down well in any town at any time. To do so today, you would be looking at a prison sentence.

“Rye’s Own” December 2010

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