Rye Bonfire Society have had their ups and downs over the years. This feature looks at the good and bad times, successes and failures since the War.
After six years of invasion scares, gas masks, bombs, flying bombs, blackouts and war damage Ryers were ready to laugh and enjoy themselves again.
On 5 November 1945, less than three months after the War (VJ Day was 15 August) Rye Bonfire Society presented a fine Rye Fawkes Celebration. Thousands attended but the only record available states that, one of the tableaux, “Mutiny on the Bounty”, suffered bad luck. Coloured flares set light to the sails and the blaze necessitated attention of the National Fire Service who were handicapped by the fire igniting a large number of fireworks in the boat.
The 1946 Programme lists no less than twenty-two tableaux, led by Rye Town Band. Many titles had a strong Post War flavour. “A Wizard Prang” by RAF Brookland, “Nautical Nonsense” by the Royal Naval Old Comrades Association, “Monty’s New Army” Rye British Legion and “The Prefab Shoe” Rye Girl Guides.
1948 saw the procession being formes up around Cadborough Cliff and down Udimore Road, Tilling Green was just a plan on the map at that time. War time themes were still running through the show, “Hearts of Oak” and “The First of the Few”. Prominent Bonfire members at the time were John Winter, Maurice Beevers, Ernie Odell and Clifford Bloomfield.
1953 was a ‘vintage’ year, things were looking up, it was eight years since the War had ended and commodities were beginning to be affordable. The finest float ever to grace the evening of fire was the famous Dragon, created and constructed at Bellhouses, Rye Engineering and Trawler Co. Ltd. Breathing huge bursts of fire as it swung its head from side to side. The dragon first appeared at the 1951 event and went on to win every prize imaginable at local Carnivals. By 1953 it had become the emblem of the Bonfire Society. The Rye Dragon was ‘The Toast of the Town’………………………..
The quality of the programmes reflected the strength of the fund raising during the year before the event. In 1955 a glossy 32 page, large format publication was being produced. Shortages after the War were now a thing of the past. This fine car was available for immediate purchase at the Central Garage, and the Banister Brothers were running their Ironmongers, with plenty of smiles and jokes, on what has now become known as Banisters’ Corner.
The Rye Fawkes Dance was advertised to take place at The Monastery from 9pm. to Midnight. The famous local Band, ‘The Blue Aces’ provided the music and the cost of the evening would be just half-a-crown (12p). There were tit bits of information and history slotted into odd spaces including:-
By 1959 the programme was still glossy but reduced to a smaller format.
Rye Fawkes that year was The Mayor of Rye Alfred Horner. The programme also listed previous Rye Fawkes back to 1946. Some were just local characters but well known personalities were also carried on the famous Sedan Chair over the years. There were to be a succession of stars from the new television soaps during the 1960’s.
Programmes were printed at Adams of Rye and their influence can be seen on every issue produced. The quality and ingenuity shown by the Rye printing firm is evident throughout, from the inclusion of appropriate small art work that illustrates the listings to the care and thought put into the layout of advertisements.
1960, when Davies’ Coaches looked like this and a ‘Luxury Television’ from J. E. Hollands & Sons of Cinque Ports Street looked like this, Rye Bonfire Society was having one of its best periods. The show went on with ever increasing popularity. The two fine 1959 Jack Wood photographs illustrate the effort that was made by some entrants. Both the Rye Model Laundry and Deans Rag Book entries were winners of their respective classes.
The debonair George Grey, co-founder, with David Sharpe, of Cinque Ports Potteries, became President of Rye Bonfire Society in 1962. This was the year that Rye Movie Society made a film of the event. This film was shown to hundreds over several showings.
1962 – 1965 were especially good years for the Rye Fawkes Bonfire Pageant but then the Programme got thinner and thinner. The event was just as enjoyable but the Society was finding it more difficult to recruit new members as some of the older ones faded away. Great efforts were made by the small committee and the show went on.
By 1978 Adams were no longer printing the programme, it was a much inferior effort reflecting the higher expenses and shortage of cash being raised during the year.
The writing was on the wall and a flimsy duplicated four page programme was all that the Society could afford to produce.
Actress Angharad Rees carried the torch that lit, what was to be one of the last Rye Bonfires for almost a decade.
Two years later Jimper Sutton, Chairman of the Society, announced there would be no Bonfire Celebrations in 1986 and the show came to an end.
The streets of Rye remained quiet in November until 1994 when the New Rye & District Bonfire Society was born. Spike Milligan was the guy who lit the fire. A new policy of keeping the name of Rye Fawkes secret was established. Some more great names were to follow.
The new society continued with a policy of raising money for local charities, the Rye Swimming Pool Association was the beneficiary.
A new style programme, printed presumably by the Nationwide Building Society, was replaced the following year by the old traditional favourite, printed by Adams.
The revived celebrations were as successful as the originals and people flocked into the town to join the fun. Despite difficulties with policing, membership and insurance over the 13 ensuing years the show still goes on, the firework displays are bigger and better than ever thanks to the innovation of a Auction of Promises and other fund raising events throughout the year. It is amazing to think back over the years and remember all the famous and not so famous people, who have been Rye Fawkes and lit the Rye Bonfire. The early list on page seven ends with 1959 and Alfred Horner. The following are those that followed, those that we can recall, perhaps you may be able to fill in the gaps.
1960 Sir John Ferguson (Retired Kent Police Chief.) 1961 Richard Hearne (Mr. Pastry of Television fame) 1962. General F de Vial (Consul General of France) 1963. Alfie Bass (Bootsie from the TV series) 1964. Desmond Carrington (Television and Stage) 1965. Pamela Duncan (Sister Doughty E. Ward 10) 1966 Pic-Sen-Lim (Nurse Kwei Emergency Ward 10) 1967 Mr. Hunter (Television Soap) 1968 Geofrey Chater (Television Star) 1969 William Hartnell (Television and Stage) 1970 John Anthony (Southern Television Presenter) 1971 1972 1973 Rosamund Grand (Rye Carnival Queen) 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 Miss Rye 1979 Councillor Mrs. J. Yates 1980 1981 1982 1983 (Angharad Rees Film and Television actress) 1984 1985 – 1993 No Pageants. 1994 Spike Milligan 1995 1996 1997 1998 Rod Hull (Great Comedian with Emu and Parkinson) 1999 Vic Reeves ( Television, Films) 2000 John Ryan (Captain Pugwash creator) 2001 Michael Foster M.P. 2002 Kaddy Lee Preston (BBC Weather Forecaster) 2003 Arthur Brown (‘Fire’ Musician and Singer) 2004 David Van Day (from Buck’s Fizz) 2005 Daffy Duck 2006 Councillor
Wendy Miers (Chairman Rother District)
A real cross section of celebrities over the years.
Who will light the Bonfire in 2007?
Can anyone fill in the missing years?
Rye’s Own Archive September 1912
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