While reading the November issue of Rye’s Own, it brought back boyhood memories of life in Rye back in the late 1940’s. I was born at 10 New Winchelsea Road to Jack and Marjory Fuller. Later moving to 46b Udimore Road, where the bonfire night procession used to start. My brother and myself were ‘Bonfire Boys’, as our father was. We wore the badge with the ‘burning boat’ emblem upon them. A few days before the “big night”, all the Bonfire Boys would meet up in Bedford Place, at the back of the old cinema in the Landgate. This is where the torches, which were soaked in paraffin, for the procession were made. The bonfire had been built on the Salts with chestnut and birch faggots made by Jimmy Dewhurst at Udimore. Over the years he must have made thousands of them. On bonfire night all the local children would follow the floats around the town, their pockets full of penny bangers! A very dangerous practise, but we all did it then. As we all followed the procession, we would pick up torches which had been dropped in the gutter. We used to get covered in paraffin as it ran down the handles. The best part of the night was eating bloaters, which had been cooked on a brazier in an old steel boat in the procession. The bloaters had been smoked by Frank Jarret who had a fishing tackle and net shop down the Mint. I remember one year my father making a Readicut rug with the ‘burning boat’ emblem on it for a raffle. It was displayed in a shop window in the High Street, and whoever guessed how many knots were in the rug won it. The proceeds from the raffle were given to the Bonfire Boys’ fund.
It would be interesting to know if anyone remembers the rug, or indeed if it is still around almost sixty years later! The following day (Sunday) lots of children would go to the fishmarket and around the Nissen huts to pick up rocket sticks. Why we did it, or what we did with them I’m not sure, but it was obviously great fun! I attended Ferry Road Primary School, (now sadly demolished), and can remember the Bonfire Boys putting on a party and pantomime in the school hall every Christmas. They also used to distribute presents, to children in Rye on Christmas morning. The presents were purchased by the parents, and they made a donation to the Bonfire Boys’ fund for the delivery service.
From the December 2007 issue of “Rye’s Own”