Senses assaulted by giant bonfires
Ellacombe children on top of their bonfire ready for November 5, 1974
FORGET Halloween. When I was growing up November 5 was the night to be afraid.
Weeks before, the kids of every community would start building a giant bonfire on any bit of open space, often the nearest park or football pitch. Anything flammable was heaved on top of the growing pile, an opportunity for people to get rid of old sofas and mattresses.
I suppose there must have been some parental guidance but in my area of Efford in Plymouth it was our bonfire and we guarded it night and day in case children from another area robbed our timber – or tried to set fire to it prematurely.
As dusk fell on November 5 we gathered round, hoisted an effigy of Guy Fawkes on top and lit the base.
To this day I shall never forget the flames and heat, shooting into the night air.
If it was windy gusts of sparks showered the crowds. It was elemental, terrifying and awe-inspiring all at once.
And when ours dimmed we jumped in the car and went to look at others still roaring away.
These memories were ignited when I found these two pictures of Ellacombe’s Brewery Park in November 1974.
Neighbourhood bonfires were becoming so big that often council workers would arrive and dismantle them.
This appears to have happened in the first picture, which also shows tents in which children probably slept to guard it.
The second picture is captioned Ellacombe Bonfire Children’s Protest and I suspect they’ve re-stacked it in defiance.
If you are among the faces, or have memories of other community bonfires, please write or email in.
Brewery Park in Ellacombe in November 1974