When soldiers found 1,800lbs of gunpowder stashed under the Houses of Parliament by Guy Fawkes in 1605, they saved hundreds of lives in an instant.
Ironically, though, celebrating the uncovering of the Gunpowder Plot 400 years ago has injured many people. While fireworks are things of wonderment and pleasure, around 1,000 children and adults are hurt annually through their use in the four weeks around Bonfire Night, November 5, with some victims receiving serious and long-lasting burns.
Exactly how many are hurt is unknown, because the Government stopped keeping the statistics in Britain in 2005. Despite expectations that accidents might be falling, the figures had been going in the opposite direction: between 1995 and 2005, accidents rose from 908 to a peak of 1,362, before ending the decade at 990.
Thankfully, Northern Ireland has continued to keep statistics: its experience shows that accidents are on the rise. Firework-related injuries leapt markedly between 2004 and 2007, and tumbled last year, but last year only.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) says the total number of accidents varies from year to year, according to factors such as the weather (wet nights discourage impulse-buying of fireworks), but it says it has no reason to believe that firework-related injuries have fallen from their average of 1,000 a year. Its scanning of local newspapers reveals a grisly toll of eye, head and other injuries.
In 2005, nearly half the injuries (48 per cent) were sustained at family or private parties and a quarter happened in the street or other public place where fireworks are banned. Half the victims were children even though it is illegal to sell fireworks to anyone under 18.
So it's worth bearing in mind a few pointers. Legally, all fireworks sold in the UK must conform to British Standards and should have BS7114 stamped on the box. Street hawkers sometimes sell "bargain" fireworks without this safety standard. Rospa warns that instructions might be missing or not be in English.
Philip Le Shirley, its product-safety adviser, said: "When times are tough, the option of buying cheap fireworks from unregistered sellers can look tempting. But our message is that fireworks bought from rogue traders – whether from the back of a van, from door-to-door sellers or from unregistered premises – can come at a much costlier price than mere pounds and pence."
Sometimes, cheap fireworks have been stolen from professional displays, where they would be remotely detonated. One such theft, of a £5,000 consignment, took place from a lock-up in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, this month. Among the haul, marked "Category 4 prohibited – professional use only" was a case load of aerial display shells, resembling hand grenades, in both appearance and impact. Lighting one could be fatal.
"In a best-case scenario it would definitely blow someone's hand off – but the explosions are so powerful it would more than likely kill you," PC Rob Arthur, from Market Harborough police station, told The Leicester Mercury.
Following the firework code helps reduce accidents, so:
*Plan your firework display in advance for safety and enjoyment
*Keep fireworks in a closed box and use one at a time
*Read and follow the instructions on each firework, using a torch if necessary
*Light a firework at arm's length with a taper and stand well back
*Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
*Never return to a firework once it has been lit
*Don't put fireworks in pockets and never throw them
*Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
*Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
*Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving
Heroes & Villains
The health and beauty website came top of the cosmetics, haircare and toiletries category in a Which? survey of online shops. Founded by friends Liz Earle and Kim Buckland in 1995, Lizearle.com sells Liz Earle-branded botanical essence eau de parfum, face-protector sun creams, energising hip and thigh gels and other exotic-sounding lotions. It scored highly for ease of navigation, product range, delivery and price. Other winners were Play.com, Johnlewis.com and Wiggle.co.uk, which sells sports gear.
Villain: Rick Stein
Britain's best known fish chef is still serving species blighted by over-fishing at his Cornish restaurants, according to a new guide. Fish2fork acknowledged the BBC presenter had tried to take pressure off cod by serving more abundant species such as gurnard, but warned: "His restaurants continue to churn through an awful lot of wild fish from poorly managed stocks, including halibut, salmon, turbot and Dover sole."
Stein responded by claiming fish stocks were not as low as believed, saying that if he followed official advice he would have to remove 80 per cent of his fish. "I couldn't run a menu with it," he told Cheltenham Literature Festival. See fish2fork.com.