Among the burning Guys, a solitary John

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The Independent Online

The well-upholstered John went to his doom in Edenbridge, Kent, having narrowly defeated David Blunkett in an election to choose the town's annual hate figure. The issue that swayed it was the Deputy Prime Minister's housing plans, and what they might do to the pleasant riverside town. And so, having pipped the Work and Pensions Secretary by one vote, Edenbridge's John went to the stake.

Almost everywhere else, and appropriately so since it was the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, it was Guys who went on to the bonfires. Except for York, the home town of Guy Fawkes, where tradition has it that it would be somewhat disloyal to burn an Old Boy.

Fawkes was recently included in a list of Yorkshire's 50 greatest people compiled by Lady Thatcher's former press secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham.

As every schoolchild used to know, Ingham's hero was one of those who intended to blow the House of Lords and King James I to kingdom come.

The foiling of this, and the hanging, drawing and quartering of the plotters, was followed a few years later by an Act of Parliament making 5 November a day of thanksgiving for the "joyful day of deliverance" when the gunpowder was discovered.

The Act remained in force until 1859. Just a few years before that, Britain's greatest Guy Fawkes celebrations began, in Lewes in East Sussex. Huge crowds duly attended last night's bonfires, fireworks and some 30 torchlit processions.

* A 10-year-old boy was seriously injured when a firework "went astray" into a crowd watching an organised Bonfire Night display. Northamptonshire Police said 10 people were taken to hospital from the event at Wicksteed Park, Kettering.

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