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Remember, remember the Fifth of November The Gunpowder Treason

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Of Bonfires, Famous And Infamous.
The Catholic Herald calls Protestantism “the battle cry of murderers”
Professor Arthur Noble.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Popular nursery rhyme

On 13 November 1998 The Catholic Herald published an outrageous article attacking Protestants, entitled “Incendiary Remnant of a more volatile and believing age”. We reproduce the following extracts:

The recent Auto da Fé in Lewes, in which “the pope” was burnt in effigy, offended many Catholics and brought back talk of the “bad old days” before Catholic Emancipation. It was an offensive act: would loyal Anglicans wish to see Catholics burn the Archbishop of Canterbury in effigy (probably many would) or, far worse, would they wish to see an effigy of the Queen, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, burst into flames? […] The annual Lewes Bonfire on the Fifth of November is offensive and ironic. But it is much more. It is the last gasp of a tradition that was once the basis of our national identity. Protestantism, once the foundation of our “glorious constitution in Church and State”, is now something preached in small, back-street chapels and among the fanatic fringes of Northern Ireland’s criminal classes. It has become the battle cry of murderers. […]

According to the author of this article, one James Munson, whose journalistic impertinence matches his myopic understanding of history, the annual Lewes Bonfire of the Fifth of November is “offensive” and “ironic”. His suggested comparison with burning an effigy of the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Queen is, of course, totally irrelevant, since neither of them has ever been guilty of the atrocities perpetrated by the Pontiffs of his own Church. Moreover, his false portrayal of the traditional Bonfire as representing “the last gasp” of a dying Protestantism glaringly overlooks the fact that it was again his own Church that systematically put Protestants to death.

The Protestants of Northern Ireland must demand an apology and a retraction from this Romanist adventurer, who should be taught that the fundamentalist Protestant Churches in the United Kingdom are no back-street chapels attended by those whom he describes as fringe lunatics, criminals and murderers. He would have been better employed in exposing the real identity of the criminals and murderers in this scenario – not Protestants, but his own co-religionists.

His article is characterised by blatant distortion of historical fact and the convenient failure to mention the continual attacks by the Vatican on our country, both military and conspiratorial, throughout our history, which accompanied the long and bloody struggle for the freedom of our Kings and Queens from the domination of the Papacy.

The Lewes celebrations are part of the commemoration of the successful foiling of one such attack – the Gunpowder Plot, a conspiracy by prominent Roman Catholics to kill James I, King of England (1603-1625) – who gave us the Authorised Version of the Bible – and to murder the Lords and the Commons, at the state opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605. The object, as Munson must well know, was to overthrow Protestantism, the faith of the majority, in England, and to place the infant daughter of James on the throne under a Papist protector. A full account of the Gunpowder Plot was published in The Weekly Newes [sic], No. 19, of 31 January 1606, which quoted the Indictment of 28 January against the conspirators as designed “to stir rebellion and sedition in the Kingdom”, “to change, alter and subvert the Religion here established” and “to ruinate the state of the Commonwealth and to bring in strangers to invade it”

The Romanist conspirators were directed by the Jesuit Garnet and aided by the suicide bomber Guy Fawkes, who confessed his own guilt and was hanged on January 31, 1606. In the week or so preceding 5 November a rag-stuffed figure, formerly representing the Pope himself, has since been traditionally taken around the streets by children asking for fireworks money – “a penny for the Guy”. On the night itself, also known as Bonfire Night, bonfires are lit in which, traditionally, the effigy, or Guy, is burnt. Nowadays, the spectacular fireworks displays staged by many municipalities are as much part of the ceremony as the lighting of bonfires.

The significance of Lewes, however, reverts to fifty years previously, when in the twelve months from June 1556 it was the scene of the burning of innocent Protestants for “heresy”. On 8 May 1901 a great Martyrs’ Memorial was unveiled in Lewes in memory of these witnesses for an open Bible, who opposed the Mass and the Confessional. Is it not symptomatic of Munson’s loyalty to the wiles of ‘Holy Mother Church’ to attack the innocent, symbolic and commemorative burning of an effigy in order to cover up the real, true and actual burning of the martyrs? The tactic of not mentioning this atrocity can only have been designed to obscure the facts of history by portraying the Lewes celebrations as offensive to Roman Catholics. Was it offensive to the Lewes Protestants of the sixteenth century to torture and burn them? – and by whom were those bonfires set? By Romanists in back-street chapels – the real fringe lunatics and murderers!


These are historical facts which Munson’s feigned conciliatory language cannot expunge. Subtle use of ecumenical-style jargon may succeed in luring the weaklings into the fold of Romanism, but it cannot conceal the unchanged hatred of Protestantism expressed in the outrageous extracts quoted above.

There follows much rhetoric about “tolerance” – “ironic”, indeed, to cast Munson’s own word back at him. If tolerance is indeed, as he states, “the mark of a civilised country which has beliefs but which also has an overriding determination to tolerate but not to accept the views and practices of minorities”, how is it then that Munson’s own faith has the remarkable historical record of calling for tolerance in the name of Protestant principles when it is in the minority, but denying tolerance to Protestants in the name of Vatican principles when it is in the majority? Perhaps, as his model of “tolerance”, he would like to cite the Inquisition with its brutal and dastardly torture, “correction” of “heretics”, bludgeonings, dismemberings and burnings at the stake; or, more recently, the Fascist-Roman Catholic statelet of Croatia during the Hitler era when it systematically slaughtered a quarter of a million Orthodox Serbs and forcibly converted three quarters of a million of them to Romanism.

Then, as an extra measure to divert attention from the real significance of Lewes, we have a discourse on “Catholic emancipation”. Lewes was not about the emancipation of Roman Catholics; it was about the murder of Protestants.

As to Munson’s description of the ‘inflammatory’ nature (if the pun can be excused) of the Lewes celebrations as an “incendiary remnant of a more volatile and believing age”, it would have been more honest and truthful to expose those who, throughout history, have been actually responsible for the flames, from the bonfires of the Inquisition to the canons and gunpowder of invaders and the incendiary devices and Semtex of Rome-inspired terrorists; but then truth and honesty have never been the hallmarks of a Romanist, be he cleric or lay writer. This article, dressed in the garb of conciliation, is itself an inflammatory and libellous attack on decent Protestant people who hold to the truth of ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’.

Old PopeThe other day I came across by a drawing inspired by John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. If Munson should ever have the occasion or the desire to read the history books accurately, let him well remember the truth portrayed in that drawing. It shows an Old Pope sitting biting his nails, and wondering what to do next, in the midst of the skulls and bones of all humanity, burned to death by his devices. Instead of vilifying the famous Lewes Bonfire, which is but a harmless and symbolical, but utterly vital, reminder of the origin of the atrocities of that time, let the author of this scurrilous article read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest, that the real bonfires were set in this country by none other than his own Church of Rome. They are well symbolised in that drawing. They were a bonfire of bones, a bonfire of Bibles, and a bonfire of brave men. The bones were the bones of Wycliffe, the Bibles were the Bibles of Tyndale, and the brave men those who were burned in the persecutions carried out by the Romanist “Bloody Queen Mary”.

Let the Protestants of Britain remember this great Memorial at Lewes, the unveiling of which was described as follows by The Protestant Echo of May 15, 1901:

This long looked for event was celebrated on Wednesday, May 8th, amid considerable interest and enthusiasm. The company was a large one, and comprised Protestants from long distances as well as those of the surrounding neighbourhood, the trains bearing heavy freights of persons who were desirous of doing honour to the memory of those worthy men and women who gave up their lives rather than deny Jesus Christ and His Gospel. […] The memorial is a granite obelisk, 35 ft. in height, bearing on that side facing the county town an inscription to the memory of those who perished at Lewes during the Marian persecutions. It is situated on the slope of the Downs, practically in a straight line with Lewes High Street. […] The Countess of Portsmouth […] gracefully performed the unveiling of the memorial, and exposing to view the inscription, which ran as follows:- “In loving memory of the undernamed seventeen Protestant martyrs who, for faithful testimony to God’s truth, were, during the reign of Queen Mary, burned to death in front of the Star Inn – now the Town Hall – Lewes; this obelisk, provided by public subscriptions, was erected A.D. 1901.

DATE OF MARTYRDOM, June 6th, 1555. Dirick Carver, of Brighton. Thomas Harland and John Oswald, both of Woodmancote. Thomas Avington and Thomas Reed, both of Ardingly. DATE OF MARTYRDOM, about June 20th, 1556. Thomas Hood (a minister of the Gospel), of Lewes. Thomas Miles, of Hellingly. DATE OF MARTYRDOM, June 22nd, 1557. Richard Woodman and George Stevens, both of Warbleton. Alexander Hosman, William Mainard, and Thomasina Wood, all of Mayfield. Margery Morris and James Morris (her son), both of Heathfield. Denis Burges, of Buxted. Ann Ashton, of Rotherfield. Mary Groves, of Lewes.

“And they overcame because of the blood of the Lamb; and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their live even unto death.” – Rev. xii 11, R.V.

The Lewes Protestant Martyrs’ Memorial Volume, Turn or Burn, by Rev. F.J. Hamilton, D.D., and W. Stanley Martin, was published in 1901. The book contains a chapter on “Why the Lewes Martyrs were burned” in which the authors demonstrate that the doctrines for protesting against which the martyrs were killed in 1555-56 were the very same ones as those being taught by the Roman Church in 1901. They remain unaltered in 1998. Semper eadem! . . European Institute of Protestant Studies


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