The Funny Side Of Conflict

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

Just out of curiosity how many of you lit a bonfire yesterday to celebrate Guy Fawkes being arrested in 1605? So few of us were around when Guy and his pals attempted to blow up the House of Lords but I wonder if bonfires and fireworks are still the thing to do back in Merrie Old England.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
We see no reason
Why Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot….

Do you remember chanting that limerick? Neither do I; it must be an English Protestant thing. Sure as hell no Catholic would sing it.

Looking back the evidence of an assassination plot was flimsy to say the least. Just because Guy, a Roman Catholic, was discovered skulking around in the basement of the House of Lords with a box of matches and 36 barrels of gunpowder, doesn’t mean he was planning anything. Mind you, he was a non-smoker so why the matches, but there could have been dozens of reasons why he was down there; I just can’t think of any at the moment and obviously neither could he.

I could be wrong, if I am it will be the first time, but didn’t Henry VIII start the Church of England because he wanted to dump Catherine of Aragon to take a run at Anne Boleyn? The Pope at the time, Clement the VII, was a bit of a stick in the mud and wouldn’t go along with it. That was the decision that led to Guy getting his head chopped off and eventually to ten thousand Orangemen marching down Yonge Street to the dreadful sound of fifes and drums.

I’m sure all of us old geezers remember the 12th of July parades. Every year they marched all over the place. Toronto held the big one in Canada. I know a disgusting joke about King Billy on a white horse and would tell it here but John, my esteemed editor, would only chop it so why bother? But if you send me a S-A-S-E and five dollars I… better not, that may be against the law too.

I am wondering though how many of us remember the Black Knights parade in Orillia on August 12th 1951 (I think that was the date). We lived on Bay Street and the lodges and bands ended up in Couchiching Park just down the street from our place. I guess they had speeches and some sort of ceremony but I wasn’t interested in any of that stuff. What did fascinate me were the drummers. I’ll bet at least a hundred of them formed a big circle across from where the Pav used to sit and beat the hell out of their drums. They pounded and pounded them for what seemed like hours. Anyone living within six blocks of Cooch was lined up at OSMH the next morning to have their ear drums welded back together.        

Some of the marching bands were huge and dressed in sharp military-styled uniforms, some were two or three fifes and a drum, and one I remember was just one big bruiser all by his lonesome who hammered out a march-step on a bass drum all the way from the Oval on West Street to the park. Why his arms didn’t fall off has to be some sort of medical mystery.

You would think this religious rivalry nonsense would be forgotten by now but there are still hard-core pockets of it – especially in Ireland and probably over here too.

Mary and I were in Belfast two weeks before the Glorious Twelfth about 11 years ago and there were Union Jacks flying all over the place. One could feel the tension – or maybe we just imagined it since we were in the very pub where the IRA met to plot the bombing of the Europa Hotel across the road. The Europa has the distinction of being the most bombed hotel in the world, 36 times during the troubles. I believe if you got blown up during the night your breakfast was free.

I have read several books about the Irish/English religious and political situation. Trinity by Leon Uris and The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd are just two of them and both are excellent.  In my humble opinion the leaders of both camps should have joined Sir Guy on the chopping block. The world would now be a much better place.

Ain’t religion grand?

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