‘They were like pigeons that would tell you to f*ck off if you didn’t give them money’
As the last embers of life drained from Guy Fawkes, I wonder if he pondered what his legacy would be. Would he inspire generations of freedom fighters? Would a likeminded group finish the work started by he and his conspirators? Or would naughty children make effigies of him out of rolled up tights and old trackie bottoms and intimidate the public into giving them money for their mostly sh!te efforts? Well I’m sorry Guy, but it was predominantly the latter.
Traditionally in the five days preceding bonfire night groups of children (normally with behavioural problems) would line the high streets asking passers by for a ‘penny for the guy’. The Guy in question is based on the likeness of Guy Fawkes, truly the Harry Styles of the Gunpowder plot boiz.
Rolled up tights played a big part of replicating Fawkes in model form, ‘just fill out the body with sh!t loads of rolled up tights’ instructed Konnie Huq in a Bonfire night themed episode of Blue Peter from 1997. Depending on how enthusiastic the children were the head would either be a sorry looking balloon, or a papier-mâché orb, accompanied with a nightmarish face.
The children themselves would gang around the model and mutter the ‘penny for the guy’ catchphrase as you passed, failure to acknowledge their genius with a cash offering would often result in a poorly formed sweary insult ‘don’t be schneidy then yer f*kern meff’ etc – you take the insult and keep walking, knowing deep down that in about three years time they’ll be able to kick your head in.
The culmination of their efforts would see the guy tossed onto the local bonfire, whilst the gathered masses all clapped and cheered, careful not to pause for a moment and think, ‘this is all bit weird when you think about it’.
Much like Pat Sharp and Wagon Wheels the whole Penny for the Guy craze burnt very bright in the 1990s, and is more or less non existent now, small patches of bonfire night beggars can be found loitering, but you can tell their hearts aren’t in it anymore.
For nostalgia sakes here are a few more things that died out around the same time…
- Cd singles
- Mousetrap (the game)
- Mousetraps (small wooden death machines for mice)
- Philip Schofield (although he was resurrected like a silver haired Christ sometime around 2004)
So what are the reasons for its decline? Not saying we miss the little bellends but I’m intrigued; is it due to the young’uns being cemented to their phones? Is it because they’re now too lazy to roll the tights? Or is it because they can’t afford the £500 pitch fee imposed by the local councils?
Whatever the reason, we miss your tremendous efforts, your blistering charisma and the undercurrent of violence if you didn’t get your penny.