The Gunpowder Plot
Edward H. Joy
This is a selection from the unpublished manuscript,
Fathers Have Told Us',
some early-day stories from The
It was really not a matter for wonder that the publicans and
pawnbrokers of the town were up in arms, for, since the coming
of The Army, their respective businesses had fallen much below
par, and as others of their regular customers were thought to
be following in the footsteps of those who had already
enrolled themselves with us, it was high time for them to take
steps to check the movement.
It may be for the easier telling of the tale if I say I
took place in Hillroyd, my chance name for a small
manufacturing town in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Nor many months elapsed before a fully organized ‘Skeleton
Army’ put in an appearance, and nightly attacks on us began.
The ‘Skeletons’ treated us with all the fierce cruelty
which drink inspired hate could suggest.
Not only on those evening when we were ‘on the march’
did these assaults occur, but on other occasions injury was
done to individual Soldiers, and to the Hall, which, in the
phraseology of those days, was termed ‘the Barracks’.
That ramshackle place was in the lower part of the town,
hidden away behind factors, and approached by a winding back
lane. You couldn’t
say ‘it was not much to look at’, for so hidden in was it,
that apart from the front door, no part of its outside was
visible except from surrounding backyards.
It was the best the DO (divisional officer) had been
able to discover in his reconnoitering, and he had only
obtained it by guile, making sure of the lease before he
disclosed that the despised Army would be the occupants.
It was well that he had it all ‘signed, sealed, and
settled’, for many were the efforts made to shorten and to
break the tenancy.
But such a dingy, draughty half-wooden structure, would never
have been dreamed of for a ‘Citadel’ in those days, although
night after night it was filled with a host of folks, some of
them shouting and praise God, and some shouting and screaming
in efforts to disturb the proceedings.
And souls were saved, added to The Army daily, and
consequently, to put it in the words of the old song:
‘The publicans were going about, Glory! Hallelujah! Saying
they were driving us out, Glory! Hallelujah!’
The landlord of the ‘Bull and Chickens’, at the top of the
entry-passage through he had done much to lessen our audience
when he tarred his side-wall and induced his over-the-way
neighbor to do the same, so that all who desired to tread the
way to Salvation did so at the risk of spoiling their clothes.
But that did not stem the flow, though the dyers and
cleaners felt the benefit.
What was to be done about it?
The landlord would not turn out his tenants, and the
‘Skeleton Army’ demonstrations only seemed to make the
Salvationists more enthusiastic.
It was tauntingly annoying, too, for the publican to
hear our crowd singing as we marched down the lane:
‘Storm the public-houses Bring the sign-boards down!’
One night a plot was hatched.
November the 5th was approaching, a festival
always boisterously observed by the rougher element of the
town, and the remembrance of tis near approach suggested
something to our neighbor the publican.
He laid it before a gathering of his pals in all its
ruddy glory; it was not less a scheme than to “burn out T’
It was to be done on the Saturday night, the night of the
‘Fifth’, so that when the Salvationists came along for their
‘knee drill’ Sunday morning, they would find themselves smoked
out, - fired, so to speak.
Only three or four conspirators were allowed in the
plot, and these were asked to gather the necessary materials.
It would never have done for too many to be in the
secret, else somebody would have told us, or told the police,
and then the game would be up.
The probably danger to the surrounding property did not
enter into the thoughts of these modern Catesbys and Guido
Shavings and waste and paraffin were the chief materials, and
these were stored in a shed at the rear of the ‘Bull and
Chickens’, from whence they were to be taken by stealth and
placed at any vulnerable part of our building.
And, as you may have imagined from by description of
the old rag-store, not much encouragement would be needed to
make it a fine bonfire.
Of course, such a plot could not be carried through without
much liquid refreshment, and, naturally, the conspirators
expected, and received, free drinks in such abundance as to
make them less careful than the deed demanded.
And then whoever thought of a conspirator, particularly on the
Fifth of November, without a pipe?
It was a pipe that exploded the mine, so to speak, for
one of the landlord’s minions, overloaded with drink and
underloaded with caution, ventured to light his pipe among the
pile of shavings and soaked waste which he was handling
preparatory to shifting it to the scene of the action.
You can guess what happened!
In a moment the dropped smoldering match had set light
to the inflammatory store, and, almost quicker than it takes
me to write, the whole heap was a roaring flame, and the
landlord’s shed was the bonfire instead of the ‘Barracks’.
From the shed the flames leaped to the house, itself
ancient and far from fireproof, until that, too, was a raging
Fifty years ago and more municipal fire brigades were not as
highly organized as now, and the amateur firemen did not
respond too quickly to the call, and then it came about that
fully half-an-hour had elapsed before there was any real
effort to fight the flames, by which time all hope of saving
the ‘Bull and Chickens’ was a thing of the past.
It was as much as they could do to save the
neighbouring houses, and by a providential direction of the
wind not a flame nor a spark came near ‘the good old Army’.
But that wasn’t the whole of the calamity so far as the
landlord was concerned.
The brewer-owners got to hear of the plot and refused
to stand by him when he made his insurance claim.
The only thing they did
for him was to keep the police out of it, not too difficult an
understanding when a plot against the Salvationists had
miscarried, or misfired, shall we say?
As for the Salvationists, well, of course they rejoiced in
their deliverance, but the Soldiers thought there were doing
nothing more than their duty when a little later they ‘clubbed
round’ amongst themselves and paid a month’s rent for a house
for the landlord, so that he should have a shelter ‘when his
wife’s time comes’.