Give Guy Fawkes a break says head of his old school in York

Bonfires will be burning effigies of Gay Fawkes across the nation
Bonfires will be burning effigies of Gay Fawkes across the nation
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THE head of Guy Fawkes’s old school has called for an end to the “barbaric” act of setting fire to his effigy on Bonfire Night.

Leo Winkley said St Peter’s, in York, will celebrate November 5 with fireworks as usual but will continue its tradition of shunning the burning of the Guy.

Mr Winkley said he thinks it is time for the rest of Britain to follow its lead.

He said: “Fundamentally, I just think it’s time to move on.

“Nobody’s condoning the way he tried to dismantle the instrument of democracy, nobody’s condoning any of that, but he did pay the price, he felt the force of the law.

“The thing I do find a bit disturbing really is the idea of burning the effigy of anything.”

Mr Winkley said he accepted Guy Fawkes was a convicted criminal who was executed for his role in the gunpowder plot.

“But, 400 years on, to still think that it’s OK to chuck an effigy of him on top of a fire seems a bit barbaric, really.

“Also I don’t think many people really understand it any more anyway.”

Mr Winkley said the independent school - which was founded in 627AD and is said to be the fourth oldest school in the world - remembers its connection with Fawkes - who was a pupil at the end of the 16th century.

But he says they often choose to celebrate the achievements of other Old Peterites which include three current MPs and England cricketer Jonny Bairstow.

The headteacher said: “I don’t want to be a party pooper. We have a fireworks display, which is great fun and gathers the community together. But you don’t need the sinister element of burning an effigy.”

He said: “We’re just saying bonfires, fireworks, toffee apples - all of that is really good fun and it’s a communal activity that now has it’s own meaning and it doesn’t need a Guy to confuse things.”

Mr Winkley said he was also worried that, despite the modern take on Bonfire Night, the burning of the effigy had an undercurrent of religious intolerance.

He said: “Anything that expresses, or even hints at religious intolerance, surely in the 21 century we shouldn’t be perpetuating that kind of activity.”