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24 September 2014
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"We don't burn effigies of old boys"
St Peter's School
The school that won't burn a guy

A York historian explains why St Peter's School, has a ban on a bonfire night tradition.

Hugh Murray says it's not just that the school is sensitive about burning effigies of old boys.

York's most infamous son, Guy Fawkes
St Peter's School
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 Guy Fawkes is believed to have been born in Stonegate, York, about April 13th, 1570

 Robert Catesby, a young Roman Catholic gentleman, and not Guy Fawkes was the actual leader of the Gunpowder Plot

 Guy Fawkes' job was "simply" to remain in the cellar of the Houses of Parliament, ready to light the fuse to dozens of barrels of gunpowder, once King James I was in the building.
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An effigy of one of York's most famous, or should that be infamous, sons is burned on bonfires throughout the country every year on 5th November.

Guy Fawkes, who was born and raised in York, was one of the central figures in the plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament on November 5th 1605.

But there's one place in York that has put a ban on burning guys.

Fawkes was a former pupil of St Peters School in York. It has become one of the school's traditions not to have a guy.

New custom

York historian Hugh Murray, himself a former St Peters pupil, says this 'tradition' is a relatively recent change.

"During the time I was at St Peters, just after the war, guys weren't burned because the headmaster, John Dronfield, had decreed that we should not burn effigies of old boys."

But before Mr Dronfield arrived at the school in 1937, guys were part of the school's Bonfire night celebrations.

"They used to have a very large fire on Clifton Green which the school provided," says Hugh Murray.

"Guys were certainly burnt on the bonfire at that time.

"One year, presumably before the war, an effigy of Mrs Pankhurst was burnt on the school bonfire."

Control issue

Mr Murray believes that the very honourable decision taken by the headmaster, not to burn effigies of former pupils, was actually taken to gain some control.

"I think he was trying to gain control of the discipline of the school. He didn't want these outlandish practices where people danced round bonfires.

"So he invented this splendid excuse, it sounds dreadfully logical that we shouldn't burn effigies of old boys."

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