Bonfire Night – Part 4

The Garw Valley Heritage Society are proud to present a story by Roy Davies, remembering his early days in the Garw.

In the weeks leading up to Bonfire Night, we are printing one part per week.

The following is an account of the author’s boyhood in the Garw Valley when gangs of boys collected anything and everything months in advance to build their bonfires for November 5th.


Part 4 – The Tyre

“Righto,” he said.   “You know that Dai Evans’ father takes his bread van back to the Co-op yard every night?  Well, he took Dai with him last night after school and Dai saw a tyre in the corner of the yard outside the place where they do the repairs.

“Inside the Co-op yard?” whined the very timid boy.  “You didn’t say anything about the tyre being inside the Co-op yard!   What if we’re caught?”

“Look.  Do you want a tyre or don’ you, ” the boy searched the faces around him.  “Think of the blaze we’ll get if we have a tyre.   We could afford to light ours first in the valley and it would still be warm when we went to school the following morning and, who knows, maybe it’ll be still alight if it doesn’t rain.   Now do you want that or don’t you?

“But the Co-op yard has got high gates” said the boy who was frightened of Slavo and Jacko.  “How will we get in – and how will we get the tyre out?    And where will we hide it?

He was aware as they all were of the rarity of old tyres because of the war and how careful their owners were to send them back to the factory for making new tyres when they were old.  Absolutely new, brand new, tyre were unheard of in the valley.   They were as rare as sweets, bananas or chocolate biscuits.   The idea of having something so rare and keeping it a secret was unheard of. “If anyone caught us hiding an old tyre we’d all be in trouble.”

“Look, we’ve all just sworn, haven’t we?” the ringleader demanded.    “No one need know anything about where the tyre went.  We can hide it at the bottom of the bomfire when we build it and once it has burned nobody will ever know the truth – and none of us will talk or else we’ll go to the burning fires of hell!”  He looked around fiercely.   The others nodded their final assent.

Ten minutes later after a slight detour to get a rope and the handle from an old coal bucket, their faces blackened by burnt paper ashes from the candle – one of the boys had seen some soldiers do it for a battle in a picture in the Cinema – all five of them were leaning side by side over the top of the wall that enclosed the yard in which the local Co-operative society garaged its vehicles each night.

Inside there were several brick garages.  Some of the lorries had just been left in the yard for the night and the boys could see them quite clearly and the sharp drop from the top of the wall to the yard seven feet below.

“Can you see it?” one of the boys whispered.

“Not yet,” came the reply.  “Gis a chance.”

“Was tha’ over there?” asked the very timid boy pointing to a round shape against the wall of one of the garages.

Once they had all focused on the object it began to stand out clearly.   It was about ten yards away from their place on the wall leaning at an angle and someone had obviously wrapped it in brown paper ready to be sent back to the factory.

“Do you think we can get it?” asked the very timid boy.

The leader produced the length of  rope he had brought. He tied it to the bucket handle that he bent into the shape of a hook, and stood up on the wall.  Leaving the very timid boy behind as a lookout, he led the others along the top and down onto the concrete roof of the garage against which the old tyre in its wrapping was leaning.

“Ssh!” he warned them.  “When I get the hook inside the tyre and it catches underneath the rim we’ll all help to pull it up.   It’ll be ‘eavy so keep hold of the cord.   Don’t loose it whatever you do.”

He leant on the flat roof and dropped the hooked handle down to the tyre.   He saw it fall inside the round shape and he began to take up the slack.   The four boys heaved on the rope and the tyre slowly left the ground and was steadily lifted up onto the roof.   Their young bodies tingled with the excitement as they rolled the old tyre in its paper wrapping over to the boundary wall and lowered it down to the ground outside.  They dropped back down the wall, wrapped up the rope and hook and with two lookouts in front and one behind, they took turns to roll or carry the tyre back up the mountain to the safety of the shed.

The first boy there jerked open the door and the others pushed the tyre inside and closed the door quickly behind them.   They didn’t dare light the candle.   In their own corners of the rubbish they nestled down in their own warmth and let the excitement subside.   The wind continued to play around the shed but there were no other sounds.

“We done i” said the very timid boy.  “We done i.”

“We’ll have a good look at it tomorrow night,” said the leader.  “Now don’t forget, you’ll go to hell if you break your   vows.  So don’t say nothin to nobody.”

The boys all spit on their hands and shook on it and went their separate ways home.

The next morning the boy who had led the commando raid on the Co-op yard was woken by a loud banging on his front door.

“Oh Jesus, it’s the police,” he said into his pillow as he heard his mother go downstairs to answer the insistent banging.  As she got there he put his head under the bedclothes and pulled his knees up to his chin in fright.

“One of them must have clecked,” he said to himself only this time louder, into the warm darkness,.   “Oh Jesus, what’s going to happen now?”

He heard his mother unlock the door and then the muffled sound of the woman’s voice from next door.   The boy stiffened.

“How could she know?” he thought.  “Nobody could have told her.”

He pulled the clothes down from his face slowly and listened more carefully to the conversation.

“…just hasn’t come.   Nothing.   And I was banking on there being enough milk this morning for their breakfast.   I haven’t got a drop in the house.   Can you lend me a cupful?”

To be continued…

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