An Unforgettable Guy Fawkes Night

An Unforgettable Guy Fawkes Night

Home is the middle house in the centre of the photo (located near the junction of Davara and Le Hunte Roads)

Ross Clifton

In the early 1950s Dad organised a 2-storey home to be built on a multi-terraced hillside block of land in Port Moresby. The large front balcony offered extensive views overlooking Ela Beach—the ideal place to let off crackers on Guy Fawkes Night. Dad had sourced a considerable range of crackers and sky rockets from the various local Chinese trading stores, so we were all looking forward to having one bang of a time.

To start proceedings my younger brother, Ian, selected a rocket big enough to orbit Mars, stuck the stick into a long-necked empty beer bottle and gingerly lit the wick with a match. In his haste to get out of the way he knocked the bottle over and the rocket took off at the speed of light through the house—at about knee height down the hallway and out the open back door just as our young Meko haus boi was entering the house to do the customary washing up duties following our evening meal. I’ll swear he did a standing six-foot-high jump and, upon landing, ran, yelling some unknown obscenities up to his separate living quarters—located on another terrace above our house. Apparently, this was his first encounter with ‘crackers’ and, after a considerable amount of persuasive reassurance that it was indeed an unfortunate accident, and that we would let the remainder off in a more controlled manner outside on the balcony, he finally agreed to resume his chores in the relative safety of our nearby kitchen.

Well, we certainly had set the evening off to a fiery start. Thereafter, my parents sat back as their three sons set about having some more fun—safely tossing the crackers off the balcony onto the terraced lawn below. It was a bit of a lucky dip as the assortment of crackers had been unpackaged and loosely piled into a solid old, galvanised iron bucket. I elected to go first and reached in, fumbled around and much to my delight pulled out a huge ‘bunger’ about the size of Dad’s index finger. Kim, my older brother, kindly offered to light the wick so I half stood in readiness to toss it over the balcony. We momentarily watched the wick erratically fizz and fizzle and then we groaned as it went out.

Dad looked over and warned, ‘You had better be careful, that could just about blow your hand off!’ My brother cautiously lit the short wick again and, with Dad’s words echoing in my head, I earnestly tried to fling it over the balcony. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be. It hit the top rail and, with our eyes transfixed, we all watched it slowly topple end over end … directly into the bucket of crackers!!

At this point we all unceremoniously flung ourselves flat on the deck in a nanosecond—screaming out all manner of things that can’t be printed. What happened next was a scaled down version of an ammunition depot scoring a direct hit on the Western Front. The noise was horrendous as a continual barrage of crackers erupted with clouds of thick smoke bellowing about. We lay there, half choking and coughing on the heavy fumes, listening closely for any last second sounds of fizzling wicks.

Following a momentary silence Dad cautiously yelled out, ‘Quick, out the back!’ As we hastily fumbled our way through the eye-watering haze (following the route taken by the earlier wayward skyrocket) we noticed that our haus boi had understandably abandoned his duties in the kitchen—no doubt headed for the safety of the hills as we didn’t see him again until the following morning.

Talk about a bang of a time, that’s one Guy Fawkes Night we’ve never forgotten!

Note, the home is the middle house in the centre of the photo (located near the junction of Davara and Le Hunte Roads)—magic views, from Local Island across to Paga Hill, etc. The pic’s a ‘digitalised’ 35 mm slide (using an improvised light diffuser contraption), originally taken in ’77.


Worked for Burns Philp in Popondetta and Port Moresby from 1980 through 1987

Leave a Reply