Gunpowder, Treason and Profit

Being a Yorkshireman, he was always destined for great things.

His home also gave him his fiery temper, his ambition and his instinct for a good business idea. A business idea with long term growth prospects which would far outlive his initial spark of genius. One with enormous profit margins, mass-market appeal, arguably a little seasonal in its revenues but nothing some clever plotting and financing couldn’t overcome.

Although he was just one of a group of 13, it is he who earned the legacy. It’s surprising that his buddies back home in York described him as ‘pleasant of approach and cheerful of manner, opposed to quarrels and strife…’ . Sounds like a decent guy.

Presumably, he was also built like a proverbial bricker as lugging 36 barrels of gunpowder around London under the cover of dark is no small achievement. Nor is being, as they say, the last person to enter parliament with honest intentions!

It’s thanks to him, Mr Guido Fawkes as he was also known, that sales of warm coats, toffee apples and cheap spinny plastic light up things boom in the first week of November. That the guy selling 5 refillable gas lighters for a quid has a roaring trade (by the way, why buy 5 when they’re refillable??) and that flowers and the slightly inadequate small blotchy pumpkins are quickly removed from the front entrance to Sainsbury’s Trinity Walk.

Instead, in the foyer of said supermarket, a tonne of Blastboxes, Laser Fountains, Stardust, Mini-Volcanoes and Whizz Wheels dominate, overshadowing the poor customer service assistant who holds the keys to the lock up cabinet. A massive neon banner reminds us it’s the 5th November, in case we didn’t already remember remember, alongside the Danger of Death sign at our children’s eye-line.

We spend in excess of £100 million each year on fireworks in the UK. That’s a lot of money – enough to collectively own Paul Pogba. OK, bad example… enough to employ over 3,000 teachers, or we could chomp through half a billion Curly Wurlys. As I say, a lot of money.

What does this mean? It means that even accounting for its commercial value increasing exponentially since 1605, the guy who sought to blow up Parliament has his name next an astronomically lucrative business venture.

As he plotted to blow up King James I in the name of Catholicism, it’s curious to consider if it was all part of his plan. As he rolled his barrels of gunpowder into the rented room, checking his pockets for his refillable gas lighters, he already knew of the excitement, commerce, injury, cold, dampness and noise that would follow.

As he got ready to rumble these barrels across London’s cobble stone roads, he could feel the baseline of a £25 Blastbox in his bones. He saw the hundreds on bonfires in village fields, the Dads lighting Phantom Afterburners in back gardens and the kids with their massive gloves painting floating circles with their sparklers.

All 400 years ahead of time.

OK – the whole venture meant he was hung, drawn and quartered, but the guy left a glorious, fun legacy, he sparked a national celebration and enabled generations of business people to make lots of money.

At least all his dreams didn’t go up in smoke.

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