John’s Believe It Or Not… November 5th

* 1605 Gunpowder Plot: Catholic conspirator Guy Fawkes attempts to blow up King James I and the British Parliament. * 1775 Washington condemns Guy Fawkes festivities. * 2009 Army major kills 13 people in Fort Hood shooting. * 2007 Writers strike stalls production of TV shows, movies. * 1938 Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings receives its world premiere on NBC radio.

Guy Fawkes

It’s Sunday! Did you know…

* 1605 Gunpowder Plot: Catholic conspirator Guy Fawkes attempts to blow up King James I and the British Parliament.

Early in the morning, King James I of England learns that a plot to explode the Parliament building has been foiled, hours before he was scheduled to sit with the rest of the British government in a general parliamentary session.

At about midnight on the night of November 4-5, Sir Thomas Knyvet, a justice of the peace, found Guy Fawkes lurking in a cellar under the Parliament building and ordered the premises searched. Some 20 barrels of gunpowder were found, and Fawkes was taken into custody. During a torture session on the rack, Fawkes revealed that he was a participant in an English Catholic conspiracy to annihilate England’s Protestant government and replace it with Catholic leadership.

What became known as the Gunpowder Plot was organized by Robert Catesby, an English Catholic whose father had been persecuted by Queen Elizabeth I for refusing to conform to the Church of England. Guy Fawkes had converted to Catholicism, and his religious zeal led him to fight in the Spanish army in the Netherlands. Catesby and the handful of other plotters rented a cellar that extended under Parliament, and Fawkes planted the gunpowder there, hiding the barrels under coal and wood.

As the November 5 meeting of Parliament approached, Catesby enlisted more English Catholics into the conspiracy, and one of these, Francis Tresham, warned his Catholic brother-in-law Lord Monteagle not to attend Parliament that day. Monteagle alerted the government, and hours before the attack was to have taken place Fawkes and the explosives were found. By torturing Fawkes, King James’ government learned of the identities of his co-conspirators. During the next few weeks, English authorities killed or captured all the plotters and put the survivors on trial, along with a few innocent English Catholics.

Guy Fawkes himself was sentenced, along with the other surviving chief conspirators, to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in London. Moments before the start of his gruesome execution, on January 31, 1606, he jumped from a ladder while climbing to the hanging platform, breaking his neck and dying instantly.

In 1606, Parliament established November 5 as a day of public thanksgiving. Today, Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated across Great Britain every year on November 5 in remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot. As dusk falls, villagers and city dwellers across Britain light bonfires, set off fireworks, and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes, celebrating his failure to blow Parliament and James I to kingdom come.

Guy Fawkes, caught in the act of preparing the Gunpowder Plot, 1605 (c1900). Artist: Trelleek -
Guy Fawkes, caught in the act of preparing the Gunpowder Plot, 1605 (c1900). Artist: Trelleek (

* 1775 Washington condemns Guy Fawkes festivities.

On this day in 1775, Continental Army commander in chief General George Washington condemns his troops’ planned celebration of the British anti-Catholic holiday, Guy Fawkes Night, as he was simultaneously struggling to win French-Canadian Catholics to the Patriot cause.

In his general orders for the day, Washington criticized “that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope,” part of the traditional Guy Fawkes celebration. He went on to express his bewilderment that there could be “Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense” and berated the troops for their inability to recognize that “defence [sic] of the general Liberty of America” demanded expressions of “public thanks” to the Canadian Catholics who Washington believed to be necessary allies, and wrote that he found “monstrous” any actions, which might “be insulting their Religion.”

On the night of November 5, 1605, the conspiracy by English Catholics to kill King James I and replace him with his Catholic daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was cut short by the arrest of Guy Fawkes, who had been charged with placing gunpowder under the Houses of Parliament. The plot involved digging a tunnel under the Palace of Westminster, filling it with gunpowder and then triggering a deadly explosion during the ceremonial opening of Parliament, which would have resulted in the death of not only James I, but also the leading Protestant nobility. From then on, November 5 was celebrated in Britain and its colonies with a bonfire burning either Guy Fawkes or the pope in effigy.

Every Guy Fawkes night of my English childhood, we burned someone. A fake person, a dummy, a scarecrow, a guy, a Guy. We made him out of our fathers’ old clothes, or our own.
Every Guy Fawkes night of my English childhood, we burned someone. A fake person, a dummy, a scarecrow, a guy, a Guy. We made him out of our fathers’ old clothes, or our own. (Wikipedia)

* 2009 Army major kills 13 people in Fort Hood shooting.

On this day in 2009, 13 people are killed and more than 30 others are wounded, nearly all of them unarmed soldiers, when a U.S. Army officer goes on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in central Texas. The deadly assault, carried out by Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was the worst mass murder at a U.S. military installation.

Early in the afternoon of November 5, 39-year-old Hasan, armed with a semi-automatic pistol, shouted “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”) and then opened fire on a crowd inside a Fort Hood processing center where soldiers who were about to be deployed overseas or were returning from deployment received medical screenings. The massacre, which left 12 service members and one Department of Defense employee dead, lasted approximately 10 minutes before Hasan was shot by civilian police and taken into custody.

The Virginia-born Hasan, the son of Palestinian immigrants who ran a Roanoke restaurant and convenience store, graduated from Virginia Tech University and completed his psychiatry training at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2003. He went on to work at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., treating soldiers returning from war with post-traumatic stress disorder. In May 2009, he was promoted to the rank of major in the Army, and that July was transferred to Fort Hood. Located near the city of Killeen, Fort Hood, which includes 340 square miles of facilities and homes, is the largest active-duty U.S. military post. At the time of the shootings, more than 50,000 military personnel lived and worked there, along with thousands more family members and civilian personnel.

In the aftermath of the massacre, reviews by the Pentagon and a U.S. Senate panel found Hasan’s superiors had continued to promote him despite the fact that concerns had been raised over his behavior, which suggested he had become a radical and potentially violent Islamic extremist. Among other things, Hasan stated publicly that America’s war on terrorism was really a war against Islam.

In 2013, Hasan, who was left paralyzed from the waist down as a result of shots fired at him by police attempting to stop his rampage, was tried in military court, where he acted as his own attorney. During his opening statement, he admitted he was the shooter. (Hasan had previously told a judge that in an effort to protect Muslims and Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, he had gunned down the soldiers at Fort Hood who were being deployed to that nation.) For the rest of the trial, Hasan called no witnesses, presented scant evidence and made no closing argument. On August 23, 2013, a jury found Hasan guilty of 45 counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder, and he later was sentenced to death for his crimes.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a memorial service for the thirteen victims of the shooting
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a memorial service for the thirteen victims of the shooting (Getty Images)

* 2007 Writers strike stalls production of TV shows and movies.

On this day in 2007, members of the Writers Guild of America, East, and Writers Guild of America, West—labor organizations representing television, film and radio writers—go on strike in Los Angeles and New York after negotiations break down with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), a trade group that represents TV and film producers in the United States, including CBS, NBC Universal, Walt Disney Company, Paramount Pictures, News Corp., Sony Pictures Entertainment, MGM and Warner Brothers. The strike caused production to shut down on more than 60 TV shows and resulted in a loss of $3 billion, by some estimates, to the Los Angeles economy alone.

The strike’s key issues included the writers’ demand for a larger share of DVD revenues and payment for films and TV shows distributed over the Internet and other forms of new media. Late-night talk shows, which used guild writers, were immediately affected by the strike and went into reruns. Production also shut down on many prime-time comedies and dramas; however, some had stockpiled completed programming and were able to avoid going straight into reruns.

After a series of stalemated discussions, leaders from both sides eventually reached a tentative agreement, and on February 12, 2008, WGA members voted to end the strike and go back to work. The strike officially ended on February 26, when WGA members overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract with the AMPTP.

The impact of the writers’ walkout was felt across the entertainment industry, from actors to caterers to editors to set designers to animal wranglers. According to the Los Angeles Times, the chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation estimated the strike resulted in a loss to the local economy of more than $3 billion. The Times article stated: “Of that total, an estimated $772 million came from lost wages for writers and production workers, $981 million from various businesses that service the industry, including caterers and equipment rental houses, and $1.3 billion from the ripple effect of consumers not spending as much at retail shops, restaurants, and car dealers.”

Previous multiple-month strikes launched by Writers Guild members in 1960 and 1988 had also greatly impacted the entertainment industry, bringing TV and movie production to a standstill and costing millions in revenue.

Protesters for the Writers Guild of America assembled along Avenue of the Stars in Century City
Protesters for the Writers Guild of America assembled along Avenue of the Stars in Century City (Los Angeles Times)

* 1938 Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings receives its world premiere on NBC radio.

The American composer Samuel Barber (born in 1910 in West Chester, Pennsylvania) was only 27 years old when he wrote the piece of music that would come to define his entire career. He would live to be 70, and he would win two Pulitzer Prizes for works composed during his final three decades, but even before he’d turned 40, he had responded to an interviewer’s praise for his most famous work by saying, “”I wish you’d hear some new ones. Everyone always plays that.” The piece to which Barber was referring was his Adagio for Strings, one of the most beautiful and recognizable works in the modern classical music canon. Submitted by Barber some nine months earlier for consideration by the great Italian conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini, Adagio for Strings made its world premiere on this day in 1938 to a live radio audience in the millions.

“Simplice e bella“—”simple and beautiful”—were the words that Toscanini reportedly used to describe Barber’s piece after hearing the NBC orchestra’s first rehearsal of the Adagio. This was high praise from a man who had become the single most important figure in classical music in America since his 1937 emigration from Italy, yet who almost never performed works by American composers. Toscanini chose two pieces by Barber, however, as the centerpieces of his November 5, 1938, program broadcast from Studio 8-H in Rockefeller Center.

Adagio for Strings had begun not as a freestanding piece, but as one movement of Barber’s 1936 String Quartet No. 1, Opus 11. When that movement provoked a mid-composition standing ovation at its premiere performance, Barber decided to create the orchestral adaptation that he would soon send to Toscanini. In later years, the piece would be played at the state funerals of both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, taking its place as what one observer has called “the semi-official music of mourning.”

The continued popularity of the Adagio for Stings—it ranks consistently among the most downloaded pieces of digital classical music and has been voted the world’s “saddest piece of music” by BBC listeners—owes much to its prominent appearance in the soundtrack of the 1986 Oliver Stone film Platoon. But it was director David Lynch who preceded Stone in bringing Barber’s Adagio to Hollywood, using it to beautiful effect in the final scene of his 1980 film The Elephant Man. “That piece of music is so beautiful,” Lynch later said in an interview with National Public Radio, “that I’m surprised it’s not in almost every film.”

'Adagio for Strings'. Samuel Barber.
‘Adagio for Strings’. Samuel Barber. (The Listeners’ Club)

Today’s Sources: 

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                             

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

23 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… November 5th”

  1. I vividly remember the writers strike. Even though I went into withdrawal due to the loss of my favorite first-run TV shows 🙂 I was rooting for the writers ~ an integral part of the system, often overlooked and paid inequitable wages. Three cheers for writers! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting information on Guy Fawkes day. I always found it strange that the English would celebrate a day that someone was going to blow up the king and Parliament. It was here I finally understood that the celebration is for not blowing up those folks. I think Washington was a tad sensitive about offending Canadian Catholics but who knows. This was in times before Molson.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t realize that people set fire to a dummy on Guy Fawkes night. I thought it was just a bonfire. Interesting. Loved the piece on Samuel Barber and his Adagio For Strings. Happy Sunday, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Guy Fawkes was the stooge who was left to light the fuse. The real organiser of the plot was of course Catesby but the chap who was the brains behind it was Thomas Percy who was an old boy of my school. (My school was founded in 700 a.d. and was the oldest state school in the country).
    I did not know that they used to burn effigies of the Pope on their bonfires up until a couple of hundred years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting news, Opher, about Fawkes being the stooge who got caught. When you say “your school”, is that the one you attended as a student or the one where you taught? Thanks for your comment!


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