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Patience: A story for Bonfire Night

by Jan Edmunds

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To emphasize the importance of showing patience and thinking before we act.

Preparation and materials

  • Try to have available a picture of Bonfire Night and perhaps some spent firework cases.
  • Handel's Firework Music could be playing as the children enter the room.


  1. Children become very excited about Bonfire Night, on 5 November. Encourage them to talk about why we celebrate this. A brief summary of the story of Guy Fawkes can be given here. Use your visual aids if you have them to introduce the theme.
  2. Remind the children to show a little consideration for others at this time of year. Ask them to consider the fact that animals can become very upset. They can be very frightened by the loud noises, whistles and screams of fireworks. It is always best to make sure that pets are kept safely indoors.
  3. Point out that fireworks, although very exciting and spectacular, can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

  4. Tell the following true story:

    Shirley was about seven years old. She loved Bonfire Night and just couldn't wait for it to come round each year. She had persuaded her mother and father to let her have some fireworks which they would let off in the garden. These had been safely put away in a tin and stored upstairs in a wardrobe.

    When Bonfire Night eventually came her mother was busy getting the tea and Shirley watched from the window as darkness fell, hoping that the weather would stay fine for their firework display. Her father would soon be home, then she would fetch her friends from next door and the fun would begin. She watched the clock excitedly; surely her father would be home soon? The phone rang. Her mother answered it.

    Shirley listened. Her mother put the receiver down and entered the room with a very serious look on her face. She told Shirley that her father had been delayed at work and that she would have to wait a bit longer in order to have her firework party. Shirley was so disappointed. She pressed her nose to the window and in the dark night sky she could see the odd flash of light and the patterns from other people’s fireworks as they lit up the darkness. She felt it was so unfair.

    Another hour went by and her father had still not come home. She grew more and more impatient. She crept into the kitchen. Her mother was busy elsewhere.

    Quickly and quietly she opened a drawer in which she knew some matches were kept. She slipped the box into her pocket. Hardly daring to breathe, she tiptoed upstairs into her parents' bedroom. There was the wardrobe where she knew the fireworks were kept. Slowly she turned the handle and opened the door.

    There was the tin containing them. She lifted the lid. There were so many, all shapes and sizes. Surely no one would miss one or two? She chose the smallest ones and put three of them into her pocket with the matches. Carefully returning the lid she shut the wardrobe door and crept quietly back downstairs. By this time her heart was racing. Dare she? Could she? Just one, it wouldn't matter!

    She grabbed an anorak from a peg in the hall, opened the back door and slipped out into the garden. She found a suitable place on the lawn and carefully put one of the fireworks on a flat piece of stone. Taking the matches from her pocket, she struck one on the side of the box and lit the blue touchpaper on the end of the firework. She stood well back and waited. Nothing happened. Still she waited. The reddish glow seemed to have disappeared, and the firework must have gone out. Cautiously she stretched her hand forward to examine it.

    (Pause here, then with a loud voice shout BANG! This usually has quite an impact.)

    A fierce pain shot through her right hand. She screamed! Her mother came running from the house. At the same time her father arrived home. He wondered what on earth was happening! Shirley's hand was very badly burned. An ambulance was called. Instead of enjoying a firework display, she was rushed to hospital where she needed an operation to remove one of her badly damaged fingers.

    When she grew up, Shirley became a teacher. The children in her classes became familiar with her hand with one of its fingers missing, but every year around the fifth of November she reminded them of how it had happened.

  5. Take a lesson from this story and remember that if only Shirley had not been so impatient this terrible accident would not have taken place.

    Always think before you act, and if something does not feel right, then do not do it.

    Enjoy your fireworks but leave it to a grown-up to let them off for you. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Time for reflection

Spend a few moments thinking about the story of Shirley.
Will it make any difference to how you behave around fireworks?

Dear God,
Teach us to be patient.
Help us to know right from wrong
so that we do not endanger others or ourselves.
Please keep us safe this day and always.


‘Father, hear the prayer we offer’ (Come and Praise, 48)

Publication date: November 2004   (Vol.6 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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