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Ian Malcolm: Bonfire builders need to exercise care, caution and have consideration for those downwind

Published 11/07/2015

House were boarded up after a bonfire was built on the Comber Greenway just yards from houses on Chobham Street in east Belfast.
Pic: Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.
House were boarded up after a bonfire was built on the Comber Greenway just yards from houses on Chobham Street in east Belfast. Pic: Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.

Building a humongous bonfire with hundreds of pallets and tonnes of used rubber just metres from people’s homes is probably not one of the cleverest things you could do.

Little wonder, then, we have such an outcry over the east Belfast bonfire where residents’ homes were boarded up to deflect the intense heat from this wooden skyscraper.

Hopefully, though, we’ll see less of its sort in the future, as many in the Unionist and Loyalist community are taking serious note of concerns about the annual pyrotechnics. Many ‘boney’ builders no longer accept tyres and are increasingly fussy about the material offered to them.

Some are almost ‘houseproud’ about the quality of their blazing beacons. But there remain others who reach for the skies without any regard for the safety of residents or the constructors themselves.

Like many, I enjoyed the bonfire-building season as a wean, although I confess that my efforts were rather more in an observational capacity – you wouldn’t have caught me trying to scale the dizzying heights where only the ‘hards’ dared to go.

It was all a little too close to heaven for my liking. The sky may have been the limit – but I preferred terra firma.

The boney is often a part of growing up in the Unionist and Loyalist tradition and many feel that the annual fire-fest has been vilified in recent years by those who deride Orange culture at every opportunity.

Yet bonfires long pre-date their Battle of the Boyne era use to indicate William’s imminent arrival and were central to Celtic and Early Christian celebrations; some saints’ days are still marked by fires in rural Ireland.

In a way, our respective cultures dance together in the flames of our shared history!

But if you’re going to build a boney, do it with care, caution and consideration for those who’ll be downwind…

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