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Highlight of Bonfire Night so far? In the early eighties when the Royal Welch Fusiliers came to play at the celebrations with their goat, Billy. To see the goat leading the Waterloo procession was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen. The Goat Major had to go into the Crown for a toilet break later, and the goat ate a table cloth and a box of crisps, and drank a bucket of beer.
Which society do you feel most rivalry with? There’s a bit of friendly rivalry between all the Bonfire Societies: there’s always a bit of leg-pulling going on. But it’s all good-natured: at the end of the day they’re all working for the good of Bonfire in Lewes.
What’s special about Waterloo? First and foremost we are proud to be a family society. It doesn’t matter if you’re 8 months old or 80, the society will make you welcome. And, however much or little you are able to do, everybody’s treated the same.
Has Bonfire Night got better or worse over time? It’s got more difficult in this litigious society we live in. It’s an absolute headache trying to keep everybody safe. So it’s more restricted now, it isn’t the free-and-easy affair it was some years ago.
Is the festival anti-Catholic? Absolutely not. All the societies have a good number of Catholics as members.
Do you welcome outsiders coming in? My honest answer is no. I would prefer it to be kept to the Lewes district. It’s not that we don’t want outsiders to be interested in our traditions. It’s just that this town is too small for the numbers of people coming in, and it creates us more problems than anything else..


Every effigy meets its Waterloo. Picture by David Coats