Northern Ireland

Enniskillen's last Halloween bonfire builders

The Kilmacormick Halloween bonfire site
Image caption The Kilmacormick Halloween bonfire is the last of its kind in Enniskillen

The Halloween bonfire has been lit every year in the Kilmacormick housing estate in Enniskillen for more than 40 years.

It was started by two late residents called James Dillon and Freddie Wilson and now a new generation is taking on the mantle.

It is the only Halloween bonfire still lit every year in the Fermanagh town and has become an institution in the housing estate.

"I've been at it since knee-high to a grasshopper so I have, nearly 40 years at it," said John, one of the bonfire builders.

"The last few years now, I'm not fit to work; it's more health and safety, to watch over them."

Image caption Flags are no longer burned on the Kilmacormick bonfire

"I've been collecting 20 years, and I enjoy it," said Gerry.

"It's a tradition up here. It brings everyone out and we all look forward to it, to me it's better than Christmas."

One bonfire builder enjoys it so much that when the tradition died out in the estate he lived in, he came across to Kilmacormick.

"I came up here and started helping these boys out," said James.

"We grew friendships and kind of bonded well.

"I come up here now every year, we all gather and build a bonfire."

Over the years, there have been changes. Flags once would have been burned on the bonfire. But that all changed about a decade ago.

"We try to open it up for everyone," said Gerry.

Image caption The Kilmacormick bonfire builders at work

"It's a community fire, that's all it is. Hundreds of people come up and enjoy it, so it's kind of a family thing now."

"It was never really a political thing," said John.

"We kind of just got caught up in it - the Twelfth fires had flags, so we had to do it.

"But we just moved away from it."

The bonfire itself moved as well.

Image caption The Kilmacormick bonfire is built on a former factory site

"It used to be in the middle of the estate, where the football pitch is," said John.

"But it got moved to the back of Hillview (another housing estate nearby) over the windows breaking with the heat.

"But it was too far to be bringing all the stuff, so it got moved up here when the site became available."

That site is where the former Unipork factory was.

Adjacent to the housing estate, local people bring soup and sandwiches to the bonfire builders in the days leading up to Halloween, while a small number stay overnight, to guard the bonfire, in the pallet hut they've dubbed the 'site office'.

The bonfire builders are aware they may have to move again as and when the site is sold, but for now, they work with the authorities to make the bonfire safe.

Determination

"We had the fire brigade up a couple of times checking and they left a smoke alarm for the boys in the 'site office'," said Fergal.

"The council's been up too, checking for waste oil and stuff that shouldn't be in the fire."

The bonfire will be lit on Tuesday evening, after the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council fireworks display is over.

Cars will line the Cornagrade Road to watch the spectacle, however, the men at the site are determined the fire will keep growing every year.

"We'll have fires for another 20, 30, 40 years," said James, as Fergal threw an arm round his shoulders in agreement.

"Well, hopefully."

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