The storm of Coronation Day that raged round Skiddaw had given way to calm and sunlight.  It was determined, though the glass still stood at rain, to fire the beacon, or so much of it as it was hoped had not been blown away by the furious winds of the preceding day and night.  The day improved.  Telegrams were dispatched to the Committees in charge of bonfires on neighbouring heights, and away at four o’clock in the afternoon started the rocket-men and the builders to repair any havoc that the wind might have played with the peat-stack on the summit.  For though we had securely fastened the larch-pole tripod round which the peats had been built with iron rope and heavily weighted the whole mass with stone, so fierce was the wind at the time of building that one of the builders was lifted clean off his feet, and the storm had increased in violence since that day. (p. 23)

Going up some hours later, I passed through the larches of Latrigg to the Gale, and heard the cuckoo calling from the grey-green slopes of Skiddaw as the ancient Roman guard had done who held their little outlook camp here, and could not help thinking how at the call of that “wandering voice”—the one familiar voice in a strange land—those men of old time had been cheered with thoughts of home.  They, too, probably on just such an evening as this, had seen bonfires in olden time, for it was Midsummer Eve, and on Midsummer Eve the Brigantes hereabout would doubtless have lit their fires in yonder Druid Circle on Castrigg Fell, and rolled their burning wheels of straw for Beltane festival down the slopes of Skiddaw. (p. 23)….

But the beauty of that evening sky lay not so much in the long lingering bars of sunset as in the great clear ocean inlet of opal light that seemed to flood in from some aerial Atlantic between headlands covered with black forest growth—the purple-black clouds of night.  Suddenly, like some vast lighthouse tower on one of these forest headlands, a light was seen, and the planet Venus, lighting her torch, conjured forth from Bassenthwaite a marvellous reflection of its world of flame.  Star called to star, and suddenly we were aware of Jupiter, glorious above the pike of Grizedale to the west. (p. 25)

But we had other work to do than look at stars or evening sky, for the bonfire was still in building.  A sturdy helper stood on the pile, fifteen feet high, deftly placing into position the peats that, first soaked in a barrel of paraffin, were being thrown up to him.  Then all the light brushwood that had been prepared for the bonfire top was stowed into place between the upstanding horns of the larch poles, round which the pile had been built.  These were well trampled down, more peats added, a sack of shavings dipped in paraffin was packed away, and, descending from his perch, he and other stalwart helpers deluged the mass with paraffin thrown on to it by buckets or sprayed on to it by garden syringes, and the bonfire waited for the torch. (p. 25)

At 9.55 a ship’s signal rocket went up and broke with a loud report.  We could hear the echo like distant thunder from the hills across Bassenthwaite, and in a moment from the heights of Grizedale, Catbels, and the King’s How in Borrodale other thunder-makers sailed into heaven.  So quiet was the air that the bonfire-builders on Grizedale Pike, above the Whinlatter Pass, heard distinctly the echo of the signal rocket that was fired on Scafell Pike miles to the south.  Then a magnesium rocket sailed up, and we saw a globe of light in answer on far Helvellyn and Scafell top, and we knew that there were watchers on those heights also determined to share our offering of loyalty to the King. (p. 26)

“It is 10 o’clock,” shouted the bonfire-builder, and bidding all the people come to windward the torch-bearer applied a light to his torch and touched the shavings on the top of the pile.  It must have astonished all who had never seen a peat bonfire, well paraffined, lit before, to see how in a moment, with a great roar of jubilance, the whole of that mass from top to bottom blazed out into light, and sent out its banner of flame for a hundred feet or more above the Crosthwaite Vale.  Then the roar of the ten thousand tongues of flame was for a moment drowned in the hearty singing of the National Anthem and the cheers that followed. (p. 26)

Many bonfires had been lit on the previous night, but here and there steady stars were seen to jewel the dark-blue carpet of the plain, and rockets were observed to sail up and hang like globes of light and disappear.  From Gummers How in the south, to Wigton in the north the bonfire-makers were busy.  As for our neighbours, the most beautiful bonfire was the one that glowed on Grizedale Pike.  Barrow burned brightly in answer to Catbels for a short time, and one of the most beautiful immediate effects was the red fire upon Helvellyn top. (p. 26)

It was a disappointment to us all that the “flare” which had been kindly lent by Messrs. McMurtie for Helvellyn could not be got up at the short notice given, but our “flare” on Broad End burned like a splendid torch, and must have been seen far and wide.  Scafell answered us bravely with its rockets, and those who were in charge of that height had been able at short notice to work a bonfire light that burned for a considerable time. (p. 26)

Not the least beautiful part of our celebration on Skiddaw was the way in which rockets at the summit and the burnings of green and red light were answered by the rockets and coloured lights at Skiddaw Broad End.  The nearest fire on the east was the fire at Caldbeck, seen in the Caldew gap, which by its brightness and length of burning must have been of considerable size. (p. 27)

Some of us, leaving the rest of the pyre at the summit, went off through quiet air to Broad End to watch the festal fires on Derwentwater.  The boats seemed “like fireflies tangled in a golden braid,” and rockets from Crow Park sailed up and broke in answer to our own.  At 11 o’clock a bouquet of rockets ascended from Skiddaw High Man and fell into stars of red, white, and blue.  Again the National Anthem rang out clear, and leaving the fire still burning furiously we turned our backs upon it and began the descent. (p. 27)

Only those who have had to stumble through semi-darkness down over the Skiddaw shales and through the broken turf and pitfalls on Jenkin side can know the difficulty of such descent, and a week after they will still probably be reminded that certain muscles in their stumbling and recovering themselves were brought into play which had not been brought into play before.  But the hut was reached at last, and the delight of the ease gained for foot as we traversed the Gale meadows and passed down through the larches of Latrigg more than compensated for the sorrow of the descent. (p. 27)

The cool air of the valley was sweet with elder flower.  Belated lovers came wandering up through the shadows to see the sunrise from Skiddaw, with such sunrise doubtless in their hearts that they might well have foregone the climb.  No voice but the corncrake was heard in the meadows, and the solemn quiet of Skiddaw, restored to its ancient tranquillity, sank into one’s soul.  The afterglow upon Helvellyn, the gorgeous fire upon Skiddaw top, seemed passed as suddenly as a dream, so strange the contrast between silent vale and jubilant mountain peak; but the memory of the bewitching evening climb, and all the Coronation joy upon that ancient height will live for ever. (p. 27)

(A Book of Coronation Bonfires, 1911, pp. 23-7)