Friday, 3 April 2020

On this day: 3rd April

(125 years ago)
In 1895, Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde’s libel trial against the Marquess of Queensbury opened in London.

The Marquess had accused Wilde of homosexuality and subsequently the court found that the Marquess’s claim was justified, and he was acquitted. Wilde was liable for the Marquess’s substantial legal fees, which left him bankrupt.

Upon leaving the court, a summons was issued for Wilde’s arrest, since homosexuality was illegal. He was convicted and served two years in prison from May 1895 to May 1897.

(30 years ago)
In 1990, American jazz singer and pianist, Sarah Vaughan died.

(10 years ago)
In 2010, the first Apple iPad tablet computer was released.

Today’s famous birthdays
Tony Orlando - remembered for the Tony Orlando and Dawn hits Tie a Yellow Ribbon and Knock Three Times, 76
Eddie Murphy - US actor, 59
Ben Foster – former England goalkeeper, 37.
Israel Folau – controversial rugby player, 31

Thursday, 2 April 2020

On this day: 2nd April

(75 years ago)
In 1945, the Vienna Offensive (Austria) was launched by the Soviet 2nd and 3rd Ukraine fronts to invade Vienna

It continued until 13th of the month, resulting in a Soviet success. The Austrian capital was captured from the Germans after an 11-day siege, with the Soviet Red Army then pushing further into Austria.

(25 years ago)
In 1995, the New York City Transit Police was dissolved becoming the Transit Bureau of the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

(15 years ago)
On this day in 2005, Pope John Paul II passed away to be succeeded by Pope Benedict XVI on 19th April.

Famous Birthdays
Penelope Keith – English actress, famous for BBC comedies The Good Life and To the Manor Born, 80
Paul Gambaccini – American/English radio DJ, 71
Linford Christie – Jamaican born British sprinter, winner of 100 Gold at Barcelona 1992 Olympics, 60.
Michael Clarke – TV commentator and former Australian cricket captain, 39.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

On this day: 1st April

These events all happened on this day in the past – no fooling here, honest!

(75 years ago)
In 1945, the Battle of Okinawa, Japan (also known as Operation Iceberg) commenced, continuing until 22nd June. Being the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War during World War II, it was an Allied victory with U.S. forces occupying Okinawa until 1972.
(60 years ago)
In 1960. the USA launched the world’s first weather satellite, Tiros I.

(60 years ago)
Also in 1960, Dr Martens boots went on sale in the UK for the first time (please click HERE for further details).

Birthdays today include:
Ali MacGraw – US model and actress, best remembered for Love Story, 81.
Jimmy Cliff – Jamaican singer and musician, 72.
David Gower – English cricketer and TV commentator, 63.
Beth Tweddle – former English gymnast, 35.
Ding Junhui – Chinese snooker player, 33.

Monday, 30 March 2020

On this day: 31st March

The 31st March was quite an eventful day over the years:

(90 years ago)

In 1930, the Motion Pictures Production Code (also known as the Hays Code) was adopted. It detailed what was (and was not) morally acceptable in the production of American movies, and was enforced from 1934 to 1968.

(75 years ago)

In 1945, Tennessee Williams’s play The Glass Menagerie opened on Broadway.

(40 years ago)

In 1980, record breaking US track-and-field athlete Jesse Owens passed away aged 66 from an aggressive form of lung cancer. Incredibly the 4 time Olympic Gold medallist was a heavy smoker from the age of 32 until his death.

(30 years ago)
In 1980, the worst of the Poll Tax riots took place in Central London. 200,000 protesters took to the streets and clashed with police. Violence and looting erupted, leading to the worst riots in the city for a century.

Famous Birthdays:

Shirley Jones – American actress and member of the Partridge Family, 86
Herb Alpert – American jazz musician and record company executive, 85
David Steel – Scottish politician, former leader of Liberal Democrats, 82
Hashim Amla – South African Cricketer, 37.

Very many happy returns to them all.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

60 Years of Doc Martens in the UK

Klaus Martens

On April 1st 1960, Dr Martens boots went on sale in the UK.

Klaus Martens was a 25 year old German army doctor in World War II who, while on leave in 1945, went on a skiing break in the Bavarian Alps

He injured his ankle while skiing and found that his standard issue army boots were too painful to wear on his injured foot. So to ease his pain, he designed improvements with soft leather and an air padded sole made from rubber off old tyres.
At the end of the war, he took some leather from a cobbler’s shop and made a further pair of boots with air-cushioned soles. This grew into a business and soon he was selling the boots, albeit initially with little success.

In 1947, along with an old university friend, Herbert Funck, he went into business in Germany producing shoes and boots using rubber reclaimed from Luftwaffe airfields. This time the shoes were marketed as an orthopaedic shoe and were a massive hit with German housewives of 40+ who made up more than 80% of sales throughout the first decade.

A further factory was opened in Munich in 1952 and by the end of the 1950s the company was thriving well in Germany causing Martens and Funck to market the business internationally.

Almost immediately UK shoe manufacturer R Griggs Group Ltd bought the rights to manufacture the boots in the UK, slightly reshaping the heel and adding the trademark AirWair along with the infamous yellow stitching.

The first boots were released in the UK on 1st April 1960 known as Style 1460. They had an 8 eyelet cherry-red coloured, smooth leather design and indeed the style is still in production to this day.

Initially costing £2 a pair, they were popular with postmen and factory workers, but when the Who guitarist Pete Townsend wore a pair on stage at a London gig in 1966, they became a symbol of working class pride and rebellion and essential wear for skinheads and mods.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Anna Sewell Anniversary

Monday 30th March sees the 200th anniversary of the birth of Anna Sewell, fondly remembered as the author of the children’s classic novel “Black Beauty.”

Born by the seaside at Great Yarmouth, she only ever had one published book to her name, but it has become one of the top ten best selling children’s novels ever written even though it was originally intended for an adult audience.

From a devout Quaker family, Anna and her brother were on the whole educated by their mother, but they were forced to spend time away from home living with grandparents as the family’s financial status was precarious (their father was a shopkeeper).

After an accident at the age of 12 where Anna broke both of her ankles and the subsequent treatment she received was shoddy, she spent a lifetime being unable to stand for long periods and was in constant pain.

At the age of 16, Anna’s family moved to Brighton on the south coast hoping the warmer climate would have a beneficial effect on her ailing health. In the next few years the family moved around the country to Wick in Scotland and to Bath in the westcountry in an effort to ease her poor health.

Anna had a great equine love and she was inspired to write “Black Beauty” (originally entitled The Autobiography of a Horse) after observing inhumane treatment to horses.

Already into her 50’s, she worked on the novel between the years of 1871 and 1877, but was in such poor health at the time she was unable to leave her bed and in the main dictated the story to her mother.

Her masterpiece was published in 1877 when Anna was 57 years old for which she was paid the sum of £40. At the time she was completely bedridden and in extreme pain.

She passed away 5 months after publication, of hepatitis or tuberculosis, however she was able to witness the initial warm reception the book received in England before she died. She was buried at the Quaker burial-ground near to Buxton in Norfolk.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Hit by the Rhythm Stick!

On 27th March it will be 20 years since punk/new wave singer, songwriter and actor, Ian Dury died.

Fondly remembered as the lead singer of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, he contracted polio as a 7 year old during the 1949 epidemic.

He claimed that he caught the disease at a swimming pool in Southend-on-Sea and after 6 weeks spent in a full plaster cast in hospital, he spent the next few years convalescing from the illness in varying hospitals throughout the UK. It resulted in paralysis and withering of his left leg, shoulder and arm.

Musically, he first came to prominence as lead singer of the pub rock outfit “Kilburn and the High Roads” who released one album in 1975 before disbanding later in the same year.

Next came the infamous “Blockheads” who had the reputation as one of the top live new wave bands. With such wonderful output as Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll*, Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3, and my personal favourite the truly wonderful What a Waste, Ian Dury and the Blockheads amassed a massive fan base with musical influences ranging through jazz, rock and roll, funk and reggae genres.

 Ian Dury and the Blockheads - What a Waste

(* Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll was actually released under the single name of “Ian Dury”, but three of the Blockheads also appeared on the recording).

Their biggest hit was the immortal Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. Reaching no.1 in the UK in the early part of 1979, it went on to sell just under a million copies. It also topped the charts in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and was a top 20 hit in several European countries.

Dury was initially diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 1996. He underwent surgery only for tumours to be later found in his liver. At that stage he was informed that his prognosis was terminal.

Ian Dury Memorial Bench - Richmond Park, London.

He died of metastatic colorectal cancer on 27th March 2000. Madness singer Suggs described him as “possibly the greatest lyricist we’ve seen.” Very much a fair call I strongly suggest.