Friday 20 November 2020

True Life Inspiration for Moby-Dick Anniversary.

200 years ago today, on 20th November 1820,  the whaling ship Essex from Nantucket, Massachusetts was sunk by a sperm whale off the coast of Ecuador.

Under the command of George Pollard Jr, the vessel was attacked by the whale and stranded many miles off the South American coast, the crew were forced to make for land using the surviving whaling boats.

Suffering severe dehydration, starvation and exposure in the open ocean, the crew members eventually had to resort to eating the bodies of their colleagues who had died.

When that proved insufficient, the crew actually drew lots to decide who would be sacrificed so that the others would live.

Seven crew members were cannibalised before the remaining eight survivors were rescued, more than three months after the original sinking of the Essex. 

The tragedy attracted international interest and accounts written by first mate Owen Chase and cabin boy Thomas Nickerson inspired Herman Melville to write his famous 1851 novel Moby-Dick.

Further reading:

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick Author is 200

Saturday 20 June 2020

In this week: 21st to 27th June

In a week when a massive earthquake destroyed 3 cities in Iran and Checkpoint Charlie was dismantled, two former international cricketers and the current Real Madrid manager celebrate their birthdays.

21st June
40 years ago: in 1980, German orchestra leader and songwriter Bert Kaempfert died suddenly after suffering a stroke at his home in Majorca. He was only 56 years old at the time. As well as leading his own orchestra, he is alaso remembered as the composer of the song "Strangers in the Night” made famous by Frank Sinatra.

30 years ago: in 1990, Manjil–Rudbar earthquake destroyed 3 cities (Rudbar, Manjil and Lushan) and 700 villages in Iran. 40,000 people were killed, 60,000 injured and 500,000 left homeless. British novelist Salman Rushdie donated $8,650 to the victims, despite the fatwa against him.

John Edrich – cricketer, former England opening batsman, 83.
Jeremy Coney – cricketer, former New Zealand captain and now known for TV and radio analysis, 68.

22nd June
60 years ago: in 1960, the USA launched its first successful intelligence satellite, GRAB 1 (Galactic Radiation and Background). Its primary mission was to map Soviet air defence radar systems. It remained classified until 1968.

30 years ago: in 1990, Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Germany was dismantled. It remained an official crossing point between East and West Germany until reunification in October, when the guard house was finally removed. It is now on display in the Allied Museum located in the Dahlem neighbourhood in Berlin.

Doreen Mantle – South African/English actress, remembered as Mrs Warboys in BBC TV’s “One Foot in the Grave,” 94
Esther Rantzen – English TV journalist, remembered for presenting TV’s “That’s Life” and founder of Childline, 80

23rd June
80 years ago: in 1940, the day after France surrendered to Germany in the 2nd World War, Hitler toured occupied Paris and visited sites including Napoleon’s tomb.

25 years ago: in 1995, American medical researcher Jonas Salk who developed the first safe and effective polio vaccine died.
Zinedine Zidane – French footballer, current Real Madrid manager, 48.
KT Tunstall – Scottish singer-songwriter, 45

24th June
125 years ago: in 1895, Jack Dempsey, American world heavyweight boxing champion (1919–26) was born. His aggressive fighting style and tremendous punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history.

10 years ago: in 2010, Julia Gillard took office as the first female Prime Minister of Australia.

Mick Fleetwood – English drummer, founder of Fleetwood Mac, 78
Michele Lee – American actress, remembered as Karen Cooper Fairgate MacKenzie in Knots Landing, 78

25th June
150 years ago: in 1870, Queen Isabella II of Spain abdicated after being deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1868. Her son, Alfonso XII, became King in 1874.

75 years ago: in 1945, Seán T. O’Kelly became the second President of Ireland.

Carly Simon – American singer-songwriter, 75.
Ricky Gervais – English comedian and actor, 59

26th June
60 years ago: in 1960, British Somaliland gained its independence from the UK. On 1st July it united with the former Italian Somaliland to form Somalia.

50 years ago: in 1970, Riots broke out in Londonderry, Northern Ireland after Member of Parliament Bernadette Devlin was arrested for taking part in the Bogside Riots of 1969. She was sentenced to 6 months in jail, and served 4 months.

Georgie Fame – English singer, keyboard player, 77.
Sean Hayes – US actor, best remembered for playing Jack McFarland in American sitcom, Will and Grace, 50.

27th June
125 years ago: in 1895, the first passenger train in the USA to be pulled by an electric locomotive began operating on the Baltimore Belt Line in Maryland.

60 years ago: in 1960, versatile British sportswoman Lottie Dod died aged 88. She was five times winner of Wimbledon, women’s amateur golf champion, Olympic medallist in archery, and founder of the England women’s field hockey team playing for them on 2 occasions.

Mary McAleese, Irish politician, 8th President of Ireland (1997-2011), 69.
Michael Ball – English singer and radio presenter, 58.

Friday 12 June 2020

In this week: 14th to 20th June

Birthdays rule the roost this week with 2 members of Slade, 2 former London Mayors and 3 music legends all celebrating their special days.

14th June
25 years ago: in 1995, Pauline Clare was appointed Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary, becoming the first female Chief Constable in Britain.
25 years ago: on the same day in 1995, Rory Gallagher, Irish blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter died from complications following a liver transplant, aged 47.

Donald Trump – US President, 74
Jim Lea – English songwriter, bass and violin player; and member of Slade, 71

15th June
100 years ago: in 1920, the first advertised public radio broadcast in the UK took place. Dame Nellie Melba gave a song recital that was broadcast from the Marconi works in Chelmsford, Essex. The broadcast was heard in many countries.

10 years ago: in 2010, The Saville Report, an inquiry into Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland in 1972, was published. It determined that British paratroopers had fired the first shot, without warning; had fired at unarmed civilians as they fled the scene; and had shot and killed a man who was already wounded. Prime Minister David Cameron apologised on behalf of the British Government.

Noddy Holder – English songwriter, lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Slade, 74
Courteney Cox – US actress, famous for playing Monica in Friends, 56.

16th June
60 years ago: in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense film Psycho was released.

40 years ago: in 1980, Willy Russell’s play Educating Rita was performed for the first time, at the Warehouse Theatre in London. It was adapted into a film in 1983.

Jürgen Klopp – German football coach, manager of Liverpool FC, 53
Phil Mickelson – US golfer, 50

17th June
90 years ago: in 1930, U.S. President Herbert Hoover signed the United States Tariff Act (also called the Smoot–Hawley Tariff) into law. It raised import duties to protect American businesses and farmers, but badly affected the global economy.

50 years ago: in 1970, The “Babes in the wood” murders. The bodies of two missing British children were found in a shallow grave in a wood at Waltham Abbey, Essex after a massive search.

Barry Manilow – US singer-songwriter, 77.
Ken Livingstone – English politician, 1st Mayor of London, 75

18th June
100 years ago: in 1920, Ian Carmichael, British stage, film, television and radio actor was born in Hull, Yorkshire. Best known for playing the gentleman detective Lord Peter Wimsey on TV and radio, Bertie Wooster in the TV series The World of Wooster, and for his roles in the films Private’s Progress, I’m All Right Jack, School for Scoundrels and Lucky Jim. 
In later years he returned to the TV screens in ITV’s The Royal. He died in 2010 at the age of 89 from natural causes.

80 years ago: in 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his “Finest Hour” speech.

Paul McCartney – English singer-songwriter, 78
Moeen Ali – English cricketer, 33

19th June
200 years ago: in 1820, British naturalist Joseph Banks died. He took part in Captain James Cook’s first great voyage (1768–1771), was President of the Royal Society for 41 years, developed the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew into one of the world’s leading botanical gardens, and advocated British colonisation of Australia
50 years ago: in 1970, Edward Heath became British Prime Minister in a surprise election victory for the Conservatives against Labour’s Harold Wilson.

Thelma Barlow - UK actress, best known as Mavis Wilton in Coronation Street. 91.
Boris Johnson – UK Prime Minister, 56

20th June
200 years ago: in 1820, Manuel Belgrano, Argentine military leader, economist, and politician died. He played a key role in the Argentine Wars of Independence and created the flag of Argentina.

30 years ago: in 1990, British Chancellor of the Exchequer John Major, proposed a new European currency, the Hard Ecu, which would circulate alongside existing national currencies rather than replace them.

Wendy Craig – UK actress, 86

Brian Wilson – Beach Boy 78.

Friday 5 June 2020

In this week: 7th to 13th June

This week in history saw the discovery of the Great Barrier Reef along with a gambling debt murder in Chicago. Meanwhile 2 famous American musicians celebrate their 71st birthdays.

7th June
250 years ago: in 1770, Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool, and British Prime Minister (1812–27) was born

65 years ago: in 1955, the first episode of the television quiz show The $64,000 Question was broadcast on CBS in the USA. It was based on the radio quiz show Take It or Leave It, which began in April 1940.

Sir Tom Jones – Welsh singer. 80
Liam Neeson – Irish-American actor, 68.

8th June
80 years ago: in 1940, in World War II: the British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and the destroyers HMS Acasta and HMS Ardent were sunk by German battleships in the Norwegian Sea. (the failure to mount an effective rescue operation became a huge embarrassment for the Royal Navy.)
Click HERE for more info from

25 years ago: in 1995,
The first version of the PHP programming language was released by Greenlandic-Canadian programmer Rasmus Lerdorf. It was designed as a scripting language for web development, but has since evolved into a general-purpose programming language.
Ray Illingworth – English cricketer, 88.
Boz Scaggs – US singer, 76

9th June
150 years ago: in 1870, British novelist Charles Dickens died aged 58 after suffering a stroke (famous for The Pickwick Papers, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol and more).

90 years ago: in 1930, a Chicago Tribune reporter, Jake Lingle was killed during the rush hour at Illinois Central train station by Leo Vincent Brothers, allegedly over a $100,000 gambling debt owed to Al Capone.

Patricia Cornwell – US author, 64.
Michael J Fox – Canadian actor, 59

10th June
80 years ago: in 1940, Marcus Garvey, Jamaican-born American civil rights leader, who established the first major black nationalist movement in the USA, died in London aged 52.

20 years ago: in 2000, the Millennium Bridge in London opened. It closed again 2 days later because it swayed uncomfortably when people walked in step. It reopened in February 2002 after dampers were fitted to eliminate the problem.

Gordon Burns – Northern Irish broadcaster, best remembered for presenting the Krypton Factor, 78.
Elizabeth Hurley – English model and actress, 55.

11th June
250 years ago: in 1770, English explorer Captain James Cook discovered the Great Barrier Reef off Australia when his ship ran aground on it sustaining severe damage.

65 year ago: in 1955, a car span off the track during the Le Mans 24 Hour race in France. The driver, Pierre Levegh, and 83 spectators were killed and over 100 injured. It was the greatest loss of life in the history of motorsport.

Frank Beard – American drummer, member of ZZ Top, 71
Hugh Laurie – English actor, 61

12th June
470 years ago: in 1550, Helsinki, the capital of Finland (belonging to Sweden at the time) was founded by King Gustav I of Sweden.

40 years ago: in 1980, Billy Butlin, British holiday camp entrepreneur died of stomach cancer aged 80.

Pat Jennings - Northern Irish footballer, 75.
Javed Miandad – Pakistani cricketer, 63.

13th June
20 years ago: in 2000, the first North-South Korean summit (the Inter-Korean Summit) was held. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to ease tensions between the two countries.

15 years ago: in 2005, American pop singer Michael Jackson was acquitted on 10 counts of child molestation after a four-month trial.

Dennis Locorriere – American singer-songwriter, lead singer of Dr Hook, 71.
Ben Barba – disgraced Australian rugby league player, 31.

Friday 29 May 2020

In this week: 31st May - 6th June

This week sees the first TV broadcasts in New Zealand and the opening of a bridge over the River Thames, along with birthdays for 2 best seller British authors.

31st May
50 years ago: in 1970, The Great Peruvian Earthquake (also called the Ancash earthquake) occurred. More than 47,000 people were killed while the town of Yungay was buried by an avalanche that killed 17,000 people.

15 years ago: in 2005, Mark Felt, the former Associate Director of the FBI, admitted that he was the Watergate Scandal whistleblower known as “Deep Throat” who provided information to the Washington Post that led to the downfall of U.S. President Richard Nixon.

Clint Eastwood – US actor and director, 90.
Terry Waite – English humanitarian and author, 81
Sharon Gless – US actor, best remembered as Christine Cagney in TV show Cagney and Lacey, 77.

1st June
60 years ago: in 1960, Television broadcasts began in New Zealand.

40 years ago: in 1980, Cable News Network (CNN) began broadcasting.

Robert Powell – English actor, 76
Ronnie Wood – English guitarist and member of the Rolling Stones, 73

2nd June
100 years ago: in 1920, British television scriptwriter Johnny Speight was born. He was best known for creating the sitcoms Till Death Us Do Part and In Sickness and in Health and also wrote for several well-known radio and television comedians. He died aged 78 from pancreatic cancer in 1998.

50 years ago: in 1970, Bruce McLaren, New Zealand racing driver and racing car designer was killed while testing a car at Goodwood, England.

King Constantine II of Greece, 80.
Tony Hadley – lead singer of Spandau Ballet and DJ, 60

3rd June
70 years ago: in 1950, the first successful ascent of Annapurna in the Himalayas was achieved by a French expedition led by Maurice Herzog. This was the first successful ascent of a mountain over 8,000 meters. Annapurna is the 10th highest mountain in the world.

30 years ago: in 1990, Robert Noyce, American engineer and co-inventor of the integrated circuit died from heart failure, aged 62. He was co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel.

Dame Penelope Wilton – English actress, 74.
Suzi Quatro – American–English singer-songwriter, 70.

4th June
100 years ago: in 1920, World War I was concluded when Hungary and the Allies signed the Treaty of Trianon in Paris, France. Hungary lost 71% of its territory and 63% of its population.

30 years ago: in 1990, American euthanasia advocate Jack Kevorkian participated in his first assisted suicide, that of Janet Adkins, an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer. He participated in the assisted suicides of at least 130 terminally ill people between 1990 and 1998 before being convicted of second degree murder and imprisoned. He served 8 years of a 10–25 year sentence.

Bob Champion – English jockey, 72.
Val McDermid – Scottish author, 65.
Bradley Walsh – English TV presenter and comedian, 60

5th June
75 years ago: In 1945, after the end of World War II, the Allied Control Council was established in Berlin, Germany to oversee the division of Germany into four occupation zones: American, British, French and Soviet.

10 years ago: in 2010, Same-sex marriage was legalized in Portugal.
Ken Follett – Welsh top selling author, 71
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Samoan-New Zealand rugby league player, 27.

6th June
99 years ago: in 1921, 
Southwark Bridge in London was opened to traffic by King George V and Queen Mary.

77 years ago: In 1933, the first drive-in movie theatre opened in Camden, New Jersey, USA.

Willie John McBride – Northern Irish rugby player and former British Lions captain, 80.
Robert Englund – American actor, best known for paying Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street series of movies, 73.

Saturday 23 May 2020

In this week: 24th to 30th May

This week we see the anniversary of the first episode of a long running soap opera and the capture of a traitor, while legendary singers Bob Dylan and Gladys Knight celebrate birthdays. 

Read on for further details....

24th May
90 years ago: in 1930, British aviator Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.
25 years ago: in 1995, Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson (1964–70, 1974–76) died aged 79 from colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Bob Dylan - American singer-songwriter, 79.
Gary Burghoff - American actor (Radar O’Reilly in M*A*S*H), 77.

25th May
75 years ago: in 1945, British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clark privately circulated a document in which he proposed using geostationary satellites as telecommunications relays. The idea was made public in the October 1945 issue of Wireless World magazine. The first commercial geostationary communications satellite, Intelsat I, was launched in April 1965.

65 years ago: in 1955, the first successful ascent of Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain was achieved by British climbers Joe Brown and George Band.

Alastair Campbell – Political aide, 63.
Paul Weller – English singer–songwriter, 62

26th May
100 years ago: in 1920, Peggy Lee, American pop and jazz singer, songwriter and actress was born. Born Norma Delores Egstrom, she died in January 2002 from diabetes complications and heart failure.

25 years ago:, in 1995, American cartoon animator, director and producer Friz Freleng died. He was best known for his work on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series and created or developed characters including Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety Pie, Yosemite Sam and Speedy Gonzales.

Glenn Turner – New Zealand cricketer, 73
Stevie Nicks – US singer-songwriter, 72

27th May
90 years ago: in 1930, the Chrysler Building in New York City, USA was officially opened. It was the tallest man‐made structure in the world at the time, at 1,046 feet (319 meters), but it held the record for less than a year.

25 years ago: in 1995, American actor Christopher Reeve, star of the Superman films, was paralyzed from the neck down when he was thrown from his horse during an equestrian competition in Virginia, USA.

John Conteh – English boxer, 69.
Pat Cash – Australian tennis player, 55.

28th May
75 years ago: in 1945, British-born Nazi propaganda broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw (William Joyce) was captured by the British Army near the Danish border and taken to Britain to face trial. He was eventually convicted of treason and sentenced to death on 19th September, and hanged on 3rd January 1946.

25 years ago: in 1995, an earthquake destroyed the town of Neftegorsk on Sakhalin Island, eastern Russia. 2,000 people were killed

Gladys Knight – US soul singer, 76.
Kylie Minogue – Australian singer, actress, 52

29th May
70 years ago: in 1950, the first (pilot) episode of the British radio soap opera The Archers was broadcast on the BBC Home Service (Midlands region only). It was broadcast nationally from 1st January 1951 and is still running.

30 years ago: in 1990, Boris Yeltsin was elected President of Russia.

Martin Pipe – former English horse racing trainer, 75.
Carol Kirkwood – BBC Breakfast weather guru, 58

30th May
60 years ago: in 1960, Russian writer and poet Boris Pasternak died. Best known for his novel Doctor Zhivago, he was awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize in Literature, but he refused it because of opposition from the Soviet Union.

30 years ago: in 1990, because of the outbreak of “mad cow disease,” France banned the importation of British beef and live cattle.

Anders Michanek – Swedish speedway rider, 77.
Colm Meaney – Irish actor, 67.