When Grandpa Was A Boy, Were There Any Dinosaurs?

Tag archive: Britain

Not-So-Fab Four

1961: By the mid-1960s, the Beatles were the most successful pop group in the world, playing to packed crowds of screaming fans. But that was in the future. On 9 December 1961 they performed at the Palais Ballroom in Aldershot to an audience of 18.

Source: www.triumphpc.com/mersey-beat/beatles/aldershot.shtml

Snails, Stamps And Potted Meats

1947: The death of Matthew Connolly was a major loss in the field of gastropod studies. He was the author of The Land Shells of British Somaliland and A Monographic Survey of South African Marine Molluscs, as well as learned papers on such arcane malacological matters as the giant snail from Ceylon that licked the paint off window frames. Connolly discovered about 30 snails,

snail-shells-65358_960_720

six of which were named after him and one after his son, the critic and writer Cyril Connolly. He was also a keen philatelist, hailed by Stamp Collector as “the greatest authority on Railway Parcels stamps”, and an acknowledged expert on potted meats and pâtés.

Source: Jeremy Lewis, Cyril Connolly: A Life (1997), pp. 7–8

When Writers Meet

1945: War correspondent George Orwell was delighted to find that Ernest Hemingway was staying at the same hotel in Paris. The two men had never met. Orwell went up to Hemingway’s room and knocked. A voice bellowed at him to come in. He opened the door and said sheepishly, “I’m Eric Blair.” The American was standing on the other side of the bed, packing suitcases. “Well, what the –ing hell do you want?” he shouted. Orwell spoke again. “I’m George Orwell.” Hemingway pushed the suitcases to the end of the bed. “Why the –ing hell didn’t you say so? Have a drink. Have a double.”

Source: Paul Potts, Dante Called You Beatrice (1960), p. 82

Caught On The Hop

1940: The speed with which the Wehrmacht lunged across northern France caught P.G. Wodehouse on the hop; he was trapped in his villa at Le Touquet.

Two months later, the Germans decided to intern all enemy males under the age of 60. Wodehouse was given ten minutes to pack. Ethel, his wife, went “nearly insane” and couldn’t find the keys for the room with the suitcase. Plum went into captivity equipped with “a copy of Shakespeare, a pair of pajamas, and a mutton chop”.

Source: P.G. Wodehouse, P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters, ed. Sophie Ratcliffe (2011), p. 295

Toilet Training

1939: As war loomed, the British government evacuated more than a million children and mothers from the cities to the countryside. Host families were appalled to find that some of the children lacked proper toilet training. It wasn’t the children’s fault; their parents hadn’t taught them. One Glasgow mother admonished her 6-year-old child: “You dirty thing, messing the lady’s carpet. Go and do it in the corner.”

Source: Richard M. Titmuss, Problems of Social Policy (1950), p. 122

Turbulence Over Europe

1938: I felt “some slight sinking when I found myself flying over London”, turbulence “rocked and bumped” the aeroplane “like a ship in a sea”, and there were “more nervous moments when we circled down over the aerodrome” at the end of the flight. The apprehensive air passenger was Neville Chamberlain, heading to Munich in September for crisis talks with Adolf Hitler.

Source: Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936–1945: Nemesis (2000), pp. 110, 876

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain back in Britain after his shuttle diplomacy secured

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain addressing a crowd at Heston Aerodrome on 30 September 1938, after his shuttle diplomacy secured “peace for our time”

Cocaine For The King

George V in his coronation robes

George V in his coronation robes, painted by Luke Fildes

1936: From the middle of January, King George V’s health deteriorated rapidly. By the evening of 20 January, he was clearly dying and not expected to survive the night. His personal physician, Lord Dawson, prepared the text of a final bulletin: “The King’s life is moving peacefully towards its close.”

The Prince of Wales had earlier told Dawson that neither he nor Queen Mary wished to see life prolonged unnecessarily. When the doctor judged that the time had come, he injected morphia and cocaine into the king’s jugular vein. “Intervals between respirations lengthened,” and just before midnight, “life passed so quietly and gently that it was difficult to determine the actual moment.”

Source: History Today, December 1986

Casual Acquaintance

1930: In August, Noël Coward and T.E. Lawrence met for the first time. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, was shyly and unsuccessfully masquerading as Aircraftman Shaw (service number 338171) of the Royal Air Force. After they met, the two men exchanged letters. Coward began: “Dear 338171, (May I call you 338?)”

Source: Noël Coward, The Letters of Noël Coward, ed. Barry Day (2007), p. 211

“But Your Mother Never Called Me!”

Vladimir Lenin with his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, photographed in 1922 by Lenin’s sister, Maria Ulyanova

Vladimir Lenin with his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, photographed in 1922 by Lenin’s sister, Maria Ulyanova

1929: The diplomat Bruce Lockhart heard what he described as a “priceless story of Lenin and the death of his mother-in-law”. Without naming the source, Lockhart wrote in his diary: “Krupskaya tired of watching at death-bed asked Lenin to sit by her mother while she slept. He was to call her if her mother wanted anything. Lenin took a book and began to read. Two hours later Krupskaya came back. Her mother was dead. Lenin was still reading. Krupskaya blamed him: ‘Why did you not let me know?’ Lenin replied: ‘But your mother never called me!’ ”

Source: Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, The Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, I: 1915–1938, ed. Kenneth Young (1973), p. 82

Woolf At The Wheel

Virginia Woolf in about 1927

Virginia Woolf, photographed about the same time she learned to drive

1927: “You won’t mind talking for 24 hours on end, I hope?” Virginia Woolf wrote to a friend. “It will be mostly about motor cars. I can think of nothing else.” The Woolfs had just bought their first car, and Virginia was thrilled to get behind the wheel. “I have driven from the Embankment to the Marble Arch and only knocked one boy very gently off his bicycle.”

Source: Virginia Woolf, A Change of Perspective: The Letters of Virginia Woolf, III: 1923–1928, ed. Nigel Nicolson (1977), p. 400

Lord Bags 556,813

1923: The 71-year-old Marquess of Ripon collapsed and died doing what he liked best – slaughtering birds on a grouse moor. At the age of 70 he killed 420 grouse in a single day. Timed by stopwatch, he once bagged 28 pheasants in 60 seconds. On another occasion, he downed 11 partridges with just two shots. His lifetime tally of pheasants reached almost a quarter of a million, and in the 57 years from 1867 to 1923 he killed more than half a million head of game – 556,813, to be precise, an average of 9,768 each year.

Source: Hugh S. Gladstone, Record Bags and Shooting Records (1930), pp. 57, 72, 177–8, 205

Poisoners Fictional And Non-Fictional

Solicitor and poisoner Herbert Armstrong

Solicitor and poisoner Herbert Armstrong

1921: Agatha Christie’s first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, went on sale in Britain at the beginning of February. While readers puzzled over the identity of the poisoner in rural Essex, a second poisoner was active on the other side of the country, only this one wasn’t fictional.

Herbert Armstrong, a solicitor, thought he could resolve his personal and business problems by getting rid of his overbearing wife and an overly successful professional rival.

Katherine Armstrong died in agony at the end of February from what was initially thought to be gastritis. A few months later, the solicitor Oswald Martin became violently ill after taking tea with Armstrong, but survived (“Excuse fingers,” said Armstrong, as he passed Martin a poisoned scone).

Hercule Poirot was not on hand to solve these cases, but with the help of the forensic pathologist Bernard Spilsbury, arsenical poisoning was shown to have taken place, the arsenic was linked to Armstrong, and Armstrong was convicted of murder and executed.

Source: Colin Evans, The Father of Forensics: How Sir Bernard Spilsbury Invented Modern CSI (2009), pp. 98–118

Miss Hoity-Toity

1920: Looking back on the 1920s, Loelia, Lady Lindsay, the former Duchess of Westminster, recalled the tremendous snobbery. “If you had danced with a man the night before and had found out that he was socially inferior . . . the following day you would just look through him.”

Source: Roy Strong, The Roy Strong Diaries 1967–1987 (1997), pp. 55–6

Village Revelry Comes To Unhappy End

1919: That summer, Patrick Leigh Fermor was staying in the Northamptonshire countryside. On 18 June, he joined celebrations to mark the end of hostilities. He was only four, but the day stuck in his memory.

In late afternoon, the villagers lay on the grass in a meadow and sang “Keep the home-fires burning” and “The only girl in the world”. After dark, they lit an enormous bonfire, surmounted by a straw dummy of the kaiser. Everyone joined hands and danced by the light of the fire and cheered when the flames reached the dummy; boys scampered in and out of the crowd, waving sparklers and lobbing bangers.

The celebrations came to an unhappy end, however. One of the boys capered about with his head thrown back and a Roman candle in his mouth. The firework slipped between his teeth and down his throat. The grown-ups rushed him to a nearby brook, but it was too late, and he died in agony, “spitting stars”.

Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (1977), pp. 35–7

Jeanie’s In Trouble

Marie Stopes commemorated on a British postage stamp in 2008

Marie Stopes commemorated on a British postage stamp in 2008

1918: Married Love was a runaway success. The book sold 2,000 copies within a fortnight and by the end of 1918 had been reprinted five times. Together with later works, it made the name of Marie Stopes synonymous with birth control, so much so that in backstreets and school playgrounds, children skipped to the chant of:
Jeanie, Jeanie, full of hopes,
Read a book by Marie Stopes.
Now, to judge by her condition,
She must have read the wrong edition.

Source: Ruth Hall, Marie Stopes: A Biography (1977), p. 5

“Such Were The Joys”

1915: The future golfing journalist and broadcaster Henry Longhurst was six years old in 1915, and in the autumn he was sent to prep school in Sussex. In his memoirs, he gave St. Cyprian’s high marks, though he winced at “the cold pewter bowls of porridge with the thick slimy lumps, into which I was actually sick one day and made to stand at a side table and eat it up”.

Source: Henry Longhurst, My Life and Soft Times (1971), p. 27

Dastardly Dachshund

1914: Some Britons marked the outbreak of war with loutish displays of anti-German feeling. Graham Greene reported that a dachshund was stoned in the high street of his hometown. (Would the attackers have been quite so brave if, instead, the dog had been a Dobermann pinscher?)

Source: Graham Greene, A Sort of Life (1971), p. 64

Labouring In London

1913: Before he adopted the name Ho Chi Minh, and several decades before he became the leader of North Vietnam, Nguyen Tat Thanh spent time in London. His first job was in a school, sweeping snow. “I sweated all over and yet my hands and my feet were freezing.”

Source: William J. Duiker, Ho Chi Minh: A Life (2000), p. 51

Dodgy Arithmetic

Portrait of Archbishop Ussher by Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen, 1641

Portrait of James Ussher by Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen, 1641

1910: By totting up the ages at which the Old Testament patriarchs begat their children, the 17th-century biblical scholar James Ussher arrived at a date for the Creation: 4004 B.C. Archbishop Ussher’s precise calculation was widely accepted and for two centuries his date appeared in the margins of bibles alongside the opening verse of Genesis. Despite the scientific advances of the 19th century, it didn’t disappear from Oxford University Press bibles until 1910.

Source: J.F. Kirkaldy, Geological Time (1971), p. 5