1928: After more than a thousand years of putting up with Easter chopping and changing between dates in March and April, Britain decided to pin it down. Parliament passed the Easter Act, under which the festival was fixed for “the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April” – between 9 and 15 April. Straightforward, except that the act included a proviso that “regard shall be had” of the opinions of churches and Christian bodies. Ninety years later, those opinions are still unclear and the law remains in limbo. Easter continues to fall on the first Sunday following the first full moon on or after the March equinox.
Tag archive: Great Britain
1926: British road accident and casualty data, collected nationally for the first time, showed there were 124,000 accidents and 4,886 deaths during the year. The worst single year for road deaths came in 1941, when 9,196 died. Between 1951 and 1999, 15.6 million people were injured in accidents on Britain’s roads, and 285,752 killed.
Source: Road Casualties Great Britain 2006 (2007)
1924: The women’s rights campaigner Dora Russell produced statistics to show that in Britain, it was four times as dangerous for a woman to give birth as it was for a man to work down a coal mine. The death rate for miners from fatal accidents was 1.1 per thousand miners; the death rate among mothers in childbirth was four or five per thousand births, on average, and as high as nine per thousand in heavily industrialized towns.
Source: Dora Russell, The Tamarisk Tree: My Quest for Liberty and Love (1975), p. 171
1921: Football supporters stayed away in droves when Stockport County played Leicester City at Old Trafford on 7 May; only 13 spectators paid to watch the match.
Source: Iain McCartney, Old Trafford: Theatre of Dreams (1996), pp. 16–17
1920: Montagu Norman, the governor of the Bank of England, once confided to a colleague that he could literally walk through walls – just the sort of level-headed individual the country needed to run its central bank.
Source: Andrew Boyle, Montagu Norman: A Biography (1967), p. 87
1918: Maurice Bowra described his commanding officer as a man of “much fancy and charm”, though he had “certain eccentric tastes, such as pornography”. He was an avid reader, and sometimes read aloud to his men from The New Ladies’ Tickler.
Source: C.M. Bowra, Memories 1898–1939 (1966), p. 87
“I heard a lively story about a Scotch regiment to-day. They were burying the dead after an engagement and had begun to shovel earth on a German, when the man recovered consciousness and cried out ‘Me no deaded, me no deaded.’ ‘Agh’ cries the Scotie, ‘Shovel some earth on him, Geordie. Them Germans is such liars that one can’t believe a word they say!’ ”MILDRED CLARK, LETTER TO HER FATHER, 4 JULY 1915
1914: Don’t be overly nostalgic about the summer of 1914, warned Paul Fussell in The Great War and Modern Memory. And yet, in almost the same breath, he described it as “the most idyllic for many years”: a time for strolling in the countryside, a time for sipping tea at wicker tables under shady trees, a time when books could be left outdoors all night without fear of rain.
1913: On Easter Monday, Labour Member of Parliament J.H. “Jimmy” Thomas’s speech at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester was interrupted by a member of the audience. Edith Rigby, a suffragette, stood up, reached into her pockets and pelted Thomas with black puddings.
Source: Phoebe Hesketh, My Aunt Edith (1966), p. 70
1909: Mappin & Webb advertised “suffragette jewellery” in purple, white and green: brooches and pendants set with amethysts, pearls and emeralds. Shoemakers Lilley & Skinner introduced “bedroom slippers in velvet and quilted satin specially dyed in the colours”. And a certain Miss Smith, of Barnham, in Sussex, also specialised in the purple, white and green of the suffragettes – in her case, sweet pea seeds sold by mail order.
Source: Diane Atkinson, The Purple, White & Green: Suffragettes in London 1906–14 (1992), pp. 20, 21, 25
1908: Aspiring novelist D.H. Lawrence let the eugenic cat out of the bag:
“If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I’d go out in the back streets and main streets and bring them in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’.”
Source: D.H. Lawrence, The Letters of D.H. Lawrence: vol. I: September 1901–May 1913, ed. James T. Boulton (1979), pp. 79–81
1907: The discovery that Leopold, the eighth of Queen Victoria’s nine children, suffered from the hereditary genetic disorder haemophilia, meant that the queen’s daughters might also carry the defective gene. Even if they displayed no signs of the disorder, they could transmit it to their children.
1905: During the last two decades of the 19th century, the amount of coal transported annually to London by rail, sea and canal increased from 10 million to 16 million tonnes. Each day, more than 200 tonnes of fine soot were discharged into the city’s atmosphere. In 1905, Dr. Henry Des Voeux of the Coal Abatement Society merged “smoke” and “fog” to coin a new term for the pollution – “smog”.
Source: Turner Whistler Monet, ed. Katharine Lochnan (2004), pp. 52, 236
1904: J.M. Barrie’s circle of young friends included Margaret Henley, daughter of the poet W.E. Henley. She called Barrie her “friendy” – or rather, her “wendy”, since she couldn’t properly pronounce “friendy”. That appealed to Barrie, who used Wendy as the name for a leading character in his play Peter Pan – its first use as a girl’s name.
Source: Lisa Chaney, Hide-and-Seek with Angels: A Life of J.M. Barrie (2005), p. 217
1901: Queen Victoria died; Edward VII became king. If, however, the throne had passed to the firstborn child, regardless of sex, Victoria would have been succeeded by her daughter Vicky. And consider this: when Vicky died, as she did just a few months later, her eldest child, Wilhelm, would have become king. Already kaiser of Germany, Wilhelm would have also become William V of Britain.
Source: The Independent, 7 July 2006
1999: The Scottish poet and translator William Auld became the first person to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature for work in Esperanto.
Source: The Daily Telegraph, 22 September 2006
1983: Straying from the usual sentiments of obituary notices in The Times:
JOHN LE MESURIER Wishes it to be
known that he conked out on
November 15th. He sadly misses
family and friends.
Source: The Times, 16 November 1983
1975: The third Alternative Miss World contest in London was won by Miss Crêpe Suzette, alias the film-maker Derek Jarman, who wowed the judges with a silver diamanté dress, swimming flippers and a headdress made from a green rubber frog.
Source: Newsweek, 28 April 1975
1962: In his final year at Cheam prep school, Prince Charles was made captain of the football first XI. The team lost all its matches, scored just four goals and conceded 82.
Source: Anthony Holden, Charles, Prince of Wales (1979), p. 107
1959: Repealed in 1959: the Barbed Wire Act 1893 (a law “to prevent the use of Barbed Wire for Fences in Roads, Streets, Lanes, and other Thoroughfares”) and the Lunacy (Vacating of Seats) Act 1886 (legislation “for vacating seat of member of House of Commons received, &c. as a lunatic into an asylum, &c.”).
Source: The Statutes Revised (1950), vol. XI, pp. 147–8 and vol. XII, pp. 428–9
1943: The wartime activities of the Colorado beetle have gone largely unnoticed, though they were allegedly used in a crude form of biological warfare. German planes dropped beetles on the Isle of Wight to destroy the potato crop, only to be foiled by the secret deployment of schoolchildren to round up the pests. (Though how the Third Reich hoped to alter the course of the war by targeting a pint-sized island off the south coast of Britain, and why the kids didn’t immediately blab the whole story, is beyond me.)
Source: Jennifer Davies, The Wartime
Kitchen and Garden (1993), p. 129,
but see also www.sussex.ac.uk/Units/
1939: Straight-talking Winston Churchill went down well with wireless listeners. Two millworkers overheard in conversation in Bolton:
MW1: “Ah bet tha heard Churchill.”
MW2: “Aye – I did.”
MW1: “He doesn’t half give it them. I corn’t go to sleep when he’s on.”
Source: Tom Harrisson and Charles Madge, War Begins at Home (1940), p. 158
1938: In dense cloud over the south of France, a ball of lightning entered the open cockpit window of a B.O.A.C. flying boat, singed the captain’s eyebrows and hair, burned a hole in his seat belt, and then meandered harmlessly through the forward passenger cabin into the rear cabin, where it burst with a loud explosion.
Source: Nature, 5 April 1952
1936: Margaret Roberts was a pupil at Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School from autumn 1936 until summer 1943. Her nickname – years before “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher” and “The Iron Lady” – was “Snobby Roberts”.
Source: Biographical Dictionary of British Prime Ministers, ed. Robert Eccleshall and Graham Walker (1998), p. 361
1930: The BBC had a narrow view of what was newsworthy and what wasn’t. If an item didn’t come up to the required standard, it wasn’t broadcast. No effort was made to pad out news bulletins to a standard length. On 18 April, a quiet news day, the BBC announcer simply declared, “There is no news tonight.”
Source: Paddy Scannell and David Cardiff, A Social History of British Broadcasting, I: 1922–1939, Serving the Nation (1991), p. 118
1929: William Empson was summarily dismissed from his fellowship at Cambridge after a college servant found condoms in a drawer in his room.
Source: John Haffenden, William Empson: Among the Mandarins (2005), pp. 242–3
1926: John Daniell captained Somerset cricket team for the last time, and soon after, played his last first-class match for the county.
Some years later, Daniell was watching a match at Taunton, when the bowler bowled a delivery that struck Frank Lee, the batsman, in the box.
“The box, you say. What namby-pamby nonsense is that?” Daniell spluttered.
A few minutes later, the same thing happened again. “What does he need a so-called box for?” Daniell thundered. “In my day, we hit fours with our private parts.”
Source: The Guardian, 12 January 2007
“Mother . . . had a pretty custom, which she hated anyone to detect, of putting every letter she wrote to us when stamped, directed and sealed, into her Bible for a minute or two, ostensibly to sanctify the sealing up.”W.N.P. BARBELLION, JOURNAL, 18 MARCH 1919
1916: When the British attack lost momentum on the first day of the battle of the Somme, Lieutenant R.A. Heptonstall found himself stranded in no man’s land. “From my shell hole I could see a dead man propped up against the German wire in a sitting position.” A German rifleman whiled away the time taking pot shots at the corpse “until his head was completely shot away”.
Source: Martin Middlebrook, The First Day on the Somme: 1 July 1916 (1988), p. 218