Whenever they were born, all racehorses officially celebrate their
birthday today. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what was patented today
in 1904, as it is too rude to print but if you want to know - just ask!
On this day in 1982 Erica Roe, a busty bookseller from Petersfield,
streaked topless at Twickenham at the rugby international between England
and Australia. Why not treat yourself to a couple of large ones?
US Pat No. 375,962 was issued today in 1888 to Marvin Chester
Stone, for his invention – the waxed paper drinking straw. Get sucking!
The use of the term ‘Ms’ as a courtesy title for a woman where
‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’ are deemed inappropriate, dates from The
Simplified Letter, published by the Philadelphia-based National Office of
the Management Association on 4 January 1952.
The word ‘hamburger’ first appeared in print, today in 1889,in
the Walla Walla Union, a Washington newspaper, in the phrase, ‘You are
asked if you will have ’’porkchopbeefsteakhamandegghamburgersteakorliverandbacon’’.’
Not only the birthday in 1475 of Henry the Impotent (Henry IV of
Castile), and in 1955 of comedian Rowan Atkinson, but also Twelfth Night,
on which wags traditionally nailed the coat-tails of window shoppers to
French aviation pioneer Jean Pierre Blanchard and American doctor
John Jeffries became the first men to cross the English Channel by
balloon, from England to France, on 7 January 1785. To retain their
height, they found it necessary to jettison almost everything on board –
including their clothes
Jackson Day, a holiday – but only in Louisiana. General Andrew
Jackson defeated the British at New Orleans in 1815. The score: 700
British killed, 1,400 wounded, 500 taken prisoner, against 8 Americans
killed and 13 wounded. The battle was actually fought two weeks after a
treaty had been signed – but news hadn’t reached either side.
Brought back to England – pickled in rum – four months earlier,
Britain’s greatest naval hero Lord Nelson was buried in St Paul’s
Cathedral today in 1806 – in second-hand tomb. It had originally been
made in 1524-9 for Cardinal Wolsey, but Henry VIII confiscated it.
The word ‘suffragette’ first appeared in print today in 1906,
in an article in the Daily Mail.
The feast day of St Balthasar, patron saint of playing card makers.
He was also invoked against epilepsy – as well he might, epilepsy being
a serious handicap for card-players.
A tough day for novelists; Nevil Shute died today in 1960, and
Agatha Christie in 1976. The butler did it.
The birthday in 1628 of French writer Charles Perrault. In the
story of Cinderella, he mistranslated vair, the word for fur, as verre,
glass, thus making her wear glass slippers. However it is easier to drink
from a glass slipper than a soggy fur one.
The Empress Eugenie and Napoleon III were traveling in a carriage
near the Opera, Paris, on this day in 1858, when anarchist Felice Orsini
bowled three bombs beneath it, killing ten and injuring 156. As she
stepped completely uninjured from the wreckage, the Empress was heard to
comment, ‘ C’est le metier’ – ‘It’s all part of the job’.
The British Museum was first opened to the public on 15 January
1759. Among the earliest treasures on display were a starved cat and a
rat, a tree trunk gnawed by a beaver and a mummified thumb found beneath
the St James’s Coffee House.
Drink Anniversary; Prohibition started in the USA, 1920.
Arch-gangster Al Capone was born today in 1899. Prohibition was a
blessing in disguise for him, as he came to control the bootleg liquor
On this day in 1913, for a bet Tom Elder Heran, an actor, dressed
himself as a tramp and stood in Trafalgar Square attempting to sell £5
notes for a penny each. Passers-by were so suspicious that he managed to
sell only two.
Duff Prediction No1: John Nash, an Australian, predicted that
Adelaide would be destroyed by an earthquake and tidal wave today in 1976.
Thousands left their homes, but nothing happened. Nash moved to Warwick,
Queensland, which he predicted, would be the safest place in Australia;
within days, it was engulfed by the worst floods in living memory.
St Agnes’ Eve, when girls dreamed of their future love – a far
cry from the night in 1982 when outrageous rock star Ozzy Osbourne ended
his Des Moines, Iowa, concert date in hospital receiving rabies shots
after biting the head off a bat. George V died today in 1936. His reputed
last words were ‘Bugger Bognor’.
Another surfeit of celebrations: Louis XVI was guillotined, 1793;
Sir Joseph Whitworth, the man who standardized screws, died in 1887; Benny
Hill was born in 1925; and in 1981 Alfredo Bizarri patented the flying
saucer (UK Pat No. 1,582,980).
Today in 1907, Richard Strauss’ opera Salome was banned after the
risqué dance of the seven veils’ in its New York premiere shocked the
The debut (sort of) of
Alvin Stardust, at a festival in Cannes, 1974. He was previously Shane
Fenton, and born Bernard Jewry. ‘Alvin’ came from his heroes, Elvis
Presley and Gene Vincent.
Drink Anniversary: On 24 January 1935 Krueger beer, brewed in
Newark, New Jersey, became the first to be sold in cans, in Richmond,
‘I Told You So’ No 1: Robert Burton, the author of The Anatomy
of Melancholy, died in Oxford today in 1640, on the very day he had
predicted astrologically as the date of his death.
Triple birthday celebration: Maria A.Trapp (of Sound of Music
fame), 1905, Michael Bentine, the most famous Peruvian born in Watford,
1922, and singer-comedienne Marti Caine, 1945 – who very sensibly
changed her name from Lynda Crapper.
Lewis Carroll was born today in 1832. His best-known book, Alice in
Wonderland, contained no reference to chocolate gramophone records, since
they were unknown until this day 71 years later, when Gebruder Stollwerk
obtained UK Patent No. 1,992.
Inside Linda Lovelace, the ‘Deep Throat’ star’s
‘autobiography’ was cleared of obscenity by an Old Bailey jury today
in 1976. Drink Anniversary: St Charlemagne’s Day, marked in France by
drinking champagne at breakfast. Celebrate both events by gargling with
After over 25 years in preparation, the first part of the massive
Oxford English Dictionary was published in 1884 misleadingly titled
‘A-ANT’. It should, of course have been an
© Russell Ash from "I'll Drink to That" (Corgi, 1987). Not to
be transmitted or reproduced in print or electronically without the prior
written permission of the author.