Britain. First day of the fox-hunting season. Oscar Wilde called fox-hunting ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable’. About 30,000 foxes die each year.
The Day of the Dead
The Mexicans don’t forget you just because you are dead – well, not every day. On this day they have celebrations in graveyards when they offer flowers, food, toys, gifts and lighted candles to the dead.
Annie Oakley dies. She was famous as a sharpshooter with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. She wasn’t actually from the Wild West, but she was a very good shot. People used to flock to see Annie shoot while standing on the bare back of a horse and riding a speeding bicycle!
Northern England. A time when children are expected to get up to jolly little jokes and pranks. Unfortunately, these days, they prefer to sit with their square eyes gazing at the telly in the corner. In the good old days they’d be persecuting pensioners, torturing tomcats and tormenting teachers.
On this day Guy Fawkes is caught before he blows up Parliament. In Britain people celebrate with fireworks, which will kill far more people over the next 400 years than Guy ever did!
USA. Abraham Lincoln elected President. Not popular with some people. Like the man who wrote to him, ‘God damn your God damned old hellfired God damned soul to Hell God damn you and goddam your God damned family’s God damned soul to Hell.’ Perhaps he voted for the other feller?
Massachusetts, USA. 21-year-old Alice Mohan is the first person to have a limb cut off using anaesthetic.
Mexico. The Aztec natives of Mexico have an old prophecy that a fair-skinned god will appear among them. Today he arrives. Little do they know that this ‘god’ is actually Spanish conqueror Hernando Cortés. He kidnaps their king, Montezuma, and pinches their gold. When the Aztecs discover the truth about Cortés they stone King Montezuma to death.
London, England. The police have the Whitechapel area surrounded, trying to stop one man . . . but he still gets through. He kills his eighth and final victim tonight. He will never be caught, and he will never kill again, but his nickname will become a legend – ‘Jack the Ripper’.
Lake Tanganyika, Africa. Newspaper reporter Henry Stanley tracks down missing explorer Dr Livingstone. Stanley’s famous first words are the daftest of the century: ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ The reply should have been, ‘No. Mickey Mouse.’ But lonely Livingstone says, ‘You have brought me new life.’ Takes all sorts to make the world.
The last day of the horrific First World War . . . and now all war dead are remembered on this day. The red poppy is a symbol of the day, after a Canadian poet wrote about the graveyards, ‘In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row.’ Thousands of poppies – sadly 37,494,186 war casualties outnumber them.
England. King Canute (or Knut) the Great dies. Famous for sitting on the beach and telling the tide to go back. It didn’t and Knut turned to his followers and said, ‘See! I’m not as powerful as you creeps try to make out. Let that be a lesson to you . . . and pass me a dry pair of socks!’
London. King Charles II’s favourite girlfriend dies. Her name is Nell Gwyn and she’s just 34 years old. She has had two boyfriends called Charles before the King – so she calls Charles the Second her Charles the Third.
Britain. The speed limit for cars is raised from 4 m.p.h. to 14 m.p.h. Those fellers with red flags who used to walk in front of the cars will be a) sacked b) run over, or c) Olympic champ sprinters.
New York, USA. The ship Dei Gratia leaves harbour and sails towards one of the world’s greatest mysteries. Three weeks later the crew come across a drifting ship without a soul on board. Where did they go? Were they murdered, abducted by aliens, or did they just jump overboard? No one knows what happened to the crew of that famous ship . . . the Mary Celeste.
London. Jack Shepherd’s luck finally runs out at the end of a hangman’s rope. The expert locksmith and thief escaped four times from jails he was held in. Two groups of friends try to revive him after he’s been hanged – but in fighting over the body they kill him off.
England. The Profound Oaths Act makes swearing a criminal offence. Say ‘Gog’s Malt!’ and you risk a fine and a whipping. Not a lot of people take any notice of this law but it stays a law until 1967, egad!
St Mawes' Day
Some saints died hard. Mawes is born hard on this day when his mother is thrown into the sea in a barrel. Mawes is born in the barrel and five months later the mother and baby are washed ashore in Ireland. When Mawes finally dies his miracles aren’t over. Earth from his grave, mixed with water, is a miracle medicine. (But it tastes dead awful.)
Herefordshire, England. Robert Devereux is born. He grows up to be the Earl of Essex and a special favourite of Elizabeth I – in fact she fancies him like mad . . . until he tries to lead a rebellion against her. The brave Earl once saved the life of a man called Derrick. And it is Derrick who has the pleasure of beheading the Earl in 1601. There’s gratitude for you!
England. King Edmund fights the Viking invaders. Bad move. They tie him to a tree and fire arrows at him till he has more holes than a pepper-pot lid. Then they pull out his lungs and cut off his head. Edmund accidentally dies as a result of this treatment.
Sand Creek, USA. A Cheyenne Indian camp is attacked by soldiers led by Colonel John Chivington. Among the 133 dead are 105 women and children. The local newspaper declares, ‘Colorado soldiers have again covered themselves with glory.’ Indian scalps are strung across the stage of the local theatre while people roar, ‘Exterminate them!’ Sadly the audience are not talking about the soldiers.
Egypt. Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon open the tomb of Tutankhamun for the first time in 3000 years. In just a few weeks Carnarvon is dead! Is it a mummy’s curse? It could be – for not only is Carnarvon dead . . . when Carter opens the coffin he finds Tutankhamun is dead too!
The North American coast. The infamous pirate Blackbeard is shot, his head cut off and stuck on the front of the ship. His body is thrown over the side where it swims round the ship three times!
Dallas, USA. Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President John F Kennedy two days ago. Tonight a man shoots Oswald dead. But did Oswald really do it at all? We still don’t know.
St Catherine’s Day
Around the fourth century young Cath was tortured by being tied to a wheel and having her bones broken. The wheel collapsed. A miracle! Catherine’s wheel has a firework named after it. Sadly, the sword used to behead her didn’t collapse.
England. The country is hit by severe gales known as The Great Storm. It wrecks lighthouses . . . and heavy houses too. 8,000 people die and there isn’t a BBC weather man to blame.
Grantham, England. It’s World War I and men have gone off to fight leaving women to do their jobs. Today sees the first policewomen, Ms Allen and Ms Harburn. Ms Allen knows lots about the law having spent two terms in jail while fighting for votes for women! Men (and policemen) have made sexist jokes ever since – ‘I say! It’s a fair cop! Ho! Ho!’ (Yawn, yawn!)
England. Poet William Blake is born today. This Blake bloke is seriously weird. He claims to have chatted to people from history including prophets from the Bible. His wife becomes fed up because she hardly ever sees him. Blake is usually in Heaven!
St Andrew’s Eve
Not a lot of people know this – and don’t spread it around . . . BUT on this night all buried treasure sends up a faint glow through the ground! Take a spade and wander the ancient sites tonight. By morning you’ll be rich . . . if you don’t die first of cold/fright/angry-farmer’s-shotgun.
St Andrew's Day
St Andrew is Scotland’s own saint. Old Andy was a disciple of Jesus and was crucified on an X-shaped cross. That’s why Scotland’s flag is a white X-shaped cross. Of course, it could have been a +-shaped cross that fell on its side.