St David's Day
St David is the patron saint of Wales – that’s the country, not Moby Dick’s family. Today you should wear a leek and a daffodil (one in each ear looks very attractive). Saint David suggested that Welsh warriors should wear leeks in their hats so they’d know a fellow Welshman when they saw him (or smelled him).
London. Sir Edmund Halley is well known for his astronomy. He gave his name to Halley’s Comet – and the comet never said thank you. But this month Halley sees a brightly lit object hovering in the sky. The great astronomer says it isn’t a star. So what is it? A very early UFO – or a glow-worm in his telescope?
Scotland. Alexander Graham Bell is born. The man who grew up to invent the telephone – a machine that waits until you’re in the bath before it decides to ring. Alexander’s mum and his wife are not bothered by this – they are both deaf!
Scotland. At last the Forth railway bridge is opened. It’s the longest in Britain at 1710 feet. (In metres that’s . . . er . . . a lot!) The old joke is that no sooner do they finish painting it than they have to start again at the other end. We forget that 57 people died building the bridge. And that’s no joke.
Texas, USA. Mother-in-law Day . . . at least that was the idea. The editor of a Texas paper suggests it for this day but it proves as popular as a ‘Club Baby Seals to Death Day’. Still, you may like to suggest your parents try buying mother-in-law presents this year?
Alamo Fort, USA. A Mexican army attacks the Alamo Fort and kills every one of the 180 American defenders. The Mexican ‘winners’ managed to lose over 600 men, so who won? The answer is American writers and film-makers who had a great story to tell for the next 150 years. The American revenge is quick and deadly: their army catch the Mexican army napping – literally, for it is ‘siesta’ time. They kill 630 in the 21 April Battle of San Jacinto that lasts just 18 minutes.
La Haye, France. Jean Pierre Blanchard was the first man to cross the English Channel by air – in a balloon. Today he jumps out of his balloon to test a parachute. He’s made many successful jumps – today he makes his only unsuccessful one. Splatt!
New York, USA. Captain Nathaniel Gordon becomes the last known pirate to be executed on this day. Unfortunately the execution comes too late to save innocent lives. When his ship was searched he was trying to smuggle 967 slaves into America. Over 300 slaves had already died in chains.
Edinburgh, Scotland. A murderous merry-go-round starts. Mary Queen of Scots has a favourite musician called David Rizzio and today her jealous husband has him murdered. But, within a year, Mary’s husband dies when his house is blown up. Mary marries the man who probably killed her husband!
Kansas, USA. Doctor York tells his friends that he is going to the Bender family’s inn for a meal on his way home. But Doctor York is never seen alive again. The friends search for him and the Benders tell them that York must have been attacked after he left them. But when the friends go back the bloodthirsty Bender family has fled . . . leaving 12 ‘guests’ behind – under the floor. They are never caught.
Britain. National No Smoking Day. This campaign is organized by Action on Smoking and Health – ASH. But they’re a week too late. Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday! They say today’s a great success and 50,000 have given up smoking. They don’t say how many have taken it up!
Bermuda. The island of Bermuda becomes a British colony on this day. But would the Brits take it over if they knew about the dreaded ‘Bermuda Triangle’? An area where ships and planes and people disappear without trace, without a sound and sometimes without their breakfast.
St Petersburg, Russia. At a parade a terrorist throws a bomb under Tsar Alexander II’s carriage. A man calls, ‘Are you hurt, your majesty?’ Alexander says, ‘Not at all, thank God!’ The man chucks a second bomb at him. ‘Home to the palace to die!’ Alex cries. And that’s where his guards take the bits.
Portsmouth, England. Admiral John Byng was given the job of helping the island of Minorca to fight the French. He failed . . . so today he is shot by a firing squad. Bang-byng!
Roman leader Julius Caesar goes to the Senate even though he’s poorly – his wife and a fortune-teller both warned him not to. At the Senate a friend tries to hand him a warning note. Twenty- seven other ‘friends’ get their knives in first. Caesar is very poorly by the time they’ve finished with him.
Capri. Emperor Tiberius stops breathing and is declared dead . . . then he sits up and demands food! Young Caligula is waiting for old Tiberius to die so he can take over as emperor – so Tiberius is smothered with his own bedclothes.
St Patrick's Day
St Patrick’s a Brit who was sold to Ireland by slave traders. What does he think of his new country? Not a lot – he runs away to France. But, since he goes back later, converts them to Christianity and drives all the snakes out of Ireland in his spare time, the Irish forgive him. They even make him their patron saint.
Corfe Castle, England. 19-year-old King Edward comes to see his mum. Soldiers stab him then tie his foot to his horse’s stirrup and watch as he’s dragged to death. Most people reckon the one who gave the order for Edward’s murder is . . . his mum! No Mother’s Day card for her this year.
USA. Edgar Rice Burroughs dies. (No relation to Edgar Rice Pudding.) Burroughs created the famous character Tarzan. No more Tarzan stories – no more awful jokes like, ‘What’s Tarzan’s favourite Christmas song?’ ‘Jungle Bells.’ (Groan.)
Westminster Abbey, London. King Henry IV was quite sure that he would die in Jerusalem. Rather wisely he kept away from that city – wouldn’t you? But today he goes to Westminster Abbey and enters the Jerusalem Chamber . . . where he has a stroke and dies. Life plays funny tricks like that (though it wasn’t so funny for Henry, of course).
Oxford, England. Thomas Cranmer was the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury. But now Catholic Mary’s on the throne and Thomas is in hot water – to be exact he’s in hot fire when he is burned at the stake today.
India. Jayaprakash Narayan is one of India’s most loved and respected old leaders. Imagine the sadness when his death is announced this morning. Imagine the astonishment when Jayaprakash Narayan turns on the radio and hears about his own death! This false alarm came from the Director of India’s Intelligence Department.
St Gwinear's Day
But it doesn’t pay to follow this Irish saint. He took 770 men and women to Wales and Brittany to preach and some of them came to very nasty ends. King Teudar of Cornwall threw them into a lake full of reptiles. The local newspaper could have announced, ‘770 saint’s supporters are snakes’ snacks.’
Aintree, England. A dramatic Grand National horse race. The Queen Mother’s horse, Devon Loch, is heading for the first royal win of this century. Suddenly it sprawls on the ground, staggers back to its feet . . . and loses. A complete mystery. The sort of mystery that best-selling author Dick Francis could write a book about! He should, because he is riding Devon Loch at the time.
New York, USA. Tragedy when fire destroys a clothes factory. The girls who aren’t burned are killed when they jump from the windows on to the pavement below, many of them still clinging on to their pay packets.
London. The trial of the ‘Great Train Robbers’ is over. They stole a couple of million pounds from a train. The judge decides to make an example of them so his sentences are harsh. Murderers usually get 20 years – the robbers get 30 years!
London. Alfred and Edward Stratton break into a shop . . . a common enough crime, but they break straight into the record books. The crime is solved by fingerprint evidence – for the first time in history. This is no comfort to the shopkeeper who dies in the raid.
Borley, England. In England’s most haunted house, Borley Rectory, a ghost announces, ‘The house will burn down this very night!’ The spirit, called Sunex Amurex, obviously didn’t own a Dreadful Diary because he got it wrong – by 11 months! It actually burned down on 27 February 1939.
Towton, England. The Yorkists fight the Lancastrians in what is said to be the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil. Men march over a carpet of dead bodies and through driving snow. Up to 28,000 die. The field where the battle was fought is still called ‘Bloody Meadow’ over 500 years later.
Alaska. William Seward buys Alaska. That’s right – the whole lot. He was sent from the USA to buy it from Russia. Everyone laughed – especially the Russians. Then gold is discovered! Will has the last laugh and laughs longest.
Paris, France. A 300-metre tall lump of metal called the Eiffel Tower is stuck up to celebrate the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Within 100 years it is sold at least three times as scrap metal by clever tricksters to idiot buyers.