Category Archives: 20th century

The birth of the United Nations

It was on Wednesday 24th October 1945 that the United Nations officially came into existence.  The charter had been signed by delegates from 50 member nations in San Francisco on Tuesday 26th June 1945 at the end of the United Nation Conference on International Organization.

The preamble to that Charter said:
‘We the people of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, … and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples, have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.’

A United Nations resolution of 1947 stated that 24th October would henceforth be known as United Nations Day ‘and shall be devoted to making known to the people of the world the aims and achievements of the United Nations, and to gaining their support for the work of the United Nation.’

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I was sitting in Switzerland and watching things in Mexico.

It was Friday 18th October 1968 and four of us were having an evening drink or two by a lake in Switzerland.  We were on a product training course across the border in France but staying in Switzerland.  The Mexico City Olympics was on the television and the men’s long jump was about to begin.  I had done some long jumping at school and Pete’s son was a school high jump champion.  Alan and Chris were good at drinking beer!  We had been watching ‘our man’ Lynn Davis – the then reigning Olympics long-jump champion – but his first jump was poor – almost a foot shorter that the women’s champion had achieved!

Bob Beamon had come close to missing the Olympic final, overstepping on his first two attempts in qualifying. With only one chance left, he had re-measured his approach run from a spot in front of the board and made a fair jump that advanced him to the final.  When the final stages were beginning, and Bob Beamon was preparing for his first leap, Alan said ‘he don’t look very good; beers all round guys?’  We said yes and turned to the TV screen.  Beamon got ready, set off down the track and took off.  It looked pretty good but Alan returned with the beers and they now took precedence – although we all did watch his leap.

My beer was almost empty when the announcer called out the distance for the jump, 8.90 m (29 ft. 2½ in.)  Bob Beamon was unfamiliar with metric measurements and didn’t realize how far he had jumped.  It was when his teammate and coach Ralph Boston told him that he had broken the world record by nearly 2 feet, Bob’s legs gave way and an astonished and overwhelmed Beamon suffered a brief cataplexy attack brought on by the emotional shock, and collapsed to his knees, his body unable to support itself, placing his hands over his face.

In one of the more endearing images of the Games, his competitors then helped him to his feet.  Lynn Davies told Beamon, “You have destroyed this event,” and in sports jargon, a new adjective – Beamonesque – came into use to describe spectacular feats.

We also came to our senses and called for another round of beer to celebrate!

A new coin replaces the old 10 bob note

It was Tuesday 14th October 1969 and a new 50-pence coin sparked confusion among the British population. The seven-sided 50p coin had come into circulation to replace the 10-shilling note but had received a mixed reception.  It was the third decimal coin to be introduced into the British currency – a currency that was scheduled to go totally decimal on Monday 15th February, 1971 – day to be known as D-Day!

The British public had already got accustomed to the new 5p and 10p coins that had been introduced in 1968. Today’s new arrival was made of cupro-nickel and was, according to Lord Fiske, the chairman of the Decimal Currency Board, the only heptagonal coin in circulation in the world.

However some shopkeepers, bus conductors and members of the public were complaining that, in spite of its distinctive shape, it is too easily confused with the 10-pence coin or half crown.  One Londoner told the Evening News that he had accidentally left a 50p coin in a saucer full of 10ps as a tip for a waiter.  “Fortunately the waiter was dead honest and told me. But I suspect there’ll be a lot of cases where that doesn’t happen,” he said.

The Decimal Currency Board had stockpiled some 120 million 50-pence coins at banks around the country ready for this day’s introduction of the coin, making it the largest ever issue of a new coin.  Lord Fiske said the reason for this was to replace the 200 million ‘ten-bob notes’ as soon as possible and added that the issue would eventually save the Treasury money.

He said that “the note is being replaced primarily on economic grounds. A 10s note has a life of some five months and the costs of distribution and withdrawal are comparatively high. Although a 50p coin will cost more to produce initially, it should have a life of at least 50 years and the metal will subsequently be recoverable.”

None the less, many people were unhappy with the new addition to their purses and pockets.  There was also still three coins left to come – the 2p worth 4.8d, 1p (2.4d) and half pence (1.2d).  No doubt we’ll come to these in due time.

A million becomes 60 million after this story hits the screens.

It was on this day – Saturday 6th October 1962 – that a film of the book launched the James Bond saga across the world.

‘Doctor No’ was the sixth novel by author Ian Fleming to feature his British Secret Service agent James Bond.   He had written the novel in early 1957 at his home in Jamaica and it was first published in the United Kingdom by Johnathan Cape on Tuesday 31st March 1958. The novel centred on Bond’s investigation into the disappearance in Jamaica of two fellow MI6 operatives.

Sean Connery – agent 007 – had to battle with the mysterious Doctor No – a scientific genius bent on destroying the whole U.S. space program. As the countdown to disaster began James Bond headed for Jamaica.  There, surprise surprise, he encountered the beautiful Honey Ryder (played by the beautiful Ursula Andress).  Together they have to confront a megalo-maniacal villain in his massive island headquarters.

Created on a one million dollar budget, the film box offices returned just short of 60 million dollars!

A new train arrives 3 minutes early!

Monday 4th October 1976 saw a new high-speed train go into service for the first time. Powered by two diesel engines the trains were capable to a top speed of 140mph which, at that time, made it the fasted diesel powered train in the world.  It is recorded that, on this first journey it arrived 3 minutes early at Bristol!

So what was involved in creating this new wonder?  Well British Railways was creating and introducing the Inter-City 125 trains so as to provide a regular high speed service between Cardiff, Bristol and London.  This was the first traveler but British Rail planed to extend the HST service to other major cities over the following two/three years.  Powered by two diesel motors the Inter-City 125 had already recorded a top speed of over 140mph in trial runs, making it the fastest diesel-powered train in the world.

It was recognised that most other countries had developed electrically powered high-speed trains but the cost of electrification on Britain’s network was considered, at the time, to be prohibitive.  The diesel-powered 125 was a new product from existing technology and was a reasonable stopgap.  The absence of an official ceremony by British Rail to mark this initial occasion meant that few passengers on the trip were aware they were making history on the morning when the 08.05 train left Paddington on time and headed west.

However, it dose appear that most of the travellers did appreciate some improvement in comfort – the carriages featured aircraft-like seating, with sliding electric doors at each end.  Not only was this comfort welcome – hot food could be promptly served from an on-board kitchen with the aid of a state-of-the-art microwave oven!

 

The Festival of Britain comes to its end

Two or three times my parents had said that we would go to the Festival of Britain – but the promises were never turned into fact.  But now the whole thing was closing and I had been deprived of being part of it.  However events had been held all over Britain, not just in London and, after all, we had haved one Festival in our village!

It was on Sunday 30th September 1951 that the Festival of Britain came to an end. It had been organised to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and, after a special service attended by the King, Queen Elizabeth, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and other senior members of the royal family, King George declared the festival open in a broadcast from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The official closing ceremony was planned to also be pronounced by the King but, unfortunately, he was not well enough and the closing speech was given by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He described the Festival as being ‘a real family party’ and ‘the standard by which we shall face the future’.   He said that there were many legacies of the Festival – trees planted, and statues and other artworks commissioned.  He also said that the Festival had given a better awareness of Britain as a thriving economy with a skilled workforce.

 

 

150 years of Police support

It was at 6pm on Tuesday 29th September 1829 that the first parties of the ‘new police’ – England’s new, original Metropolitan Police Force – went on duty.  At first this was a far from safe role and the men were subjected to criticism and prejudice; exposed to criticism and prejudice, and ridden down and bludgeoned on patrol.  However, within a year of its formation this new police force had 3,000 men organized into seventeen divisions outside of the London city centre.  However, their discipline, patience, courage and humour won the day.  Over the following 40 years similar forces were formed across the country and, by September 1979, there were 51 individual forces comprising over 123,000 officers.  It was on Tuesday 26th September 1979 that the British Post Office postal service issued a set of four postage stamps in their honour.

Music at an Art Fair that became a Festival

It’s Monday 18th August 1969 and the legendary Woodstock Music Festival – actually named as the ‘Woodstock Music & Art Fair’ – has come to an end.  Scheduled to run for three days on a New York dairy farm it has actually run for four and attracted an audience of more than 400,000 people – some with tickets – some without – with traffic jams for miles in every direction!

During a sometimes rainy weekend over 30 acts performed outdoors including the likes of Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Ravi Shankar.

The whole event then symbolized the 60s era of flower power; hippies; peace & love; marijuana and protests about the Vietnam War that is happening the other side of the world.  That ‘feeling’ remains still today to those that went to the Fair and those that wished that they had.

The newspapers of the day referred to the event as days and nights of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’.  Later it was widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history.  This year – 2017 – the festival site has been listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.

 

We enjoyed this in years gone by

Britain has many ‘traditional’ activities that, in summer or harvest time, bring all members of the community together for a celebration – a celebration that can go on for the best part of a week or more.  The town where I now live had a reputation for their ‘Feast’ but, I’m afraid, those events seem to have gone absent of late.

The county magazine of 1936-8 tells us of earlier times in the community of the Deepings:

‘The village feast, lasting a week, still survives, and last year was greater than ever, two fields hard by the church being necessary to accommodate the entertainment kings, and people flocked in crowds from neighbouring villages.  A luscious yellow plum retains its name of “The Feast” plum, being ripe at this time, and “duck and green peas” is the time-honoured dish of the old “Deepingers” who rejoice at the homecoming of their sons and daughters.’

There is an interesting point in connection with this popular event, for although St. James’ Day is July 26th, “Feast Sunday” is the second Sunday in August.

The answer lay in the change made in the calendar in 1752 when the English date was 11 days behind the continent, but the residents did not alter their feast.  The Parish Constables’ Book settles the query. In 1751 we read “July 3, For watching at Deep Feast 2-0” and in 1752 “Aug. 13 Paid for ale watching 2 days at Feast, 3-3.” I can only assume that these two sums are shillings & pence and not pounds.

Just tagging on for all of this we have the ‘Court of Piepowder’ – a court of justice that was formerly held at fairs to deal with disputes between buyers and sellers.  The literal meaning is ‘wayfarer’s court’ – piepowder comes from the French ‘pied-poudreux’ meaning ‘dusty-footed’ or ‘vagabond’

The village attraction was renewed in 1945 and boasted not only a local plum, ready at this time of year, but also a local duck-and-green-peas dish.  Both were a welcome change from the stuffed chine mentioned at most other village feasts!  Ale must also have been plentiful as an undisclosed fee was paid for ale-watching!

Unfortunately this whole source of enjoyment ceased quite a few years ago and, although there are many activities for the community, I doubt if we will see the like of this again.