Category Archives: history

The Birth of British Radio

Britain’s first live public radio broadcast took place in June 1920. The public loved what they heard but this enthusiasm was not shared in official circles.  They said that the broadcasts interfered with important military and civil communications and by late 1920 public broadcasts were a banned.  However, by 1922, nearly 100 broadcast licence requests had been received and the General Post Office – the GPO – proposed that it would issue a single broadcasting licence to a company jointly owned by a consortium of leading wireless receiver manufactures.  It was to be known as the British Broadcasting Corporation – the BBC

On Saturday 20th July 1889 a boy had been born at Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire, Scotland – the youngest, by ten years, of seven children.

He was baptised John Charles Walsham Reith.  In 1922 he was employed by the BBC as its general manager.  In 1923 he became its managing director and, in 1927, he was made the Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation that had been created under a Royal Charter.

His concept of broadcasting as a way of educating the masses underpinned for a long time the BBC and similar organisations around the world.

Not a new King – just a new family name

It was on Tuesday 17th July 1917 that the British Royal Family formally adopted the name ‘Windsor’ in the place of ‘Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’.

‘The Cornishman’ carried a typical statement of the facts with the heading:
A Proclamation was signed at the Privy Council at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday that the British Royal Family henceforce be styled “The House of Windsor.”

The Western Gazette carried a similar outline but added: ‘M.P.’s AND ENEMY DUKES: Mr Swift McNeill, on the second reading of the Titles’ Deprivation Bill (Lords), in the House of Commons on Tuesday, said the Bill aimed at the Dukes of Cumberland and Albany, who still retained their high British titles. Why had it taken the Government three years to eliminate traitors and introduce this measure? He hoped German influence would be a thing of the past, and there would be no more presents of fortresses like Heligoland to the German Emperor.’

Today sees the start of Kingsbridge Fair Week down in Devon

Kingsbridge Town in Devon was granted a charter in 1461 to hold a fair.  The Glove Ceremony is still observed – it’s a white glove and is displayed to indicate an amnesty from prosecution for minor offenses committed during the fair – and precedes the picturesque Floral Dance through the main shopping street.  The week is filled with fun and games such as Pancake Races; Morris, Scottish and Country dancing and the Grand Carnival Parade.

All that above comes from the past records etc that I have gathered over quite a few years.  The following comes from the Kingsbridge website so should be right up to date.

During the last few months the Fair Week Committee have been working on this year’s Fair Week, putting together a programme of events to suit all tastes across this week.

First off  is the Five-a-side football which starts at on this Saturday morning.  While the footballers are running around the Farmers are opening their Market on the town square.

At 5 o’clock this evening the Gym Club will start the evening proceedings – and they will be followed by the official opening with the Crowning of the Fair Queen and Princesses on the bandstand. There will, of course, be musical entertainment continues throughout the evening.

The David Rowlands Fair will be in town all week with the Fair Week church service taking place at St. Edmund’s Church.  The day will close with Boules and family entertainment on the town square.  It all comes to an end with the ever popular Crazy Quiz.

Throughout the week there are games and competitions, music, the lantern parade and fireworks. The ever popular three legged race with the more exacting 10K race preceded by the Fun Run. Bingo, a very popular event which attracts players from across the South Hams, together with darts, pool, poker and euchre all to be found in venues around Kingsbridge.  There will be a baby competition and teddy bears picnic, town criers competition, dog show and junior crab catching competition. On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon to enjoy a Cream Tea, always a nice treat.

Traditionally we will be holding the Glove Hanging ceremony followed by the floral dance and the week will draw to a close with the Carnival Parade and music on the town square.

Music of this day in years gone by

Do you like listening to current popular music?  I used to – but now I seem to live in the past.  The music I have in the car proves that.  Let’s take today – 13th July – as an example.

On 13th July 1957 Elvis Presley had just started a seven week stay at number one with ‘All Shook Up’.  It’s on one of the CDs in my car.

On 13th July 1958 the Everly Brothers were in the second week of a seven week stay with double sider ‘All I have to do is Dream/Claudette’.  Yes that’s in the car as well.

However the music of 13th July 1985 is not in the car – but it is in the cupboard.  So what is/was that I hear some of you asking.  Well  it was a dual-venue concert that was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London (attendance 72,000 people) and the John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia USA where around 100,000 people took part.  On this same day, concerts inspired by the initiative happened in other countries including Austria, Australia, Japan, the Soviet Union and West Germany making it one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time.  It was estimated that a global audience of 1.9 billion, across 150 nations, watched the live broadcasts.  What was this magical event?

It was Live Aid.

Britain’s first radio disk jockey

It was on this day – Thursday 7th July 1927 – that Major Christopher Reynolds Stone D.S.O., M.C., became the first disc jockey in Britain.

Christopher Stone had been educated at Eton College and had served in the Royal Fusiliers during the war.  Before the war he had published a book of Sea songs and ballads and, in 1923, had written the history of his old regiment. He also became the London editor of ‘The Gramophone’ – a magazine started by his brother-in-law Compton Mackenzie.  It was this link that prompted Christopher to approach the British Broadcasting Corporation [the BBC] with the idea for a record programme.  They initially dismissed the suggestion but Christopher succeeded in convincing them and, on Thursday 7th July 1927 he started playing records on air. He had a relaxed, conversational style that was exceptional at a time – most of the BBC’s presentation was extremely formal – and Christopher’s programmes became an extremely popular programme.

What his listeners were not aware of though, was that he wore a dinner jacket and tie when he presented – something that was expected of all radio presenters of the time!

In 1934 Christopher joined Radio Luxembourg on £5,000 a year and was barred by the BBC in consequence.  We’ll come back to this – and other parts of his life – at a later date.

Today is Tynwald Day – 600 years since the Lord of Man ordered the Law

It was Sir John Stanley, Lord of Man, who ordered the 1417 Law to be set down, and it is right and poignant that his descendant, Edward Stanley, the 19th Earl of Derby, should have kindly accepted my invitation to come as a guest on Tynwald Day to help us mark the 600th anniversary and celebrate our long unbroken history of parliamentary tradition.’

From the first recorded Tynwald Day in 1417, the Day had traditionally been held on 24th June, which is the feast day of St John the Baptist and also Midsummer’s Day.  However, in 1753, the Isle of Man legislated to replace the Julian Calendar with the Gregorian Calender after Great Britain had done so in the previous year: making a difference of 11 days. However, the legislation retained the Julian Calendar for the purpose of determining Tynwald Day stating that “Midsummer Tynwald Court shall be holden and kept … upon or according to the same natural Days upon or according to which the same should have been so kept or holden … in case this Act had never been made.” Hence Tynwald Day occurred on 24 June in the Julian Calendar, but on 5th July according to the Gregorian Calendar. It was not subsequently moved back to 7th July, even though the Gregorian Calendar is now 13 days ahead of the Julian Calendar as the Gregorian Calendar had no Leap Day in 1800 or 1900. As a result – if Tynwald Day occurs on a Saturday or Sunday, it is normally commemorated on the next Monday as it was in 2008 and 2009.

Each year on Tynwald Day the Tynwald Court participates at the Tynwald Day Ceremony at St John’s.  After a religious service in the Royal Chapel, the members of Tynwald process to Tynwald Hill, one of the ancient open air sites of Tynwald. Following the proceedings on Tynwald Hill, presided over by the Lieutenant Governor, the members of Tynwald return to the Royal Chapel where a formal sitting of Tynwald takes place.  By statute, each Act of Tynwald must be promulgated on Tynwald Hill within eighteen months of enactment or it ceases to have effect. Promulgation of the Acts takes place on Tynwald Day and the promulgation is certified at the sitting of Tynwald at St John’s.

Any person may approach Tynwald Hill on Tynwald Day and present a Petition for Redress. If the Petition is in accordance with the Standing Orders of Tynwald, any Member of Tynwald may subsequently request that Tynwald consider the substance of the petition. Matters are indeed redressed by this simple but ancient procedure which can lead directly to the enactment of legislation.

Today – Wednesday July 5th 2017 – will serve as an occasion to welcome two visiting units from the Royal Air Force as they perform their ceremonial roles and add to the colour and spectacle of the formal proceedings.  Manned exclusively by officers and airmen of the RAF Regiment, which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary, the Queen’s Colour Squadron will form the guard of honour. The squadron is the RAF’s only dedicated ceremonial unit, but also has an operational role as 63 Squadron, Royal Air Force Regiment.

Joining the squadron will be the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment which, in additional to its ceremonial duties, undertakes operational support roles around the world.

The proceedings will also serve as an opportunity to recognise the 600th anniversary of the Customary Law Act. The President of Tynwald, Steve Rodan MLC, said: ‘The Customary Law of 1417 is the earliest Manx statute we have in writing. It is significant because it sets out in detail the Tynwald Day ceremony itself – the very pattern which we follow on Tynwald Hill in St John’s to this day. Even back then it was referred to as “the constitution from old times” so we can see that our ancient ceremonial was already rooted in the distant past way back then.

Where have the Snippets been?

You may well ask – but I can’t tell you!    I can’t tell you because I don’t know myself.  The last one was posted on 1st June- that’s three and a bit weeks ago!
There have been five postings – but the last one of those was on 14th June. That’s no excuse there though because that still leaves nearly two weeks of nothing!
I could blame it on my other job as a guide at a local stately home – but that’s never got in the way before.  So??????  This is not a Snippet ……. this is the first in a posting that, I hope, will be daily stories on life and times in the British Isles.

This story happened on Thursday 1st July 1858 and was the day a paper by Charles Darwin outlining his theory of evolution by natural selection was presented to the British Linnaean Society. He had finished some 250,000 words on the subject by 18th June 1858 when he received a letter from Alfred Wallace, an English specimen collector working in the Malay Archipelago. Wallace was working on a very similar-looking theory to that of Darwin and, fearing a loss of priority on the subject, Darwin accepted a solution where extracts from both works would be read alternately to the Society.

In the event neither were present at the reading; Darwin was away grieving for his young son who had recently died from scarlet fever; and Wallace was thousands of miles away in Malay. As a result the readings were done by proxy. Wallace’s formulation of the theory had actually predated Darwin’s published contributions but his wide-ranging interests — from socialism to spiritualism, from island biogeography to life on Mars – effectively left the way open for Darwin to develop his view and he took the opportunity.

He promptly began an “abstract” of Natural Selection, which grew into an expanded and more accessible book – ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life’.

The rest, as they say, is history. Most people know the name of Charles Darwin – very few know the name of Alfred Wallace, including your scribe. I have now found him and will tell his story in the not too distant future.





Lanimer celebrations and a General Election

Every June the Scottish town of Lanark holds its Lanimer celebrations – a festivity held on the Thursday falling between the 6th & 12th of June when the town’s schoolchildren parade in fancy dress with decorated vehicles, pipe bands, and a Lanimer Queen and her Court, who have been elected from local children.  The celebrations are based on King David I granting Lanark the status of Royal Burgh during his reign. A condition of the charter stated that the merchants of the town must inspect their March or Boundary Stones each year and Lanark claims to have carried out this duty every year since then.  Over time these Land Marches have become transformed into the annual Lanimer celebrations.

It now spreads over a week beginning on Sunday when the Lord Cornet Elect is led from the town’s Memorial Hall to Saint Nicholas’ Parish Church for the Kirkin’ of the Lord Cornet Elect Service.

On the Monday evening, crowds turn out for the Perambulation of the Marches, when officials and members of the public walk the boundaries. A Scottish Country Dance display takes place at Lanark Cross, followed by the Sashing of the Lord Cornet and the Shifting of the Burgh Standard. The evening ends with the Lord Cornet’s Reception.

An official ride-out around the town takes place on Tuesday night, followed by the presentation of the New Lanark Loving Cup to the Lanimer Queen Elect at New Lanark.

The Lanimer Queen’s Reception is held on the Friday evening in the Memorial Hall and  Saturday sees the Lanimer Ball at Lanark Market when the Lord Cornet escorts the Lanimer Queen.

This leaves just one day – Lanimer Day.  This Thursday is when schoolchildren and others parade through the town in the Lanimer Queen’s Procession – all dressed in costumes accompanied by decorated lorries.  They each receive a Lanimer medal for participating. With the children march the brass and pipe bands, ex-cornets, and visiting dignitaries. The court ride in cars after the parade, and the Queen has an open-top coach. Once the procession has gone once around the town centre, the children mount a stand in front of St Nicholas Church and a statue of William Wallace on the steeple. The court also climbs the stand and the Queen is crowned by a local lady, to acclaim from the assembled crowds. To complete display “Flower of Scotland” and “Scots Wha Hae” are played, and a Lanimer Proclamation read out, followed by “Gods Save the Queen” and the British National Anthem.

However ……

This year – 2017 – there is a slight clash with the Thursday General Election.

The Prime Minister’s surprise announcement threw a major spanner in the works – and the Lanimer committee were left with the unenviable task of reviving this year’s schedule.

They have done it!

The Lanark Lanimer Day has been moved to Friday, June 9!

To everyone – I hope you have had a great week so far – and that tomorrow will give you a really wonderful day of fun and enjoyment.

Tomorrow we remember King Charles II

Tomorrow – Monday 29th May –  is Oak Apple Day or Royal Oak Day – an event that many remember but not-so-many still celebrate.  I’m posting this a day early so that you have time and chance to find a place nearby to go and be part of.  So what can you expect if you go along to one of the events?

The true origins of this are lost in the mists of time, but it is thought to be an ancient fertility rite involving flowers, people and springtime, and possibly having Celtic connections. There are many different ceremonies thought to be connected with this unique event which has changed and adapted over the centuries.  It remains alive today.  Events take place in Upton-upon-Severn; Aston-on-Clunin Shropshire; Marsh Gibbon in Buckinghamshire; Membury in Devon; Great Wishford in Wiltshire where villagers gather wood in Grovely Wood and Fownhope in Hereford that has an on-going tradition in the celebration of Oak Apple Day organized by their ‘Heart of Oak’ Society.  The day is also generally marked by re-enactment activities at Moseley Old Hall, one of the houses where Charles II hid in 1651.

What is often forgotten, though, is the Garland Ceremony where the Garland King will certainly be riding through the streets of Castleton in the Derbyshire Peak District. The Garland’ itself is a beehive shaped head-dress, covered with wild flowers and greenery, which is worn by the ‘King’ over his head and shoulders.  The topmost, removable piece is known as ‘The Queen’ and is a similar but smaller beehive shape. The garland often weighs some 50/60 pounds – a heavy load for the ‘King’s’ shoulders.

The King and his Consort are dressed in Stuart costume that links back to the first Oak Apple Day happening – and lead the Garland procession on horseback. The ceremony begins with the Garland King (without the garland head-dress) and his Consort riding the village bounds, though this is only a token as they stay within the confines of the housing in the village. Castleton Silver Band marches to the host pub, which changes annually, while playing The Garland Tune and followed by The Garland itself carried on a pole. Here they meet the dancing girls.  The girls must be no younger than school age and be resident of Castleton Parish or attend the village school.  They dance in pairs with their white dresses and hair bedecked with flowers and each carry a Garland stick, which resembles a miniature maypole, with red, white and blue ribbons.

When the King and Consort arrive at the host pub, The Garland is placed over the King’s shoulders, the band strikes up the garland tune, and the dancers dance the garland step through the village.  The King and Consort return to the Market Place, joining the dancing girls and the band. Here the older girls then dance six different maypole dances to well known tunes.

Following the maypole dancing, there is a solemn ceremony at the War Memorial. The King places the Queen (the top most piece of the garland) on the War Memorial to commemorate the people of Castleton who lost their lives in the wars.  The band plays The Last Post, Reveille and the National Anthem.

Finally the band reforms in the street, strikes up the Garland tune, and returns to the ‘band room’ followed by the girls and ‘the old girls’ dancing The Criss-Cross (a different lively dance) to the garland tune. They are usually followed by all the villagers and visitors who wish to join in.

That is the end of the ceremony and people – I am told – will then disperse to the various public houses!

The Dunkirk attack begins

On Friday 24th May 1940 Hitler paid a visit to Army Group A headquarters and endorsed the order of the previous day.

The German forces had captured the port of Boulogne and had now surrounded Calais. The engineers of the 2nd Panzer Division had built five bridges over the Canal Line and only one British battalion barred the way to Dunkirk.

Göring urged Hitler to let the Luftwaffe (aided by Army Group B) finish off the British, to the consternation of Franz Halder, who noted in his diary that the Luftwaffe was dependent upon the weather and air crews were worn out after two weeks of battle. Rundstedt issued another order.  That was sent un-coded and was picked up by the RAF at 12:42: “By order of the Fuhrer … attack north-west of Arras is to be limited to the general line Lens-Bethune-Aire-St Omer-Gravelines. The Canal will not be crossed.”

Later that day, Hitler issued Directive 13, which called for the Luftwaffe to defeat the trapped Allied forces and stop their escape.

Franz Halder was a German general and the chief of the Army High Command from 1938 until September 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler. Until December 1941 his military position corresponded to the old Chief of the General Staff position, which during World War 1 had been the highest military office in the German Imperial Army.