9, 14 and 26 October
This month (26) saw the British military occupation of Iraq end – in 1946. Obviously, governments don’t refer to history these days! Peace in the Middle East has been an elusive dream for a long time, and seems to be further away than ever. As far as this month goes, because he had made peace with Israel (and gained a Nobel Prize for his efforts), the President of Egypt was assassinated by members of the Islamic Jihad in 1981 and one week later President Hosni Mubarak was elected (14) President.
On the same day in 1994 Palestine leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (14). Twelve days later, Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty (26).
A year later to the day, Israeli secret service agents from Mossad assassinated the Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shikaki in his hotel in Malta (26).
And still people die in the Middle East – and elsewhere in the world – because of the politics and religion affecting that region’s instability.
Politicians tinkered with the House of Lords and in 1999 the Lords voted to end the right of hereditary peers to vote in the upper chamber of Parliament, bringing to a close hundreds of years of tradition (26).
Lord Home of Hirsel (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), the ex-Prime Minister, died (9) in 1995. He was a keen cricketer and played against Argentina for three of his first-class games for the MCC during their South American tour in the 1920s. On retiring as PM, he became the president of the MCC in 1966.
Cricketer Charlie Parker was born (14) in 1882 and is the third highest wicket taker in the history of first class cricket, behind only Wilfred Rhodes and Tich Freeman. During his career with England he took 3,278 wickets and scored 7,951 runs.
Running of a different type is the 1,500 metres race – which was first run under 3 minutes 30 seconds by Steve Cram, who was born (14) in 1960. At one time he seemed unbeatable, gaining world records for the 1,500, 2,000 metre races and the mile, all within nineteen days in 1985. His record for the mile stood for eight years.
Sportsman Matthew le Tissier, who played soccer for Southampton and England, was born (14) in Guernsey in 1968. A little over a hundred years earlier, in 1863, the Football Association was formed (26).
An association of a different kind was cemented by the marriage (9) of Louis XII of France and Mary Tudor, the daughter of our own Henry VII in 1514, striving to get a male heir. They were not successful and he died the following year. The Salic Law did not permit either of his two daughters by an earlier marriage to succeed to his throne so his cousin succeeded him instead to become King of France.
The Royal Charter, a steam clipper, was wrecked (26) by a severe hurricane off Anglesey in 1859. Over 450 souls died.
Sixty years earlier, HMS Lutine was transporting over a million pounds of bullion to the Hamburg banks when she encountered heavy gales and off the Dutch coast she became a total loss, with all but one of over 240 passengers and crew dying.
Lutine bell, Lloyd's - Wikipedia commons
HMS Royal Oak was sunk (14) by German U-boat U-47 in 1939, six years to the day after Germany withdrew from The League of Nations (14).
German businessman Oskar Schindler has been immortalised in the 1982 book Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, filmed by Steven Spielberg as Schindler’s List. He saved over 1100 Jews from the concentration camps and died (9) in 1974.
Jewish-born Hannah Arendt fled her home in Germany in 1933 and lived in France until she had to elude the Nazis again in 1940, this time with her husband and mother. She was helped by American diplomat Hiram Bingham IV, who illegally issued US visas to her and about 2,500 other Jewish refugees. She was born (14) in 1906 and brought her considerable intellect to bear on the philosophical conundrums posed by the twentieth century and attended several US universities.
The Commission of National Education was the first recorded ministry of education and was formed (14) in Poland in 1773.
Education and intelligence could be the death of you in Pol Pot’s regime in the 1970s; ‘intellectuals’ – if you could write, you fell into that category! - were massacred in their thousands. The Khmer Republic was proclaimed (9) in Cambodia in 1970 and civil war was waged until 1975 when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were victorious, renaming the country Democratic Kampuchea. His guerilla fighters and later his government were responsible for the deaths of over two million Cambodians in the Killing Fields.
Guerilla fighter Che Guevara was captured in 1967 in Bolivia and the day afterwards he was executed without trial (9). Guevara is variously a socialist revolutionary icon or a terrorist and butcher. He was in at the beginning with Castro and founded Cuba’s labour camps and state-endorsed executions and mismanaged the Cuban economy, overseeing the near-collapse of sugar production, the failure of industrialization, and the introduction of rationing—all this in what had been one of Latin America’s four most economically successful countries. Many Cuban exiles have said that their country could not afford another Che Guevara. The Left still idolise him, however.
Cuban musician Chucho Valdés was born (9) in 1941 and in 1967 co-founded Orquesta de Música Moderna with his compatriots guitarist Carlos Emilio Morales, reedsman Paquito D’Rivera, trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and singer-percussionist Oscar Valdés. In 1973 eight members of that orchestra formed Irakere, which in 1978 became the first Castro-era Cuban ensemble to obtain a contract with an American-based record label. Irakere's debut on Columbia was a Grammy winner.
The Cuban Missile crisis began in 1962 when a U-2 flight (14) over Cuba took photographs of Soviet nuclear weapons being installed on the island. These definitely were Weapons of Mass Destruction, no doubt about it, and the world teetered on the brink of war.
U2 plane on USS America - Wikipedia commons
Another momentous flight was that of the Bell X-1 which Chuck Yeager flew faster than the speed of sound (14), the first man to do so in level flight in 1947.
Eleven years later, in 1958, Pan Am made the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707 from New York to Paris (26). [The Pan Am airline collapsed in 1991.]
In 2001 internal US Delta Flight 458 was an early symptom of terrorist paranoia which we’re still seeing today, some years later. The aircraft was diverted (14) and passengers were taken off while officials investigated a report that two ‘Middle Eastern men’ were making threats in a foreign language. The two were actually Orthodox Jews praying... Not a suicide bomber in sight.
In 1984 there was one strange suicide when John D McCollum shot himself after spending a day listening to Ozzy Osbourne records (26); a law-suit was later filed by his parents over the song ‘Suicide Solution’ but the case was thrown out.
Osbourne’s wife Sharon was born (9) in 1952, the same year as the poet Andrew Motion (26).
American poet e.e. cummings was born (14) in 1894. Fellow American writer Harold Robbins, author of The Carpetbaggers (1961) and A Stone for Danny Fisher (1952), seemed to invent the modern blockbuster with its sex and violence; he died (14) in 1997. In complete contrast was the author A.A. Milne’s book Winnie-the-Pooh, which was first published (14) in 1926. An Italian author who wrote political works as well as stories for children, Carlo Collodi died (26) at the age of sixty-four in 1890. Collodi created Pinocchio, the puppet without any strings.
Someone who has had a string of popular hit singles is Cliff Richard, who was born (14) in 1940, the same day and year (14) as actor Christopher Timothy, the actor best known for his portrayal of the vet, James Herriot.
Also born (9) in the same year was John Lennon, musician and songwriter. The term ‘Beatlemania’ was coined (14) in 1963 to describe the scenes at the previous night’s performance of The Beatles on the TV show Val Parnell’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium. In early 1964 The Beatles appeared at the Palladium with Alma Cogan, the singer who had ‘a laugh in her voice’. Tragically, cancer killed her (26) in 1966 at the age of thirty-four; she was also known for wearing amazing dresses.
American fashion designer Ralph Lauren was born (14) in 1939. One wonders what he would have thought of the sumptuary law passed (14) in 1651 in Massachusetts forbidding poor people from adopting excessive styles of dress - the law-makers were filled with ‘utter detestation’ concerning those people of ‘mean condition’ who disported themselves as ladies and gentlemen by ‘wearing gold or silver lace and silk or tiffany hoods’. What a silly law!
What would PM David Cameron make of that law? He was born (9) in 1966, fifty years after Francois Mitterrand, President of France, who was born (26) in 1916 (he died in January 1996). Full circle again, we started with politics so we might as well end on that subject!
[PS - yes, I know, 14 October was included in the 1, 14 and 31 October item too! Well, a lot happened on that day in history!]