Archives for: December 2007


Permalink 08:57:05 am, by Email , 536 words   English (CA)
Categories: Folklore And Superstitions, European History

What do William Tell and King Arthur have in common?

You probably know of the famed William Tell... shot an apple of his son's head? The one that has the famous overture written for him that also doubles as the theme to the old Lone Ranger shows?

The legend has it that this was prompted by Hermann Gessler, a chap appointed to be the overseer of the Swiss town where Tell lived.

As a symbol of power, Gessler erected a pole in the centre of the town and put his hat on it. He made an edict that the townspeople MUST bow to his hat as they passed to show respect for the new Vogt in town!

Well, leave it to old Billy that, indeed, when time came that he was passing, he forgot to bow... and was caught.

Gessler arrested him and as punishment, had him shoot the apple off his son's head... he misses, both of them would be executed. He hits the apple, both go free.

Tell arrives to do the deed with his crossbow and two arrows in his quiver... in one shot, he splits the apple and wins his freedom.

Afterwards, Gessler asks him why he had two arrows? Tell replies that had he missed the apple, he would have used the second arrow to kill Gessler.

This didn't sit well, so Gessler had Tell arrested and effectively "deported" by ship... well, thanks to a storm, Tell escaped, made his way back to town and killed Gessler.

This led to a revolution that would end up seeing the formation of the Swiss Confederation.

Yup, this is the cherished tale of William Tell... Freedom fighter... Father... Rebel who helped build a nation... A man to which statues are built and who's life is generally celebrated...

...and like King Arthur of England, he most likely...

Didn't Exist.

Yup, like King Arthur, the information that "shows" that William Tell existed is shakey... VERY shakey... and the evidence that his life and his legend were a story made to focus people on Confederation in Switzerland is rather convincing.

Arthur, had he existed, would not even know what "shining armour" was or even "chivalry" as they were both invented centuries after he would have died... he was most likely "invented" to make the current monarchs in France and England feel that their lineage was "magical"... basically, a fairy story for the Royals and a mythos for the commoners.

Tell, who's legend bares a striking resemblance to the Danish saga of Palnatoke, was invented as a symbol to the commoners that fighting the "good fight" for democracy and decency is the thing to do, and as a warning to those in power... mess with the masses and be picking arrow-splinters from your new open wound.

Did William Tell exist? It's possible... but the evidence is very shakey... and there is something spooky about the ancient legend of Palnatoke being so close to his story...

I do know this for sure, MANY people in Switzerland do not doubt that Tell existed... and one historian, for suggesting otherwise, received death threats and fled the country!

Then again, if YOU built an expensive statue to a legend that you found out could be fictional, you'd be a little ticked too.



Permalink 12:00:30 am, by Email , 31 words   English (CA)
Categories: Americana, Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday - "American Christmas 1897"

A family at Christmas 1897.

Photo courtesy United States Library of Congress.

Happy Wordless Wednesday! And Thank You For Stopping By!

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.



Permalink 09:36:31 am, by Email , 66 words   English (CA)
Categories: Holidays And Traditions

Christmas Wishes And The Yule Log

"A Yule log is a large log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or Christmas celebrations in some cultures. It can be a part of the Winter Solstice festival or the Twelve Days of Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Twelfth Night."

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas (if you celebrate), and a Happy, Prosperous New Year!

Source: Yule Log



Permalink 12:38:34 pm, by Email , 276 words   English (CA)
Categories: Americana, Sports & Sports Entertainment, Games & Recreation

They Are Off And Running At Hialeah

Have you ever wondered where the expression "They are off and running at Hialeah" came from? This is something that both sets of our Canadian parents would say when we were growing up during the 1970s.

I figured that the expression was related to a race track of some sort...but the question became where is Hialeah? I did quite a bit of web searching under High Leah, Jai Leah etc before caving in and calling Mom. That is when I learned I had been spelling it wrong, and it was indeed a racetrack. In fact my Mom had been there once and one $11.00 bux on a $2.00 dollar bet. That is my Mom a high roller indeed! ;)

Here is some info on Hialeah:

Grandstand and clubhouse at Hialeah Park. National Historic Landmarks photograph, taken by Mary Turnipseed, 1985.

The Hialeah Park Racetrack is one of the oldest existing recreational facilities in southern Florida. Originally built to attract the rich and famous, Hialeah Park has contributed to the popularization of South Florida as a winter resort.

Hialeah Park - walking rink and paddock area. National Historic Landmarks photograph, taken by Mary Turnipseed, 1985.

Hialeah Park is nationally significant as the oldest and widest continuously operating turf horse racing track in the United States. The association of famous jockeys, such as Eddie Arcaro and Willie Schumacher, with the track enhances its significance. Equally significant is Hialeah Park's role in starting the careers of famous horses such as Citation and Seattle Slew, that went on to success in the Kentucky Derby and other classics.

For further reading:

Please visit the official website for Hialeah Park Racetrack

Image Credit: National Historic Landmarks Program



Permalink 09:43:57 pm, by Email , 140 words   English (CA)
Categories: Kings And Queens

The Oldest Reigning English Monarch

Congratulations to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the II....

...who earlier this week reached a new milestone as she overtook Queen Victoria to become the oldest English monarch.

Here is a snippet from the BBC:

Her great-great grandmother, who was born on 24 May 1819, lived for 81 years, seven months and 29 days.

At 1700 GMT, the Queen beat the record, which was calculated after taking into account the times of their births and Victoria's death.

But the day was business as usual for the Queen, as there was no special event to mark the occasion.

The monarch, who was born on 21 April 1926, spent the day on her normal duties and had no public engagements or audiences.

The Queen will celebrate 60 years on the throne in 2012, and break Queen Victoria's record as the longest-reigning British monarch on 9 September 2015.

Full BBC Article Here

Image Credit: BBC



Permalink 09:00:09 pm, by Email , 521 words   English (CA)
Categories: Odds & Ends

Famous Last Words

Death is a great equalizer... and not everyone gets to utter something memorable or prophetic when our times is up... luckily, some do... and their words can be everything from angry to insightful... to funny! Here's some "famous" last words...

"Since the day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking towards me, without hurrying." - Jean Cocteau

"I've had a hell of a lot of fun and I've enjoyed every minute of it." - Errol Flynn

"Je vais ou je vas mourir, l'un et l'autre se dit ou se disent." (I am about to - or I am going to - die: either expression is correct.) - Dominique Bouhours, French grammarian

"I'll be in hell before you've finished breakfast boys... let her rip!" - Murderer "Black Jack" Ketchum, just prior to being hanged.

"I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis." - Humphrey Bogart

"When I hear that a man is religious, I conclude he is a rascal!" - David Hume

"The Countess Rouen sends her compliments but begs to be excused. She is engaged in dying." - The Countess Rouen, in a letter read by her attendant to her guests.

"I wish I was skiing." a nurse asked, "Oh, Mr. Laurel, do you ski?" "No, but I'd rather be skiing than doing what I'm doing." - Stan Laurel

"It's very beautiful over there." - Thomas Edison

"You sons of bitches. Give my love to mother." - "Two Gun" Crowley, while sitting in the electric chair.

"I just had eighteen straight scotches. I think that's the record…After thirty-nine years, this is all I've done." - Dylan Thomas

"If this is dying, I don't think much of it." - Lytton Strachey

"Pardonnez-moi, monsieur. Je ne l'ai pas fait exprès." (Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose.) - Marie Antionette

"So little done, so much to do." - Alexander Graham Bell

"I've never felt better." - Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

"I know you are here to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man." - Che Guevara

"I desire to go to Hell and not to Heaven. In the former place I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes, while in the latter are only beggars, monks and apostles." - Niccolo Machiavelli

"Go on! Get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!" - Karl Marx

"Why yes - a bullet proof vest." - James Rodgers, murderer in front of the firing squad when asked if he had any last requests.

"Drink to me." - Pablo Picasso

"All is lost! Monks, Monks, Monks! So, now all is gone - Empire, Body, and Soul!." - Henry VIII

"At least one knows that death will be easy. A slight knock at the window pain, then..." - Bertolt Brecht

"If Mr Selwyn calls again, show him up. If I am alive I shall be delighted to see him, and if I am dead he would like to see me." - Henry Fox - Lord Holland

"I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have." - Leonardo da Vinci

"My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go." - Oscar Wilde



Permalink 08:48:20 pm, by Email , 76 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture

Dan Fogelberg Passes Away

Earlier this week legendary singer and songwriter Dan Fogelberg passed away after losing his fight with battle with prostate cancer. He was only 56 years of age. Dan died at his home in Maine with his wife Jean by his side. The world has lost a great performer.....and I was saddened upon hearing it.

Rest in peace Dan. You gave the world such beautiful music, and you will not be forgotten.



Permalink 06:29:50 am, by Email , 87 words   English (CA)
Categories: Americana, Wordless Wednesday, Holidays And Traditions

Wordless Wednesday - "Harper's Weekly"

Santa Claus hands out gifts during the US Civil War in Thomas Nast's first Santa Claus cartoon, Harper's Weekly, 1863. Since I will probably not be playing along in next week's Wordless Wednesday I thought I would take this opportunity to wish all my fellow WW participants a very merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and all the best in the upcoming year!

Happy Wordless Wednesday - Tuesday Edition! And Thank You For Stopping By!

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.

Image Credit: Wiki



Permalink 10:03:55 am, by Email , 181 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture, European History, Religion and Spirituality

Michelangelo's Pietà

Michelangelo's Pietà

"The Pietà (1498–1499) by Michelangelo is a marble sculpture in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the first of a number of works of the same theme by the artist. The statue was commissioned for the French cardinal Jean de Billheres, who was a representative in Rome. The statue was made for the cardinal's funeral monument, but was moved to its current location, the first chapel on the right as one enters the basilica, in the 18th century."

Did you know that the famous artist Michelangelo never signed his work? The only exception to this is the Pietà. I was curious to find out why this was the case, and according to the historical scuttlebutt it is because the artist had overheard someone misstating that his great work was created by someone else. 88|

Obviously this could not do! When they had left the "always prepared" sculptor (know he was not a boy scout I am just trying to add some levity into this post) chiselled his name into the statue of Mary, and Son.

Further Reading: Wiki

Image Credit: Wiki



Permalink 03:56:21 pm, by Email , 134 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In The News, European History

Oh sure, NOW they want him!

Interesting news item in the BBC regarding the French government's desire to have the remains of the exiled Napoleon III returned to France.

So why now? Here is a snippet:

A French government minister has visited a Hampshire abbey asking for the remains of Napoleon III which are buried there to be returned to France.

Christian Estrosi wants them sent back by 2010 to mark the 150-year anniversary of Nice becoming part of France under Napoleon III.

The former French president and emperor - nephew of Napoleon I - died in exile in Britain.

The monks at St Michael's Abbey in Farnborough have denied the request.

Full BBC Article Here

Knowing the Brits from similar past requests I do not believe this will be resolved any time soon. What are your thoughts should the remains be returned?



Permalink 07:44:30 am, by Email , 102 words   English (CA)
Categories: Wordless Wednesday, African History

Wordless Wednesday - "Fishing Village"

"For years Salome Oncobu looked on, powerless, as unrestricted commercial trawling decimated the fish populations around the remote northern islands of Mozambique.

In order to preserve the stocks, he and other local fishermen joined hands with the government in 2002 to help create Quirimbas National Park.

The area's protected status is already breathing new life into the ocean and the island communities."

For further reading please refer to this series of photos, and article on the BBC website.

Happy Wordless Wednesday - Tuesday Edition! And Thank You For Stopping By!

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.

Image Credit: BBC



Permalink 03:17:04 pm, by Email , 90 words   English (CA)
Categories: Who Am I

Who Am I

I was born in Silver, South Carolina on August 25, 1927. In 1948 I won the first of ten straight national Negro women's singles titles in tennis. I became the first African-American to play in the U.S. Nationals at Forest Hills in 1950, and at Wimbledon in 1951.

In 1957 I captured both the singles, and doubles titles at Wimbledon and the singles at Forest Hills. In 1958 I successfully defended all three titles.

Oh and by the way... I also played professional golf!

Who am I?

The answer as always is in the comments section.



Twelve Step Program... to firing a musket.

The weapon of choice during much of the eighteenth and nineteenth century was the black-powder musket. A nice and simple weapon with an effective range of about 75 yards. In fact, most safety guidelines have no issues with someone standing about 100 yards away from musket drill pointed right at them.

The musket required twelve steps to be fired...

Recover: The musket is brought up to eye level... well, the "lock" (firing mechanism) is with the barrel in the air and the butt usually near the chest. The weapon is not brought up directly in front of the person firing, but slightly off to the left...

This is done for the person firing to check to see if everything is in good working order... that the flint is in place and good and that there's nothing fouling the touch-hole for the next round.

Load: The musket is brought down to the waist... the butt to the rear, the barrel forward. The musket's hammer (where the flint is,) is brought to half-cock (not quite all the way ready, but not touching the frizzen or the metal where the flint makes it's spark on the pan) and pan is opened.

Handle Cartridge: The person firing reaches about with their right hand, while cradling the musket between their left hand, their right arm, and their waist, and snatches a "cartridge". This is a piece of paper which is wrapped around a musket ball (the bullet) and the black-powder. In military orders, which is how I'm giving them to you here, a soldier would then bring the cartridge to his mouth...

Prime: After biting the end of the cartridge (keeping the ball in his mouth,) the soldier shakes just a tiny bit of powder into the pan of the musket... Once done, the pan is closed and you wait for the next order.

Bout: The butt of the weapon is dropped down and the barrel brought down (pointing up) to allow for the pouring of the rest of the powder from the cartridge down the barrel. Once the powder is in, the ball is dropped into the barrel then the paper is jammed in.

Draw Ramrod: The "ramrod" is a metal bar that is part of the musket, just under the barrel. At this command, it's removed from it's place with two pulls (they are long!) and it is then carefully kept at the opening of the barrel.

Ram Down the Cartridge: The soldier would then use the ramrod to push the paper, ball, and powder down to the bottom of the barrel firmly.

Return Ramrods: Kind of an important... this step is where you withdraw the ramrod from the barrel and put it back in it's place in the musket. If this step is missed, you're going to end up shooting your rod at the enemy with the ball!

Shoulder Arms: Just like it sounds... the butt of the gun is cradled in the left hand, the barrel rests against the left shoulder. This also gives the soldier another chance to ensure his ramrod is indeed back where it belongs... usually they "tap" the barrel to feel the ramrod in it's place while they shoulder their weapons... don't feel the ramrod, best fetch it out of the barrel ASAP!

Make Ready: The musket is brought so that the firing mechanism in front of the face with the barrel pointing up. The soldier then pulls the hammer all the way back into firing position (full cock)... and waits...

Present: The musket is brought down, barrel forward, butt against the shoulder... ready to fire at your target. Don't sweat aiming too much... like I said, you're only likely to hit a large target at about fifty yards or so... with no intricate hitting of a target. The idea was to basically have a big line of soldiers firing in unison to create a hap-hazard wall of flying balls hurtling towards the enemy... kind of like a few hundred guys acting as one, underpowered shotgun.

Fire: Straight forward command... the trigger is pulled, the cock is sprung forward with it's flint, which strikes the frizzen (the metal cover of the pan) which causes a spark that enters the pan igniting the priming charge of powder in the pan, which then goes through the touch-hole and ignites the powder in the bottom of the barrel which propels the ball forward and out.

In battle, just repeat the steps above...

Now, it is interesting to note two things...

#1: A good and trained soldier could fire three shots per minute with these steps.

#2: When America's founding fathers wrote the second amendment to the constitution about the "Right to Bear Arms", this is what they figured they'd be dealing with... not the advanced weapons of today.

None-the-less, this is the "Twelve Step Program", as it were, to firing a musket.



Permalink 10:16:39 am, by Email , 195 words   English (CA)
Categories: War And Conflict

Japanese Planes Bomb Pearl Harbor Screamed The Headlines

And today December 7th lives on in infamy as the anniversary of when Japan launched a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and declared war on Great Britain. This took place in 1941.

"Within two hours, six battleships had been sunk, another 112 vessels sunk or damaged, and 164 aircraft destroyed. Only chance saved three US aircraft carriers, usually stationed at Pearl Harbor, but assigned elsewhere on the day.

The attacks killed fewer than 100 Japanese but more than 2,400 Americans died - 1,000 of those were on the battleship Arizona which was destroyed at her mooring. Another 1,178 US citizens were injured."

The following day US President Roosevelt said of the attack in an official statement to the American people it is "a day that will live in infamy." And he was correct for it is still not forgotten, and it is still not very easy to visit the site of the memorial without feeling a deep sense of loss, and a profound sense of sadness......

The attack was seen as a victory for Japan, but ultimately Japan paid an extremely heavy price for bringing the United States into the war.

Source: BBC

Image Source: BBC

Permalink 07:34:32 am, by Email , 270 words   English (CA)
Categories: Science And Technology, Odds & Ends

The Grandfather Clock

When it comes to grandfather clocks or to clocks in general we can thank the great mind of Italian scientist Galileo Galilei who in 1582 discovered that a pendulum could be used to keep time. Then in 1656 it was a Dutch scientist by the name of Christian Huygens who built the very first prototype of the grandfather clock.

For centuries grandfather clocks have been beloved, and used throughout the world. And today we have Howard Miller clocks which are amongst the finest around the globe, and produced by the world's largest grandfather clock maker!

I recently had the opportunity of having a look at the Howard Miller - J. H. Miller grandfather clock , which dear reader you really should have a look at by clicking on the link I have just added in for you. This clock is exquisite, and it is my dream to have one like it marking down time in our own foyer, chiming in the Westminster chimes of course. Truly this clock is of heirloom quality, and one that we could pass down through to our grandchildren.

If you would like to learn more about Howard Miller clocks, and other types of grandfather clocks you may wish to have a look at this online resource. A recent entry I found of much interest is a write up offering purchasing tips for grandfather clocks. I have bookmarked this blog for my own future reference on the subject of clocks.

The modern clock has certainly come along way since Galileo's time, and it is interesting, not to forget mentioning fun to speculate what they might be like centuries from now.



Permalink 06:42:44 pm, by Email , 87 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture

Johannes Brahms - Inspiring Retirement

Johannes Brahms - May 7, 1833 – April 3, 1897

German composer Johannes Brahms gave up composing in his old age in order to enjoy what was left of his life. His retirement only lasted a few short months though. Apparently Johannes enjoyed his time away from music so much that he was inspired to start composing again! He said, " I was so happy at the thought of no more writing that the music just came to me without effort."

Further Reading:

Johannes Brahms - Wiki

Johannes Brahms Biography - Listen to his music online



Permalink 10:00:28 am, by Email , 44 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture, Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday - "Thought Provocative"

Image description: The British artist Banksy has painted new murals on the West Bank barrier which runs beside Bethlehem.

Image Credit: BBC

Happy Wordless Wednesday - Tuesday Edition! And Thank You For Stopping By!

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.



Permalink 06:02:21 pm, by Email , 123 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture

Outfitting The Wizard

Wardrobe crew for the film version of the Wizard Of Oz decided that they would troll Los Angeles used clothing stores in order to find elegant coats to outfit Frank Morgan the actor who was playing the wizard.

During filming the actor reached into one of the coats pockets, and he found a note. The note had been written by of all people Frank L. Baum who was the author of the book for which the movie was being filmed.

The producers were naturally shocked by such a coincidence! The studio did some research, and found that the coat chosen to be used for the wizard character had actually belonged to author Baum!

Source: They Did What? By Bob Fenster

Image Credit: WIKI



Permalink 09:57:28 am, by Email , 234 words   English (CA)
Categories: Science And Technology

The Keeling Curve Fifty Years Later

I was reading a fantastic article put out by the BBC on the legacy of the Keeling curve earlier this morning, and wanted to share a snippet of it with you here:

It is a scientific icon, which belongs, some claim, alongside E=mc2 and the double helix.

Its name - the Keeling Curve - may be scarcely known outside scientific circles, but the jagged upward slope showing rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere has become one of the most famous graphs in science, and a potent symbol of our times.

It was 50 years ago that a young American scientist, Charles David Keeling, began tracking CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere at two of the world's last wildernesses - the South Pole and the summit of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii.

His very precise measurements produced a remarkable data set, which first sounded alarm bells over the build-up of the gas in the atmosphere, and eventually led to the tracking of greenhouse gases worldwide.

The curve set the scene for the debate over climate change, and policies, sometimes controversial, that address the human contribution to the greenhouse effect.

Full BBC Article Here

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Charles David Keeling, and his work, or those who are interested in the topic of global warming please do have a read of the complete article at the link I have added in for you.


Pastime with Good Company

Pastyme With Good Companye

Welcome to the blog of amateur historians Matthew James Didier and Sue Darroch. Partners in life and in crime, we endeavor to entertain you with snippets from our combined historical research. Past time with good company indeed, as we shall introduce you to Kings and Knaves, Queens and Mistresses, Cons and Heroes, from our collective past......from events well known to those perhaps all but forgotten, we will do our best to bring you interesting historical factoids from around the globe. It is our belief that through understanding our past we will all gain a better perspective on our future.

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