Archives for: May 2008


Permalink 05:30:29 am, by Email , 215 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture, History In The News, Folklore And Superstitions, British History

Shakespeare's Curse

I came across the following news bit regarding Shakespeare, and a possible curse, and it immediately caught my interest!

William Shakespeare's tombstone is set for an upgrade - despite bearing a warning curse! This is the first I had heard of a curse being placed on the bard's on.....

Photo of The Tomb.

William Shakespeare's tombstone is set for a makeover - despite bearing a curse against those who move it.

The grave is being restored as part of extensive repairs at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon, Warks.

The stone, which renovators say will not be moved, warns: "Blessed be the man that spares these stones/ And cursed be he who moves my bones."

Shakespeare, who was baptised and buried at the church, is thought to have penned the warning epitaph.

The Bard's words have warned off the curious for almost four centuries as well as sending a plea to modern developers.

He was baptised at Holy Trinity in April 1564 and buried there 52 years later.

His grave slab in the chancel and a memorial to him are visited by thousands of tourists every year.

Full BBC Article Here

Would you be comfortable working at this location? Do you believe in curses? Will be interesting to see if anything noteworthy happens during the renovations.



Permalink 05:23:28 am, by Email , 149 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In The News, British History, The Ancient World

The Holy Grail In The UK

A metal cup seen above that was acquired by a rag and bone man is revealed to be a pure gold goblet dating to the 4th Century BC. Now that is my kind of find! Here is a snippet from the BBC:

The vessel has two female faces looking in opposite directions with their foreheads decorated with a snake motif. William Sparks, who ran a scrap metal business in Taunton during the 1930s and 40s, left the ancient treasure to his young grandson John Webber.

The goblet is to be sold by Duke's auction house in Dorchester, Dorset.

Mr Webber, 70, said: "My grandfather was originally a proper rag and bone man from Romany stock and lived in a caravan.

Full BBC Article Here

The mug's value is estimated at up to £500,000 or one million dollars USA.

The BBC article also has a highly interesting video to go with it.



Permalink 02:42:54 pm, by Email , 194 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In The News, Adventurers, African History, The Ancient World

Cleopatra's tomb has been found

Well according to this real-life Indiana Jones it has.

Zahi Hawass at work

He maybe considered the world's most flamboyant archaeologist, but I think that is definitely part of his charm. I love watching documentaries that feature Mr Hawass because his passion, and love of Egypt shine through each time. Here is a news snippet on his latest discovery:

With a team of 12 archeologists and 70 excavators, Zahi Hawass, 60, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, has started searching for the entrance to her tomb.

And after a breakthrough two weeks ago he hopes to find her lover, the Roman general Mark Antony, sharing her last resting place at the site of a temple, the Taposiris Magna, 28 miles west of Alexandria.

Hawass has discovered a 400ft tunnel beneath the temple containing clues that the supposedly beautiful queen may lie beneath. “We’ve found tunnels with statues of Cleopatra and many coins bearing her face, things you wouldn’t expect in a typical temple,” he said.

Full Article Here

How cool is this eh! I would love to be able to be there, and see these wonderful discoveries as they are being made. :D



Permalink 05:14:58 am, by Email , 88 words   English (CA)
Categories: Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

After being closed for complete renovations, and a move to the new crystal wing the dinosaur exhibits at the Royal Ontario Museum here in Toronto, Canada reopened this past winter. The James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs are an absolute must see for visitors in my own humble opinion. One of my own personal favourites of all the museum's collections.

Happy Wordless Wednesday! And Thank You For Stopping By!

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

Image Credit: My Sister



Permalink 03:02:52 pm, by Email , 249 words   English (CA)
Categories: Americana, Science And Technology, Central & South American History

Science probe for space pistols

Yes....I said "space pistols"

The pistols you see above were said to be a gift to President Madison from General Ignacio Alvarez Thomas, Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, which would became the Republic of Argentina. They are over 200 years of age, and are part of an enduring mystery.....

Here is a snippet from the BBC:

The intricately decorated guns were said to have been forged from the iron of a fallen meteorite.

They were a unique gift from the commander of a South American region, which would later become Argentina, to the fourth US president, James Madison.

"Permit me therefore to present to your Excellency... a specimen of the first essays of the manufacture of arms established in the provinces of Buenos Ayres and Tucuman," wrote General Ignacio Alvarez in an accompanying 14-page letter.

Over time, they passed into the hands of Madison's successor - James Monroe - and are now on display at a museum dedicated to him.

Since that time, the story of their origin has gone unquestioned.

Now, scientists armed with a battery of hi-tech machines have probed the pistols in unprecedented detail.

Full BBC Article Here

The article goes on to relate how the scientists findings are casting a doubt on the folklore attached to these beautiful pistols, and goes on to detail their adventures in try to resolve the true story of the their origin.

To our American readers have a safe & happy Memorial Day!



Permalink 06:05:31 pm, by Email , 227 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture, History In The News, Museums And Historic Sites

Crystal Skulls Are Fakes

I have always been fascinated by the crystal skulls, and thought it was a great plot idea for the new Indiana Jones film. Unfortunately, my belief in them has also recently been shattered as the two best examples in the world turn out to be modern day fakes.

The skulls were made with tools not available to Pre-Columbian cultures according to the BBC

Here is a snippet from a BBC news article on the skulls:

Two of the best known crystal skulls - artefacts once thought to be the work of ancient American civilisations - are modern fakes, a scientific study shows.

They are the focus of the story in the latest Indiana Jones film.

But experts say examples held at the British Museum in London and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC are anything but genuine.

Their results show the skulls were made using tools not available to the ancient Aztecs or Mayans.

Researchers say the work, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, should end decades of speculation over the origins of these controversial objects.

A team including Margaret Sax, from the British Museum in London, and Professor Ian Freestone, from Cardiff University, used sophisticated techniques to work out how the two skulls had been made.

Full BBC Article Here

Disappointing yes, but they are still beautiful works of art in this bloggers opinion anyway.



Permalink 12:44:57 am, by Email , 294 words   English (CA)
Categories: Murder & Mayhem, Americana, History In The News, Book Reviews

New Search For Bodies At Manson Family Ranch

Just reading about this gave me the creeps! According to the BBC Californian officials are searching for bodies at a ranch used by cult leader Charles Manson, nearly 40 years after his followers went on a killing spree.

Manson's ranch not much has changed over the four decades

Here is a snippet from the news report:

Manson and several members of his gang are serving life for the murders, which included that of actress Sharon Tate.

New tests at the remote hideout in Death Valley prompted the search for more victims.

Initial results found at least two potential grave sites, and prompted the local sheriff to allow new digging.

The time: 1969. The place: California, where a social revolution was under way, fuelled by sex, drugs and rock'n roll.

Charles Manson was a career criminal who believed a race war was coming. He called it Helter Skelter, after a song by The Beatles.

To kick-start this war Manson ordered his followers - known as The Family - to murder.

Over two nights in Los Angeles they killed seven people, including Sharon Tate, who was pregnant.

Their hideout was a remote ranch 300 miles (500km) away - in Death Valley.

Manson was found there hiding under a sink. He and four others are still serving life in jail.

Rumours have persisted of bodies at the ranch, of hikers gone missing, followers who fell out of favour.

Full BBC Article Here

I first read Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi as a teen, and these crimes still horrify me that many years later.

It is a chilling must-read for anyone interested in true American crime, serial, cult murders, and the real end of the flower-power era.



Permalink 01:00:16 am, by Email , 191 words   English (CA)
Categories: Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday - "Tuesday Edition"

Modern memorial for the victims of the Soviet terror of 1937–1938 close to Gorky park, Vinnytsia.

The Vinnytsia massacre was a mass execution of people in the Ukrainian town of Vinnytsia by the Soviet secret police NKVD during Joseph Stalin's Great Purge in 1937–1938. Mass graves in Vinnytsia were discovered during the German occupation of Ukraine in 1943. The investigation of this site coincided with the discovery of a similar site in Katyn. Because the Germans wanted to use this evidence of Communist terror to discredit the Soviet Union, it became one of the better researched sites of mass murder among many in Ukraine.

My Grandfather was a victim of this genocide, and is buried somewhere near this memorial. I hope to one day visit as part of my own genealogical studies, and to bring a sense of closure for our family.

It makes us (our family) happy to see that the people of this city have erected a monument in remembrance of those who died there under such horrendous circumstances.

Happy Wordless Wednesday! And Thank You For Stopping By!

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

Image Credit Wiki



Permalink 12:11:22 am, by Email , 130 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, Holidays And Traditions, British History

Her Majesty's Birthday Queen Victoria Day

Victoria, first sovereign of a confederated Canada

Victoria Day is a Canadian statutory holiday celebrated on the last Monday before or on May 24 in honour of both Queen Victoria's birthday and the current reigning Canadian sovereign's birthday.

In some parts of Canada, the holiday is colloquially known as May Two-Four. This phrase has two meanings: the holiday always falls near the date of May 24, and a two-four is Canadian slang for a case of 24 bottles of beer, a common packaging of the drink in Canada (and a common purchase of those planning to celebrate the weekend).

So let us hoist up a brew in honour of our monarch!

Happy Queen Victoria Day!

Sources, and further reading please see:

Queen Victoria Day Wiki

The Government of Canada's page on Victoria Day



Permalink 08:14:39 am, by Email , 424 words   English (CA)
Categories: War And Conflict, Arts And Culture, European History

Walter Duranty and The Holodomor

The topic of Mr. Duranty is a very difficult one for me at best. My family background is Ukrainian, and my great grandmother starved to death because of the Holodomor. It was a horrific time frame. Most of our extended family my grandmother's siblings we have no idea what happened to them. My grandfather is buried in a mass grave somewhere near Vinnytsia.

Walter Duranty was a British journalist who won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for a series of 5 stories written as the correspondent for the New York Times in Moscow. These stories covered Stalin's Five Year Plan to industrialize the Soviet Union. Part of that plan was to collectivize farming, to which the majority of Ukrainians were opposed.

He described those who opposed collectivization of farming as an "almost privileged class" that had been created by mistake by Lenin. He said that the same logic that led to the overthrow of the Czarist regime must inevitably lead to the destruction of these people, whom he numbered at 5,000,000.

He said that these people had to be "liquidated or melted in the hot fire of exile and labor into the proletarian mass". Duranty claimed that the Siberian labor camps were a means of giving individuals a chance to rejoin Soviet society but also said that for those who could not accept the system, "the final fate of such enemies is death.".

On March 31, 1933, Walter Duranty denounced the famine stories in the New York Times. In the piece, he described the situation under the title "Russians Hungry, But Not Starving" as follows: "In the middle of the diplomatic duel between Great Britain and the Soviet Union over the accused British engineers, there appears from a British source a big scare story in the American press about famine in the Soviet Union, with 'thousands already dead and millions menaced by death from starvation."

Contradicting what he had written in the New York Times, on September 26, 1933 in a private conversation with British Diplomat William Strang, Duranty said, "it is quite possible that as many as 10 million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year."

Walter Duranty mislead the world by writing deliberate falsehoods about the Holodomor, which has been decreed an act of genocide by the Verkhovna Rada Ukrajiny.

It is time in my opinion that this historical event be made right by revoking the Pulitzer Prize awarded to this man.


Holodomor Wiki

Revoke Walter Duranty's 1932 Pulitzer Prize

Join The Facebook Group - Revoke Walter Duranty's 1932 Pulitzer Prize



Permalink 12:23:59 am, by Email , 208 words   English (CA)
Categories: Kings And Queens, British History

Catherine Howard

Portrait miniature of Catherine Howard, by Hans Holbein the Younger.

Out of all of Henry's wives my heart goes out to his fifth Catherine Howard also known as Katherine, or Kathryn Howard, and by the King's nickname for her "the rose without a thorn". Henry became infatuated with the teenage Catherine soon after he annulled his marriage to Anne of Cleves. Catherine was Anne Boleyn's second cousin, but had a much different upbringing then her older relation.

She spent all of her life in England, and from the age of 15 had had a series of serious relationships with different men, which her family desperately tried to cover up, especially once the king began to express interest in her. She was accused by her enemies of not having ceased her reportedly wanton behaviour after her marriage, and Henry was soon made aware of these allegations. He was not amused.

Catherine, her lovers, and her lady-in-waiting were all found guilty of treason executed. Catherine had been queen for 18 months, was never crowned, and had not yet reached her 21st birthday in my mind a terrible waste, and tragedy as none of the claims against her were ever adequately proven in my opinion let alone so terrible by 21st century standards.



Permalink 01:01:37 pm, by Email , 398 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, Murder & Mayhem

Genocide In Canada

Last month news broke of grave sites across the country that have been hidden for years. They have finally publicly released some of the grave site locations. I sincerely hope that this can be a first step in the healing of our Aboriginal people who have suffered through what can only be termed in my opinion as a genocide.

At a public ceremony and press conference held today outside the colonial 'Indian Affairs' building in downtown Vancouver, the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared (FRD) released a list of twenty eight mass graves across Canada holding the remains of untold numbers of aboriginal children who died in Indian Residential Schools.

The list was distributed today to the world media and to United Nations agencies, as the first act of the newly-formed International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada (IHRTGC), a non-governmental body established by indigenous elders.

In a statement read by FRD spokesperson Eagle Strong Voice, it was declared that the IHRTGC would commence its investigations on April 15, 2008, the fourth Annual Aboriginal Holocaust Memorial Day. This inquiry will involve international human rights observers from Guatemala and Cyprus , and will convene aboriginal courts of justice where those persons and institutions responsible for the death and suffering of residential school children will be tried and sentenced. (The complete Statement and List of Mass Graves is reproduced below).

Eagle Strong Voice and IHRTGC elders will present the Mass Graves List at the United Nations on April 19, and will ask United Nations agencies to protect and monitor the mass graves as part of a genuine inquiry and judicial prosecution of those responsible for this Canadian Genocide.

Eyewitness Sylvester Greene spoke to the media at today's event, and described how he helped bury a young Inuit boy at the United Church's Edmonton residential school in 1953.

'We were told never to tell anyone by Jim Ludford, the Principal, who got me and three other boys to bury him. But a lot more kids got buried all the time in that big grave next to the school.'

For more information:

My thanks to our dear friend Penny who has worked very hard, and volunteered her time, and skills to a northern Ontario reserve for bringing this to our attention. This horrific bit of Canadian history must not be swept up under a rug, nor should these innocent victims be forgotten.



Permalink 07:07:37 am, by Email , 47 words   English (CA)
Categories: Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday - "Tuesday Edition"

People carry a sculpture of the Madonna of the Dew through the streets of the village of El Rocio, southern Spain, during a festival.

Happy Wordless Wednesday! And Thank You For Stopping By!

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

Image Credit BBC



Permalink 10:43:04 am, by Email , 156 words   English (CA)
Categories: Murder & Mayhem, History In The News, British History

Genealogy Meets Criminology!

Well not exactly, but would you want to know if your great, great grandfather or grandmother was a murderer? Family skeletons have been toppling out of closets since the searchable details of more than 200 years of Old Bailey trails went online last month. So how does it feel to idly type a name into a search box and be presented with more than you bargained for? Some people have uncovered such info, and some are not truly overly concerned by it, others have had much different reactions.

Here is a snippet from the BBC:

"When I typed the surname in, I thought I might find offences like petty theft, breach of the peace, being drunk and disorderly, that sort of thing."

"First I saw the name 'Alexander', and I thought 'fantastic'. But then I read the next word, 'killing'. I was so shocked I nearly fell off my stool."

Full BBC article can be accessed here.



Permalink 03:20:14 pm, by Email , 282 words   English (CA)
Categories: Natural Disasters Past & Present

Reports Of 100,000 Dead In Burma

Aid is now getting through to some parts of the Irawaddy Delta region - but still not to the most remote areas.

I was just listening to a radio news report on the situation in Myanmar also known as Burma. The report claimed that the death toll would reach 100,000 since the Cyclone Nargis hit the southern delta region on May 2nd.

Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed, and about a million left homeless by last week's storm.

The time to put all politics aside is now. We in the West must try to help these people.

Reports from the devastated town of Labutta speak of many hungry refugees gathering there, amid the stench of dead bodies.

I know it looks overwhelming, and people really get frustrated sitting in their offices, or at their home computers not knowing how they can help.

I would like to suggest to anyone that can spare even a few dollars please make a donation to the Red Cross just click on the link to read about their efforts in Burma. Why I decided to post up the Red Cross website is because they can and do help. My mother was a DP or Displaced Person, and grew up in a refugee camp. She would not be alive today if people in the West had not opened their hearts, and wallets, and helped organizations like the Red Cross, which she has never forgotten in her 73 years.

I plan to donate to the Red Cross in the memory of my Grandmother who was also a refugee, and I hope other will consider making a donation no matter what the amount as well.

Photos Courtesy BBC



Permalink 04:29:25 am, by Email , 173 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture, Wordless Wednesday, British History

Wordless Wednesday - "Tuesday Edition"

A morris dance is a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music.

Morris Men saw in the dawn on One Tree Hill, Somerset, England.

It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers. Implements such as sticks, swords, and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers. In a small number of dances for one or two men, steps are performed near and across a pair of clay tobacco pipes laid across each other on the floor.

There are claims that English records of the morris dance dating back to 1448 exist, but these are open to dispute. There is no mention of "morris" dancing earlier than the late 15th century, although early records such as Bishops' "Visitation Articles" mention sword dancing, guising and other dancing activities as well as mumming plays. For further info please see Morris Dance wiki entry.

Happy Wordless Wednesday! And Thank You For Stopping By!

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

Image Credit BBC



Permalink 05:21:02 pm, by Email , 217 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture

Time Travel Through Opera

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, March 4, 1678 – July 28, 1741, nicknamed il Prete Rosso ("The Red Priest"), was a Venetian priest and Baroque music composer, as well as a famous virtuoso violinist; he was born and raised in the Republic of Venice. The Four Seasons, a series of four violin concerti, is his best-known work and a highly popular Baroque piece.

Vivaldi is in the news again today as a long-lost opera by the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi has been performed for the first time in 278 years, in the city of Prague.

Argippo was written for the Czech capital and premiered there in 1730.

But the opera - a tale of "passion, love and trickery" in an Indian maharaja's court - later disappeared without trace.

Most of the score was discovered in Germany by a young Czech musician who completed the missing parts.

Full BBC Article Here

This is actually not as unique as it may sound as quite recently, four sacred vocal works by Vivaldi have been re-discovered in the Saxon State Library in Dresden. These compositions were improperly attributed to Baldassare Galuppi, a Venetian composer of the early classical period, mostly famous for his choral works.

To read more on Vivaldi please check the following sources:

Vivaldi wiki entry

Michael Talbot: Recent Vivaldi Discoveries

Long-lost Vivaldi opera 'Argippo' returns to Prague after 278 years



Permalink 10:55:20 am, by Email , 459 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, Murder & Mayhem

No Claim To Mercy

I am a lover of true crime stories, but to be honest I have put off reading No Claim to Mercy: The Controversial Case for Murder Against Robert Baltovich by Derek Finkle for almost a decade.

The crime itself, the murder of Elizabeth Bain hit very close to home at the time. Liz or Lisa Bain as she was also called was not only my age (we were both born in 1967) but I lived at Morningside & Ellesmere Ave in Toronto at the time, about 5 minutes away from where she had lived with her parents.

We did not know Elizabeth or her family personally, but her disappearance was chilling, and my now ex volunteered during two of the searches for her in Morningside Park. The bridge pictured in the book cover above was one that I had personally crossed on many occasions.

Just this past month Robert Baltovich, Elizabeth's boyfriend at the time was cleared of all murder charges against him. He has spent the past 18 years fighting to prove his innocence.

Here is a news snippet:

Robert Baltovich walked out of court Tuesday a free man, following a nearly 20 year ordeal in which he served eight years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend Elizabeth Bain.

Within an hour of the start of his retrial on a charge of second-degree murder, the Ontario man was found not guilty. The Crown told the court it didn't have any evidence and wasn't planning to bring forward any witnesses, which led to the jury's decision.

The soft-spoken Baltovich called it an "unbelievable relief" outside court.

Complete New Article Here

While I am left to wonder how an innocent man can be charged, and convicted of a crime he did not commit, my heart also goes out to the family of Elizabeth Bain who over the past 18 years have had no closure if that is even possible, and most certainly no peace. I cannot even begin to fathom what they have been through, and continue to suffer because of this horrendous crime.

It is now known that Paul Bernardo a serial rapist, and school girl sex killer lived in the same area of Scarborough at the same time. Did he murder Elizabeth Bain? When questioned the killer says no...but a pack of his brand of cigarettes were found in her car. Both Robert, and Elizabeth were non-smokers.

The book will most certainly offer no clue as to what really happened on that fateful afternoon of June 19, 1990, but what I hope it will do is give me some insight into how our Canadian justice system failed all of those involved.

I picked it up yesterday, and began to read it. I'll let you know what I think.............

Rest In Peace Elizabeth.


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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