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On this day in history….28th November 1990

On this day in history : 28th November 1990 – A tearful Margaret Thatcher makes her last speech as Prime Minister outside No.10 Downing Street….

Mrs Thatcher had formally tended her resignation to the Queen earlier that morning…. John Major had been elected as her successor by the Conservative party the previous day – after a leadership challenge had been mounted by Michael Heseltine on the 14th of November…. Mrs Thatcher reportedly regarded her ousting as a betrayal….

As she appeared outside No.10 it was to applause from the gathered Press…. She addressed the reporters : “Ladies and Gentlemen”….her voice cracking on the ‘Gentlemen’….”We’re leaving Downing Street for the last time after eleven-and-a-half wonderful years, and we’re very happy that we leave the United Kingdom in a very, very much better state than when we came here eleven-and-a-half years ago”….

Mrs Thatcher went on to thank the staff who had supported her and to say what a privilege it had been to serve the country…. She finished by wishing John Major all the luck in the world – adding “He’ll be splendidly served and he has the makings of a great Prime Minister”….

After her speech she and husband Denis were driven to Buckingham Palace where they had a half hour meeting with the Queen – and then returned to their home in Dulwich, South London…. Margaret Thatcher remained MP for Finchley until 1992….

On this day in history….27th November 1920

On this day in history: 27th November 1920 – The birth of Buster Merryfield, the English actor best known as ‘Uncle Albert’ in the BBC comedy series Only Fools and Horses….

Buster Merryfield as Uncle Albert in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ – Fair use

Buster was born in Battersea, London to Lily and Harry Merryfield…. Weighing a whopping nine pounds he was immediately nicknamed ‘Buster’ by his grandfather…. It was the name he was to go by throughout his entire life – in fact he refused to divulge his real name…. It only became public knowledge after his death that he had really been named Harry, after his father….

His was a working-class background…. He enjoyed sport, liked football and was a life-long Millwall supporter; but he was particularly keen on boxing…. During the 1930s he became quite a boxing sensation himself, he was the 1936 British Schoolboy Champion and an Army Champion in 1945….

Buster began working for the Westminster Bank (now National Westminster) and in June 1942 he married Iris – they went on to have a daughter…. During the War years he served in the Army, as a jungle warfare instructor…. It was while in the Army he discovered his talent for acting and also directing, after joining the Entertainments Division…. He was to become Entertainments Officer, responsible for organising shows….

After being demobilised in March 1946 Buster returned to the bank and was to remain with them for nearly 40 years, reaching the position of Senior Bank Manager at Thames Dutton in Surrey…. He carried on with his acting by joining an amateur dramatics group and after taking early retirement from the bank in 1978 he joined a repertory theatre company….

One of his first professional parts was in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat in Eastbourne; he was also to have other small parts both on stage and television…. Then in January 1985 he joined the cast of Only Fools and Horses as the former sea-dog Albert Gladstone Trotter…. His character ‘Uncle Albert’, the long lost little brother of Grandad Trotter (who had been played by Lennard Pearce until his death in December 1984), was a pipe-smoking rum-swigger – who always predictably started his stories with….”during the War”….much to the annoyance of Del Boy….

Fair use

Buster could not have been more unlike Uncle Albert in real life…. He was keen on keeping himself fit and never drank or smoked during his lifetime…. He died of a brain tumour in Poole General Hospital on the 23rd of June 1999….

On this day in history….26th November 1867

On this day in history : 26th November 1867 – Mrs Lily Maxwell of Manchester becomes the first ever woman to vote in a British election, due to an error on the list of registered voters….

Lily Maxwell – Public domain

Scottish born Lily had a shop in Chorlton-upon-Medlock, Manchester – where she sold a variety of household items including candles and crockery…. She was not always as honest as she should have been – and was even once fined £1 by the courts for diddling her customers with short-comings in weights and measures…

As a shop owner Lily was obliged to pay rates to the local council…. When the 1867 by-election for a local MP came around Lily, as a woman, was not entitled to vote – whereas all male rate payers were…. Somehow Lily’s name got on to the list of these entitled men….

Early suffragette Lydia Becker came to hear of this and urged Lily to use her vote…. Lily agreed, as she was a keen supporter of Liberal candidate Jacob Bright, who advocated Women’s Suffrage and was a campaigner for peace….

Portrait of Lydia Becker by Dacre, Susan Isabel; Manchester Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/lydia-becker-204800

When voting day arrived Lily, accompanied by Lydia, arrived at the town hall to cast her vote…. Bearing in mind in those days it was not a secret ballot – she had to announce loud and clear to all present who she wished to vote for…. She caused quite a commotion amongst the crowd – but as her name was on the list the presiding officer had no choice but to record her vote…. The room exploded with cheers for the first British woman voter….

More than 5,000 women then applied to have their names added to the electoral registers and on the 2nd of November 1868 the case for these claims came before the Court of Common Pleas…. However, it was ruled that women could not vote in British elections and Women’s Suffrage was declared illegal….

On this day in history….25th November 1984

On this day in history : 25th November 1984 – Thirty-six well-known musicians gather at a recording studio in Notting Hill, London – to record Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Fair use

The Band Aid idea had been conceived by Bob Geldof – lead singer of the Boomtown Rats – in response to a BBC news report by Michall Buerk on the famine in Ethiopia – and particularly the starving children….

Geldof enlisted the help of Midge Ure of Ultravox – to write the single Do They Know It’s Christmas? as a way of raising funds to help…. The pair then contacted various British and Irish music artists to recruit them into a recording session to produce the single…. Some of those unable to attend but who wanted to contribute, including David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Holly Johnson, recorded messages for the single’s B-side….

The song was recorded at the Sam West Studios, in Notting Hill, on Sunday the 25th of November 1984…. Included among the 36 participating artists were : Bono, Boy George, Phil Collins, Simon Le Bon, George Michael, Sting, Paul Weller, Paul Young, Siobhan Fahey and Tony Hadley – with Phil Collins on drums, John Taylor on bass guitar and Midge Ure on keyboards….

Midge Ure (2004) – Image credit : Phil Guest – CC BY-SA 2.0

The group section of the song was recorded first to get everyone feeling immediately involved…. Then one by one the solo artists recorded their part – with Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet going first…. Geldof and Ure did not sing any solo lines but took part in the group finale…. Boy George arrived at 6pm to record his section, having flown in from New York on Concorde especially….

Boy George (1995) – Image credit : Kingkongphoto & http://www.celebrity-photos.com CC BY-SA 2.0

The single was released on Monday the 3rd of December 1984, with advanced orders of 250,000…. The No.1 song at the time was I Should Have Known Better by Jim Diamond – who said “I’m delighted to be at number one, but next week I don’t want people to buy my record; I want them to buy Band Aid instead”….

Do They Know It’s Christmas? entered the UK charts at No.1 and stayed there for five weeks…. It was to be the fastest selling single in UK chart history, selling one million copies in the first week alone…. On the 10th of December it was released in the United States and by January 1985 had sold an estimated 2.5 million copies….

Geldof had hoped to raise in the region of £70,000 for Ethiopia – within twelve months of its release the single had raised £8m…. Do They Know It’s Christmas? has been re-recorded three times, in 1989, 2004 and 2014….

Bob Geldof (in October 2014) – Image credit : Stefan Schafer, Lich – own work CC BY-SA 4.0

On this day in history….24th November 1806

On this day in history : 24th November 1806 – The birth of Reverend William Webb Ellis, the Anglican clergyman who allegedly invented rugby football whilst studying at Rugby School….

William Webb Ellis – Public domain

Webb Ellis was born in Salford, Lancashire…. His father was killed during the Peninsular War and his mother moved with William and his older brother, Thomas, to Rugby – so the boys could attend Rugby School…. In those days living within a ten mile radius of the Rugby Clock Tower meant entitlement to a free education at the school…. Webb Ellis was to attend from 1816 to 1825…. He was a good scholar and adept at cricket; but it was his bending of the rules in a game of football in 1825 that we know him for….

The story goes that Webb Ellis was playing in a school match and caught the ball in his arms – which was perfectly within the rules back then…. But to run with the ball was not…. The idea was that the person catching the ball would retire back as far as he pleased without parting with the ball – as the opposing team were only permitted to advance as far as to where the ball had been caught…. They were unable to rush forward until the player in possession had either punted the ball or placed it for someone else to kick…. Only at the moment it touched the ground could the other side rush in….

Only Webb Ellis totally disregarded this rule; once he had the ball in his arms he rushed forward towards the opposite goal…. There is no record of what happened next – but his manoeuvre became a standing rule….

Public domain

There is also little evidence to how true a tale this really is….

Webb Ellis himself left Rugby School and went on to Brasenose College, Oxford – where he was to play cricket for Oxford University…. He graduated in 1831, entered the Church and later became Chaplain of St. George’s Chapel, Albemarle Street, London and then Rector of Magdalen Laver in Essex…. He never married and died in the South of France on the 24th of January 1872….

The story of his invention of rugby football only surfaced four years after his death and became part of sports folklore…. However, it is discounted by the majority of rugby historians…. Nevertheless, the winners of the Rugby World Cup receive the William Webb Ellis Trophy…. His grave is now maintained by the French Rugby Federation….

Webb Ellis grave, le Cimetiere du Vieux Chateau at Menton, Alpes Maritimes – Image credit : Berthold Werner – own work – CC BY-SA 3.0