On this day in history….20th September 1967

On this day in history : 20th September 1967 – The 58,000 ton Cunard cruise liner, The QE2, is launched at Clydebank, Scotland by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II….img_3874-1

Thousands on onlookers watched as the Queen, accompanied by Prince Philip and Princess Margaret, pronounced “I name this ship Queen Elizabeth the Second. May God bless her and all who sail in her”…. She then pressed a button and a bottle of Champagne was released to shatter against the side of the ship…. The cruise liner slowly began its backward descent down its launching ramp towards the water, gradually gaining speed as it went – reaching 22mph as it entered the water, sending a two-foot high wave across the Clyde….

Picture of the famous cruise liner QE2 Queen Elizabeth 2 on its last visit to Tyneside
Picture of the famous cruise liner QE2 Queen Elizabeth 2 on its last visit to Tyneside

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On this day in history….19th September 1879

On this day in history : 19th September 1879 – The very first Blackpool Illuminations, called ‘Artificial Sunshine’, bathe the Promenade in light, a whole month before electricity becomes generally available in London….

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Image credit : Karen Fletcher via flickr

Blackpool was already an established seaside resort and was lit by gas lamps…. The council decided to invest £5,000 in experimenting with the concept of electric street lighting…. So, on the 19th of September 1879, eight Siemen’s dynamo-electric machines powered by sixteen Robey engines were used to power eight arc lamps, spaced 320 yards apart, along the Promenade…..giving a light equivalent to that of 48,000 candles…. Between 70,000 and 100,000 people travelled from across the Country to witness it….img_3870

The first form of the modern day display came about in May 1912 with a royal visit by Princess Louise to open a new section of Promenade – an electrical engineer was employed to create a display…. About 10,000 bulbs were used and the result was so impressive that the council were persuaded to repeat the performance as an after season event in the following September…. Once again, in 1913, the lights shone – but with the outbreak of WW1 darkness reigned…. It was in 1925 that the illuminations were reinstated, this time on an even more ambitious scale and their popularity grew – continuing to do so until the Second World War…. Even after the war ended rationing prevented the lights from being switched back on again – it wasn’t until 1949, after special permission from the Government to burn so much electricity, that the lights returned in all their glory….and have entertained the crowds every autumn ever since….

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Image credit : Mjobling, Wikipedia project – Public domain

On this day in history….18th September 1970

On this day in history : 18th September 1970 – American musician, Jimi Hendrix, dies in London of an accidental drug overdose….

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Hendrix performing on Dutch TV show ‘Hoepia’ in 1967 – A.Vente CC BY SA 3.0 nl

Born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, Washington, on the 27th of November 1942, Jimi began to play the guitar at the age of 15…. He joined the US Army in 1961 and trained as a paratrooper; after being given an honourable discharge he moved to Clarksville, Tennessee…. It was here that his music career began….playing in the bands of some of the greats of the time, including Little Richard and the Isley Brothers….

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Hendrix in the US Army, 1961 – Unknown US Army Personnel photographer – Public domain

Upon being discovered by Linda Keith, who had strong connections with the ‘Swinging London’ scene, Jimi relocated across the Atlantic to London…. It did not take long for him – with his ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’ – to achieve three top ten positions in the UK charts, with ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘The Wind Cries Mary’…. Soon after he also accomplished fame in the US – after his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967…. In 1969 he headlined at Woodstock – and by this time was the world’s most highly paid music artist…. His last festival performance was on the Isle of Wight in 1970….

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The Experience, 1968 – Warner/Reprise Records – Public domain

The last person to see Jimi alive was his German artist girlfriend, Monika Dannemann…. She had collected him in the early hours of September 18th from a party he was attending – she then drove him back to her apartment at the Samarkand Hotel in Nottinghill, West London…. Jimi had been feeling unwell for the previous few days – he had been suffering ‘flu symptoms, was not sleeping properly and was under strain from being overworked….

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The Samarkand Hotel – Image credit : TEL-Brough – Public domain

It was later, after a few hours sleep, that Monika awoke to find Jimi sleeping peacefully beside her – so she took the opportunity to slip out of the apartment to go and buy some cigarettes…. On her return Jimi was still in bed, he was breathing but unconscious…. An ambulance arrived at 11.27am and Jimi was taken to St. Mary Abbot’s Hospital, Kensington; at 12.45pm he was pronounced dead…. A post mortem revealed he had died of asphyxiation after choking on his own vomit whilst being intoxicated with sleeping pills….

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Image credit : mirjoran via Flickr

On this day in history….17th September 1954

On this day in history : 17th September 1954 – William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ is published by Faber and Faber, in London – a book familiar to many of us from our school days….

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Original UK book cover – Fair use

The plot of Lord of the Flies centres around a group of school boys marooned on an uninhabited island after a plane crash…. It is about the boys’ survival and how they attempt to govern themselves – and explores how quickly society breaks down without any form of proper authority or establishment….

Lord of the Flies was the first novel by Sir William Gerald Golding CBE (19th September 1911 – 19th June 1993) – who was a British novelist, playwright and poet…. At first, when Golding first submitted his manuscript, the book was rejected by Faber and Faber – but after catching the interest of Charles Monteith, a new editor at the firm – and who advised on some changes to the text – the novel was published…. It was slow to make an impact but eventually became an international bestseller – and has been in the 100 best novels of the Modern Library and listed at No.70 on the BBC’s best 100 English language works….

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Sir William Golding CBE, in 1983 – Photographer unknown – CC BY-SA 3.0

Lord of the Flies has twice been made into an English language film; in 1963 directed by Peter Brook and again in 1990, this time directed by Harry Hook…. In 1975 a Filipino version was released, directed by Lupita A. Concio…. In August 2017 plans for a further film were announced by Warner Bros….this time to feature an all female cast…. A concept that was not very well received – as the general feeling being that it goes against the grain of the story’s original aim of exploring the theme of male power and the fight for dominance and leadership….

Golding was incredibly sensitive to reviews and criticism of his work – even being known to leave the country when his latest book was about to be published…. I don’t know about you – but Lord of the Flies is one of those books that has stayed ingrained in my memory….

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Pere Ubu via Flickr

On this day in history….16th September 1915

On this day in history : 16th September 1915 – Britain’s first Women’s Institute is opened in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobllllantysiliogogogoch, Anglesey, Wales….

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Women’s Institute building in Llanfairpwll, dating from 1915 – the oldest in Britain. Photo credit : Robin Drayton CC BY-SA 2.0

Since that time the W.I. has grown to become the UK’s largest women’s voluntary organisation with over 6,300 branches and more than 212,000 members….

Originally the W.I. was established to teach and encourage rural women to grow and preserve food to help feed the nation during the war years…. Women got together to share their skills – something that is still a very important part of the organisation today….

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Meiford W.I. making jam as part of the Ministry of Food fruit preserving scheme, in 1941 – National Library of Wales – Public domain

It was during the 1920s that many W.I.s formed choirs…. An amateur musician from Shropshire, W.H.Leslie, acted as an advisor to the formed music committee…. He then asked his friend Sir Walford Davies, who was a composer, conductor, musician and advisor to the BBC, to write an arrangement of ‘Jerusalem’ especially for the W.I. choirs…. The song was deemed as an appropriate choice to encourage women to actively take a role in public life….because of its association with the fight for women’s rights and the Suffrage movement….

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W.I. stall, Cirencester, 1933 – no known copyright restrictions
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Women’s Institute members bottle jam in Rowney Green, Worcestershire, 1943 – From the collections of the Imperial War Museums