On this day in history….2nd March 1999

On this day in history : 2nd March 1999 – The death of singer and record producer Dusty Springfield – who’s career spanned five decades – from the 1950s through to the 90s….

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Image source : Philips Records / Billboard – Public domain

Dusty was born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien on the 16th of April 1939 in West Hampstead, London – into an Irish Catholic family…. She spent the early part of her childhood in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire before later moving to West London….

She began to sing with her brother Dion, performing in folk clubs – and in 1957 the pair worked in Butlin’s holiday camps…. She then joined the Lana Sisters in 1958, performed on television and played live shows both at home in the UK and at US Air Force bases in Europe….

In 1960 she was back working with her brother and together with Tim Field they formed ‘The Springfields’ – a folk-pop trio, who went on to have chart success both here and in the US…. It was at this time that she and Dion changed their names…. The story goes the band got their name by taking Tim’s surname and as it was a beautiful day added ‘Spring’ to it, giving the name ‘Springfield’…. She changed her name to ‘Dusty Springfield’ and Dion changed his to ‘Tom Springfield’….

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Image credit : Bradford Timeline via Flickr

Dusty’s solo career began in 1963 with I Only Want To Be With You, which charted at No.4…. It was followed by a succession of other hits, such as Wishin’ and Hopin’ (1964), I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1964), You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me (1966) and Son Of A Preacher Man (1968)…. It was also in the late 1960s that she was given her own variety show on the BBC, with guest appearances from the likes of Tina Turner and Jimi Hendrix….

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Dusty, 1966 – Trade ad for ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ – Philips Records

The blonde beehive hair-do and darkly made up eyes gave Dusty the iconic 60’s look…. She could also be a high-spirited lass in nature….and liked nothing more than a good old food fight! Once making the newspaper headlines when she aimed a cake at a waiter at the Melody Maker Polls Awards….

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Image credit : Bradford Timeline via Flickr

Dusty relocated to the States in 1970….the strain was beginning to show…. She had been living with American songwriter Norma Tanega since late 1966 but cracks were beginning to appear in the relationship…. Dusty didn’t like the media intrusion into her private life nor the speculation about her sexual orientation…. By now her health was beginning to deteriorate and she was suffering from bouts of depression…. She settled in Los Angeles and became involved in campaigning for animal rights…. By the mid 1970s she had slipped into relative obscurity and had begun to drink heavily….

But in 1987 there was to be a massive turnabout…. She was asked by The Pet Shop Boys to record What Have I Done To Deserve This? with them….which went on to reach No.2 on both sides of the Atlantic…. She then recorded the theme tune to the 1989 film Scandal, a version of The Pet Shop Boys’ Nothing Has Been Proved…. It was at this point that she came back to England to live…. A BBC biography, ‘Dusty’, was televised in May 1994 – and she released a new album A Very Fine Love in 1995….

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Record cover – Fair use

It was whilst recording this album in Nashville during January 1994 that Dusty became unwell…. Her doctors in England diagnosed breast cancer and she underwent intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment – putting her cancer into remission…. However, by mid 1996 it was back…. Dusty died in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire on the 2nd of March 1999….

On this day in history….1st March 1910

On this day in history : 1st March 1910 – The birth of English actor and writer David Niven – who’s many films include Casino Royale, Around the World in 80 Days and The Guns of Navarone….

James David Graham Niven was born in Belgrave Mansions, London, into a military family – he was the youngest of four children and he was named for the day on which he was born – St. David’s Day…. He studied at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire before taking his place at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst – where he gained a Commission as Second Lieutenant in the Highland Light Infantry….

Niven was keen to try his hand at acting – so he left his post in the army and travelled to Hollywood, where he managed to secure several minor roles…. He then appeared as an extra in British film There Goes the Bride in 1932 which subsequently got him more small parts….

At the outbreak of World War 2 he rejoined the army, being recommissioned as a lieutenant…. During this time he made a couple of war propaganda, morale boosting films:- The First of the Few, about the Spitfire aircraft, which greatly pleased Winston Churchill and The Way Ahead in which he starred with Peter Ustinov….

After the War Niven resumed his acting career making A Matter of Life and Death in 1946 before returning to Hollywood to star in the 1947 film The Bishop’s Wife alongside Cary Grant…. Niven had only been back in Hollywood six weeks when tragedy was to strike…. During a party at the Beverley Hills house of American actor Tyrone Power, a game of hide and seek had been taking place…. Niven’s wife, Primula, had opened the door to what she thought was a cupboard – only it was in fact a stone staircase leading to the basement…. She fell and sustained a fractured skull, dying from her injuries…. She was 28-years-old – the couple had two young sons….

In 1948 Niven met Swedish fashion model Hjordis Pauline Tersmeden – he was instantly smitten…. The pair married and had two children – but it was to be a stormy marriage, with her violent temper and his numerous affairs, including a rumoured one with Princess Margaret….

David Niven with his wife Hjordis Tersmeden, 1960 – Public domain

During the late 1940s and early 50s Niven’s career declined for a while…. However, in 1951 he made Happy Go Lovely, a musical with Vera-Ellen which was a big hit at the British Box Office…. He then went on to do a stint on Broadway which landed him a part in the film version of the stage play The Moon is Blue in 1953 – for which he won a Golden Globe….

With his career now well and truly back on track a string of successful films were to come…. One of his biggest roles was as Phileas Fogg in the 1956 hit Around the Word in 80 Days…. With his dry British wit Niven had never been more in demand…. He also did work for television with several TV dramas to his name, even hosting his own drama series The David Niven Show in 1959….

He still continued with light hearted movies such as the 1960 film Please Dont Eat the Daisies with Doris Day, which was highly successful – but he was soon to show his versatility…. In 1961 he starred in the massive film The Guns of Navarone….which was then to see him cast in a run of war movies….

He returned to comedy in 1963 with The Pink Panther…. 1966 saw him in the horror film Eye of the Devil and then in 1967 he played the part of James Bond 007 in Ian Flemming’s Casino Royale….

He carried on working on various films during the 1970s – but by 1980 ill health was beginning to show…. During a couple of TV interviews his slurred speech left audiences wondering if he had been drinking – but it was actually a symptom of his illness, motor neurone disease…. He died at his chalet in Switzerland in July 1983….

As well as being such an accomplished actor Niven also wrote four books…. His autobiography The Moon’s a Balloon in 1971, which was very well received….and in 1975 a collection of humorous reminiscences of Hollywood…. He also wrote two novels and was working on a third at the time of his death….

On this day in history….29th February 1964

On this day in history : 29th February 1964 – The Queen’s cousin, Princess Alexandra, gives birth to a son – believed to be the first ever royal baby to be born on February the 29th….

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Princess Alexandra, June 1961 – Photo credit : Harry Pot – National Archief (Netherlands) CC BY-SA 3.0nl

Princess Alexandra gave birth at home in Richmond, Surrey; her husband, Angus Ogilvy, was with her and her mother, Princess Marina, was also at the house…. The 9lb 6oz baby boy was born at 12.15am and was a week overdue…. He was named James Robert Bruce and later christened in the chapel at Buckingham Palace…. Two years later he was to be joined by a sister, Marina….

Princess Alexandra’s baby was the first of four royal babies to be born within a matter of weeks of each other…. The Queen’s fourth child, Prince Edward, was born on the 10th of March….and her sister, Princess Margaret, had a daughter, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, on the 1st of May…. Finally the Duchess of Kent had her second baby, Lady Helen Windsor, on the 28th of April….

On this day in history….28th February 1873

On this day in history : 28th February 1873 – The birth of William McMaster Murdoch – the officer in charge of RMS Titanic at the time it struck an iceberg – and who’s death remains a mystery….

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William McMaster Murdoch – Public domain

Murdoch was born at ‘Sunnyside’ in Dalbeattie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland into a seafaring family…. His father was Captain Samuel Murdoch, a master mariner and his mother was Jeannie Muirhead….

After attending school in Dalbeattie Murdoch became an apprentice mariner with Liverpool’s William Joyce & Co – onboard the ‘Charles Cosworth’….

He went on to serve as First Mate on the ‘Saint Cuthbert’ from May 1895 – but it was later to sink off of Uruguay during a hurricane in 1897…. Between the remainder of 1887 until the end of 1889 he served as First Officer on board ships belonging to Joyce & Co, trading between New York and Shanghai….

Murdoch, who had a reputation for being shrewd and a man of good judgement, began working for the White Star Line in 1900…. He served on several of the company’s ships, including the cross Atlantic steamers ‘Arabic’, ‘Adriatic’ and ‘Oceanic’…. It was on an Atlantic crossing in 1903 that he was to meet his future wife – Ada Florence Banks – a 29-year-old school teacher from New Zealand…. They were married in Southampton in the September of 1907….

In May 1911 Murdoch was made First Officer on Titanic’s sister ship RMS Olympic….and then posted to RMS Titanic itself for the maiden voyage in April 1912….

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From left to right : Murdoch, Chief Engineer Joseph Evans, Fourth Officer David Alexander and Captain Edward J Smith – onboard the Olympic

First Officer Murdoch was on the bridge as the officer in charge on the 14th of April, when an iceberg was seen at 11.39pm…. Murdoch was reported as giving the order “Hard astarboard” (meaning rudder hard-a-port) – whilst also ordering the engines full astern…. This was the last manoeuvre the Titanic was to make – but it was too late….37 seconds after the sighting of the iceberg Titanic was to strike it….

When the order came from Captain Smith to abandon ship Murdoch was responsible for the starboard evacuation…. He was to oversee the launching of approximately ten lifeboats – the last official sighting of him was as he was trying to launch one of the collapsible lifeboats…. At around 1.15am the officers had met in Murdoch’s cabin and handguns had been issued to them…. Around 2am shots were heard and at 2.15am collapsible ‘Lifeboat A’ floated free…. Murdoch had disappeared, assumed drowned….

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RMS Titanic departing Southampton 10th April 1912 – Public domain

However, there were conflicting accounts as to what happened to Murdoch…. Several passengers, including first class passenger George Rheims and third class passenger Eugene Daly, claimed to have seen an officer shoot himself with a revolver at the forward lifeboat station on the starboard side, just before the Titanic went down…. These were statements strongly denied by Second Officer Lightoller, who testified at the later inquiry that he had seen Murdoch being swept into the sea…. However, the inquiry suggested that Lightoller was not in a position onboard at the time to be able to see where Murdoch was…. Perhaps the Second Officer was trying to protect Murdoch’s wife from the reality of her husband’s death ~ if he had indeed taken his own life…. One could hardly blame Murdoch for preferring a quick death as opposed to the unknown alternative…. He had already helped many to take their own chance at survival – and yet there was little hope for his own….

Years later Lightoller apparently admitted he knew of someone who had died by suicide on that night – but he never gave a name…. Was it Murdoch?

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Murdoch in his 30s – Public domain

On this day in history….27th February 1678

On this day in history : 27th February 1678 – The 1st Earl of Shaftesbury is freed from the Tower of London after being held in contempt of Parliament….

NPG 3893; Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury after John Greenhill
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury after John Greenhill, oil on canvas, (circa 1672-1673) – Public domain

Anthony Ashley Cooper was born in Dorset in 1621…. The son of a wealthy landowner, he was educated at Oxford University and then Lincoln’s Inn before entering Parliament in 1640….

At the beginning of the Civil War he initially supported King Charles I but had later switched his allegiance to the Parliamentarians…. However, in protest of Cromwell’s dictatorial methods of rule he resigned in 1655….and joined the campaign to restore the Monarchy….

After the restoration, with the crown now being held by Charles II, Cooper was made Chancellor of the Exchequer…. He was created Earl of Shaftesbury by the King in 1672 – and for his continued loyal support was then made Lord Chancellor….

NPG D11961; Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury by Edward Lutterell or Luttrell, published by John Smith, after John Greenhill
Shaftesbury as Lord Chancellor by Edward Lutterell or Luttrell, published by John Smith, after John Greenhill, mezzotint, (circa 1672-1673) – Public domain

However, after questioning the role of Charles II’s brother, James, he found himself out of favour with the King and was dismissed from his position…. He had argued that a new parliament should be called, one that would guarantee and protect the Church of England – and exclude Catholics…. Unbeknown to him Charles had secretly become a Catholic…. Shaftesbury began to stir up unrest amongst his own supporters….

Parliament met on the 15th of February 1677…. Shaftesbury and three other Peers introduced a motion declaring that no parliament was legally in existence…. The rest of the House of Commons was outraged and rejected their argument…. It was claimed that the four had committed contempt of Parliament and must apologise immediately…. All four refused and were sent to the Tower of London….

The other three apologised and were soon released – but Shaftesbury still refused…. It took a year before he finally made his apology to the King and Parliament….he was released on the 25th of February 1678….

He was reinstated to a position of power, being made President of the Privy Council…. Using his position of advisory power he urged the King to remarry and produce an heir…. but the King wanted his Catholic brother, James, to succeed him…. Angered by Shaftesbury once more Charles dismissed him again….

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King Charles II – Public domain

In July 1681 Shaftesbury was arrested and charged with high treason and returned to the Tower of London…. However, he was to be released in November 1681 after the Grand Jury threw out the charges against him…. Deciding not to take any chances, as he feared re-arrest, Shaftesbury fled to the Netherlands – where he died in 1683…. At his request his body was brought back to Dorset….