Charles de Laet Waldo Sibthorp

X is the most eXasperating letter of the ABC Wednesday alphabet as there not many subjects to choose from when you're writing about the eXemplars of eccentricity, so as a matter of eXpediency I offer instead a prime eXample of xenophobia.

Charles de Laet Waldo Sibthorp was born in 1783 and was elected as the Member of Parliament for Lincoln in 1826, setting standards for xenophobia unequalled in parliamentary history. Even the normally respectful Dictionary of National Biography describes him as 'the embodiment of old-fashioned prejudice'... Read more ›››

Charles Waterton

Charles Waterton is another of my English eccentrics, but more than that he was also an eminent naturalist, an early environmentalist, as well as making a major contribution to medicine.

Waterton was born in 1782 to a well-t0-do family at Walton Hall, Wakefield, Yorkshire, and was educated at the Jesuit Stonyhurst College in Lancashire... Read more ›››

Moses Thomas the ship's cook

Unusually my post this week is not about an individual, but rather a group of people who together became known as the Veronica Mutineers.

The Veronica in question was a three-masted wooden barque built in 1879 and by 1902 it was still being used as a cargo ship despite the competition from the much faster steam ships.

In October that year, the Veronica set sail from Biloxi, Mississippi, bound for Montevideo with a cargo of pitch pine. At the helm was Captain Alexander Shaw, a red-bearded martinet, ably assisted in his maltreatment of the crew a sadist of a second officer, Alexander MacLeod... Read more ›››

James Ussher

The subject of my ABC Wednesday post this week is James Ussher, polyglot, prolific scholar, man of the church and perhaps the man responsible for what we know today as 'creationism'.

Ussher was born in 1581 to a well-to-do Anglo-Irish family living in the Pale of Dublin (that's 'pale' as in the phrase 'beyond the pale').

His grandfather, James Stanihurst, had been speaker of the Irish parliament, and his father Arnold Ussher was a clerk in chancery... Read more ›››

Gerald Tyrwhitt

Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson was an accomplished composer, artist and writer, but for the purposes of my ABC Wednesday post, he was also an inveterate practical joker and eccentric.

Born in 1883 to a privileged background (he was to become the 14th Baron Berners), he displayed his peculiar take on life at an early age.

Having heard that you could teach a dog to swim by throwing it into water, Tyrwhitt decided to throw his mother's dog out of a window to teach it to fly... Read more ›››

Sir George Sitwell

In 1933 the poet and author Edith Sitwell published English Eccentrics, a narrative of the weird and wonderful of human nature and though her brothers Osbert and Sacheverell feature, the one oddball who doesn't figure is her own father, Sir George Reresby Sitwell.

It probably isn't surprising since Sitwell was not loved by his children, but there is no doubt that he was as eccentric as they come... Read more ›››

Charles Repington

I usually write about the mad, bad and heroic for my ABC Wednesday posts, but Charles à Court Repington isn't really one of them.

However, in the centenary year of the start of the Great War, he does answer that tricky question - exactly when did we start to refer to the horrors of the 1914-1918 conflict as 'The First World War'?

There is a false assumption that it could not have been so named until after the start of World War Two, but it was Repington who first popularised the phrase in the title of his book The First World War published in 1920... Read more ›››