Filed: ABC Wednesday

T is for Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson

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 ›››

S is for George Sitwell

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 ›››

R is for Charles à Court Repington

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 ›››

Q is for William Quantrill

William Clarke Quantrill

The turmoil of the American Civil War bred bands of guerilla fighters on both sides of the conflict and among the most notorious were Quantrill’s Raiders.

William Clarke Quantrill was born in Canal Dover, Ohio, in 1837, the son of school teacher Thomas Henry Quantrill. However, his father died of TB in 1854, and his mother was forced to open their home as a boarding house to make ends meet… Read more ›››

P is for Alf Price

Alf Price

The gate of history turns on small hinges, at least if you believe that great events have their roots in trivial incidents. Son did a punch on the nose lead to the massacre of a generation on World War One?

The year is 1878 and a 19 year old Prince Wilhelm was misbehaving himself by throwing stones at beach huts on Rapparee Beach in Ilfracombe, Devon… Read more ›››

O is for Edward Oxford

The young Edward Oxford

Queen Victoria was most definitely not amused on the seven occasions that an attempt was made on her life and the first would-be regicide was the baby-faced assassin Edward Oxford.

Oxford was born in Birmingham in 1822, the third child of Hannah Marklew and George Oxford. His father worked in the city’s jewellery trade as a gold chaser, but died when his son was aged seven. Read more ›››

N is for John Norton-Griffiths

John Norton-Griffiths

I couldn’t let the centenary of the start of World War One go by without devoting an ABC post or two to some of those who took part, starting with John Norton-Griffiths.

We all know about the horrors of the stalemate that stretched for 400 miles from the French coast to the Swiss border, but less well-known is the war that took place below the trenches… Read more ›››

M is for Jean-Joseph Merlin

Jean Joseph Merlin

Those ever so smart comedians are quick to poke fun at famous Belgians, or rather the lack of them – conveniently overlooking the likes of Eddie Merckx, Audrey Hepburn, Hergé and Rubens –

But my own personal favourite Belgian is the inventor, horologist, father of the roller skate and genius in the art of the clockwork automata Jean-Joseph Merlin. Read more ›››

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