Filed: ABC Wednesday

Sir Thomas Urquhart

We all like to think that there is an ancestor with a claim to a title or was notable in some way, but few people can have taken his family history as far as Sir Thomas Urquhart when he published his Pantochronachanon in 1652.

Subtitled ‘a peculiar promptuary of time’, it claimed to trace the Urquhart genealogy back through 153 generations in an unbroken line to the Garden of Eden, taking in Methuselah and Noah along the way. Read more ›››

Partaker of Snuff

Before the rise and fall of cigarettes, the most common way of partaking of tobacco was in its powdered form as snuff and there was no more devoted sniffer of snuff than Margaret Thompson of Burlington Gardens on old London town.

In truth we know little of Thompson’s life, but are in doubt about her fondness for snuff from the instructions she left in her will when she died in 1776… Read more ›››

There can be few people with a more unfortunate name as Clotworthy Skeffington, a cruel trick played on him by his parents, but one he tried hard to live up to.

Born in 1743, he was then the latest in a long line of Clotworthies, the family having adopted the first name from John Clotworthy, the Anglo-Irish politician who became the first Viscount Masserene whose title passed to his son-in-law, Sir John Skeffington… Read more about Clotworthy Skeffington ›››

Nikolai Rezanov

In a parallel universe somewhere, all Hollywood movies are made in Russian, the Beach Boys are called пляжные мальчики and the American Civil War pitted east against west rather than north against south. And all because their Nikolai Rezanov didn’t die prematurely of a fever.

Rezanov was born in St Petersburg in 1764 to an impoverished noble family, although he spent much of his early years in Eastern Siberia after his father was made chairman of the Province Court Civil Chamber in Irkutsk… Read more ›››

Carstairs and Lord Tod Wadley

As I mention above, some letters are getting harder than others to fill, so I am having to cheat on the letter Q by writing about Marion Barbara ‘Joe’ Carstairs, also know as the Queen of Whale Cay.

Carstairs was quite a character – wealthy and openly gay, she was at one time the fastest woman on water, while her closest confidant was a doll and her Queen title comes from one of several islands she bought… Read more ›››

Auguste Piccard was the perfect portrait of the potty professor with his six foot six gangly frame, bulging forehead, receding hair, white lab coat and round spectacles.

And he proved it too with inventions that set records for exploring both height and depth and by being the paradigm for two peerless fictional characters. I’ll bet you can guess at least one of them straight away… Read more ›››

O is for Arthur Orton

Arthur Orton

In 1854, the vessel Bella disappeared at sea off South America. On board was Roger Charles Tichborne, heir to the Tichborne estates and baronetcy, who was declared dead – lost at sea.

And yet his mother never gave up hope that he might have survived. She placed advertisements in newspapers around the world seeking information about her son’s fate, and it seemed her faith was rewarded when she received news from Australia. Read more ›››

Nicolas Notovitch

One of the essential elements of a successful hoax, apart from a credulous public, is to create a story that just might be true.

In 1894, the Russian journalist Nicolas Notovitch published La vie inconnue de Jesus Christ which purported to reveal that Jesus has spent many years as both teacher and scholar at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Read more ›››

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