Filed: History

Mr Mandela

Robben Island

I have quite a soft spot for South Africa. It helps that we spent some time there, of course, and we have lots of very fond memories of the places we visited, but it goes beyond that – it is one of those countries where I can imagine living.

This may sound like wishful think, and it probably is, and yet only this week we were looking online for houses in Montagu, the quiet town in the mountains of the Western Cape that we fell in love with, even though we were there for just a couple of days. Read more ›››

H is for William Patrick Hitler

William Patrick Hitler

Hitler was a trending name in the 1930s (Adolf was Time Magazine Man of the Year in 1939) but it had become #hated by the early 1940s and unsurprisingly those with a family connection became less proud of their surname.

One such was William Patrick Hitler (aka Willy), a nephew of Adolf, who was living in America when that country entered World War II… Read more ›››

Z is for Jan Zizka

Jan Žižka ‘the One-Eyed’ is one of that elite band of great military commanders who never lost a battle and the man who invented the tank 500 years before World War One, and yet in death he chose to be eternally beaten. But more of that little riddle later.

Žižka was born in 1360 in the Bohemian village of Trocnov, in what is now the western half of modern day Czechoslovakia, and spent his early years attached to the court of Queen Sophia. Read more ›››

O is for Titus Oates

Titus Oates

Titus OatesTitus Oates was one of the most odious figures from history – a self-serving liar, bully, coward and fantasist whose vindictive conspiracy theories brought death and vilification to countless Catholics.

Oates was born in 1649, the son of a Church of England clergyman and even as a child he was hard to like. He was sickly with a permanently runny nose and dribbling mouth and as he grew he developed an annoying manner of speech, somewhere between a bark and a whine. Read more ›››

M is for Jasper Maskelyne

Jasper Maskelyne

Jasper Maskelyne came from a long line of stage magicians. Born in in 1902, he was the son of Nevil Maskelyne and the grandson on John Nevil Maskelyne, perhaps the preeminent magician of the Victorian age and inventor of the pay toilet – but that, as they say, is another story.

While Jasper Maskelyne followed in their footsteps through a successful stage career and the publication of his Book of Magic which describes a range of magic tricks, seemingly his greatest contribution to history was as the War Magician of WWII. Read more ›››

L is for Bill Lancaster

Lancaster on trial for murder

Pioneering aviator, Bill Lancaster, lived the sort of life that you might read about in the pages of Boy’s Own, Mills & Boon, True Crimes or even a Greek tragedy.

Born in Birmingham, England, in 1898, Lancaster emigrated to Australia in the summer of 1914 to live with his uncle and in 1916 he joined the Australian Cavalry, and later the Australian Flying Corps, serving in World War I. Read more ›››

K is for Noor Inayat Khan

Noor Inayat Khan was a most remarkable woman. She was a beautiful Indian princess, children’s author, poet, accomplished musician, pacifist and spy, and one of the bravest women of World War II.

Khan was born in Moscow in 1914, the eldest child of an Indian father and an American mother. She coukld trace her royal heritage to Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, while her mother was Ora Baker, half-sister of the American yogi, Pierre Bernard. Read more ›››

Down Your Way

Stockport Town Hall

One of my favourite stopping off places is the thrift shop at our local Methodist Church that offers all sorts of second-hand pre-loved items at very reasonable prices.

Sadly, most of the bric-a-brac finds its way there when the houses of recently deceased parishioners are cleared, but I suppose their families have the satisfaction that the proceeds are going towards good causes. Read more ›››