Filed: ABC Wednesday

Z is for Agent Zigzag

Wartime can throw up some strange heroes, but the strangest was Eddie Chapman, audacious safe-cracker, womaniser and conman who became the most extraordinary spy of Word War Two, better known as Agent Zigzag.

Born in County Durham in 1914, Chapman was a bright, but unruly child who often skipped school and by the time he was seventeen, he had become bored by life in the north east and took himself off to London. Read more ›››

Y is for Irvin Yeaworth

It may come as a surprise, but the 1958 cult classic sci-fi movie, The Blob, was directed by a Presbyterian minister, Irvin Yeaworth, owner of Christian production company, Good News Productions.

Yeaworth was born in Berlin in 1926 and began his show business career at the age of ten, singing on KDKA in Pittsburgh, the world’s first commercial radio station. Read more ›››

X is for Xenophobe

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 a xenophobe.

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. Read more ›››

W is for Jabez ‘Jappy’ Wolffe

Of the thousands of people who have swum the English Channel, the unluckiest has to be Jabez ‘Jappy’ Wolffe who made at least twenty-two attempts and never succeeded.

Wolffe was born in Glasgow in 1876, just a year after Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim unaided across the Strait of Dover and so sparking what has become an obsession for many wild water swimmers. Read more ›››

V is for Étienne de Vignolles

I’m delving deep into history this week to bring you the French military commander Étienne de Vignolles who you will know better as the Jack of Hearts.

The squabble between the French and English over the throne of France called The Hundred Years War had rumbled on and off since 1337 but came to a head in 1415 when Henry V invaded Normandy. Read more ›››

U is for Stanley Unwin

Stanley Unwin

If there is a universal language misunderstood by all it’s gobbledegook and there was no greater exponent of the art than ‘Professor’ Stanley Unwin.

Unwin was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1911 since his parents had emigrated there in the early 1900s. But his father died in 1914 and Unwin and his mother returned to the UK. Read more ›››

T is for Geoffrey Tandy

History can often turn on the simplest of mistakes and there is probably no finer example than Geoffrey Tandy who was accidentally in the right place to help crack the Enigma Code and so bring about the end of World War Two.

When the British were casting around to create a team of appropriately qualified experts for the super-secret Bletchley Park, someone recruited Tandy. Read more ›››

S is for Katie Sandwina

We live in an age of admiration for ‘strong women’ but the original strong woman was around many years ago in the shape of Katie Sandwina, ‘the strongest woman that ever lived’.

Sandwina was born Catherine Brumbach in Bavaria in 1884, the second eldest of fourteen children of a circus family. Both her parents performed feats of strength and it was little wonder that Sandwina should follow them. Read more ›››

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