Filed: Interesting People

X is for Father Xmas

Father Xmas

As mentioned above, certain letters are getting harder to fill and none more eXasperating than X. So given the time of year I decided what better that to resurrect my post about Father Xmas.

The Father Xmas I have in mind is not the Coca-Cola swilling, red-coated fellow in his speed of light sleigh, but rather the English Father Xmas who has quite different origins to St Nicholas and Santa Claus. Read more ›››

W is for Adam Worth

It has been a while since I wrote about some of history’s more disreputable characters, but I make up for it this week with one of the most notorious criminal masterminds – Adam Worth, the ‘Napoleon of Crime’ and the real-life Moriarty.

Worth was born in Germany around 1844, although no-one is sure exactly when. Nor whether Worth was his real name – it may have been Werth or Wirtz. Read more ›››

V is for Frederick Vyner

In the wilds of North Yorkshire you will find Newby Hall, a place of fun and frolics for all the family, but it is also home to the church of Christ the Consoler, a permanent memorial to a murdered son, Frederick Vyner.

The young man was the son of the widowed Lady Mary Vyner and they were a well-connected family, her daughter, Henrietta, being married to the Earl de Grey, a prominent member of Gladstone’s Liberal government and later Viceroy of India. Read more ›››

U is for the Ugly Duchess

One of the most popular paintings at the National Gallery is the portrait of ‘An Old Woman’ by Flemish artist Quentin Massys, also known as The Ugly Duchess which inspired illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Painted in 1513, it was long thought to be a caricature ridiculing older women who foolishly try to recapture their youth by dressing inappropriately for their age. Read more ›››

T is for Walter Tull

Wars often bring about social change, or at least mark the start of a change in attitudes, and the First World War brought many, including the first black officer in the British army – Walter Daniel John Tull.

Tull was born in Folkestone, Kent, in 1888, the son of Daniel Tull, a Barbadian carpenter, and English-born Alice Palmer. His grandfather had been a slave in Barbados. Read more ›››

S is for Dolly Shepherd

Regular readers will know of my admiration for the early pioneers of aviation, but this week’s remarkable subject was not so much a flyer as a faller – Dolly Shepherd: The Edwardian Lady Parachutist.

Shepherd was born in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, in 1886 and was always an adventurous sort. At the age of sixteen, she got a job as a waitress at the Alexandra Palace, North London, specifically so she could listen to the famous American Sousa Band as she couldn’t afford a ticket. Read more ›››

R is for Harry Rée

Another hero of the Second World War this week in the pacifist turned Special Operations Executive spy, Harry Rée.

Rée was born in Manchester in 1914, the son of Dr. Alfred Rée, an industrial chemist from a Danish Jewish family, and American-born Lavinia Elisabeth Dimmick, the great-granddaughter of chemist and industrialist Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. Read more ›››

Q is for William Quarrier

William Quarrier experienced extreme poverty as a child in Victorian Scotland and as a result, he established the national and international social care charity that still bears his name today.

Quarrier was born in Greenock in 1829 and his father, also William Quarrier was a ship’s carpenter who died of cholera in Quebec when his son was three years old. Read more ›››