X is for Francis Xavier

If there is anything destined to scupper my ABC Wednesday posts, it has to be the letter X. There just aren’t that many people who have that as an initial, but while there are I’ll carry on, this time with Francis Xavier.

Xavier was a Roman Catholic missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits and more provocatively as God’s Marines. Read more ›››

W is for Edward Watkin

When Gustav Eiffel unveiled his famous tower in 1889, Edward Watkin decided that London should go one better by building an even taller tower in Wembley.

Watkin was an MP and chairman of the Metropolitan Railway and his vision was to create the tower as the centrepiece of a pleasure park just 12 minutes from Baker Street station. Read more ›››

V is for Vimto

A deviation from my normal ABC Wednesday format this week as I write about a something, rather than a someone. And that something is Vimto which I couldn’t resist as our V week coincides sweetly with the end of Ramadan.

For those who have never come across Vimto before, it is a soft drink, or cordial, made from white grapes, raspberries and blackberries, flavoured with a secret mix of herbs and spices. Read more ›››

U is for Umberto Nobile

Umberto Nobile was an Italian pioneer of aviation and was the first to fly across the polar icecap from Europe to America, and also the first to fly to the North Pole itself.

Born in Lauro in southern Italy in 1885, Umberto graduated from the University of Naples with degrees in both industrial and electrical engineering and he first worked on the state railway. Read more ›››

T is for Ignáz Trebitsch-Lincoln

Ignáz Trebitsch-Lincoln

Ignaz Trebitsch-Lincoln was one of the most remarkable adventurers, scoundrels and fraudsters of the 20th century or any other century come to that.

At times in his life, he was an actor, arms dealers, oil speculator, British Liberal MP, vicar and a German spy. At prayer he moved from Judaism to Presbyterianism, ending up as a Buddhist abbot monk. And along the way, he possibly saved the life of Adolf Hitler. Read more ›››

Sunday Round-up

Sherlock Coin

The Royal Mint has issued its Sherlock Holmes 50p piece to celebrate the 160th anniversary of Arthur Conan Doyle’s birth. They can be yours for £10 or £795 for a gold proof coin.

Speaking of money
Millions of $50 notes are circulating in Australia with the word ‘responsibility’ misspelt as ‘responsibilty’ three times. Read more ›››

S is for P.T. Selbit

Percy Selbit

P. T. Selbit is hardly a household name and yet he was responsible for creating one of the great magical illusions that we are all familiar with – sawing a woman in half.

Selbit was born Percy Thomas Tibbles in Hampstead, London, in 1881. He was to take his stage name by reversing his surname, subtracting one of the Bs, but that was to come much later. Read more ›››