Thursday, 27 April 2017

Ali Refuses US Army Draft – 50 Years On

With Anthony Joshua preparing to defend his IBF Heavyweight title against Wladimir Klitschko this weekend, I thought a boxing related anniversary was in order (the fight is also for the vacant WBA and IBO belts).

Fifty years ago tomorrow (28th April 1967), American world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army after being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War.

Ali in 1967
Ali, a devout Muslim, cited religious reasons for his refusal saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” 

Consequently, he was arrested, had his boxing license suspended, and was
stripped of his title.

On trial, held on 20th June, he was found guilty of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years. However, he stayed out of prison whilst on appeal.

In Later Years
Whilst being unable to box, he spent time giving inspirational speeches at schools and colleges.

The Supreme Court overturned the decision in June 1971, but by then he had lost 4 years’ boxing time when he would have been in the prime of his career.

He regained his world heavyweight titles again both in 1974 and 1978, becoming the only fighter to be heavyweight champion of the World on three occasions.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Anniversaries 20th to 26th March 2017

Monday 20th March
35 years ago: Retired cricketer and former West Indian captain Richie Richardson made his 1st class debut for the Leeward Islands against Barbados. Very much a flamboyant batsman, renowned for his playing of fast bowling, he is remembered for often wearing a wide-brimmed maroon hat as opposed to a helmet, when facing express bowlers.

20 years ago: the US tobacco company Liggett Group became the first to admit that smoking is hazardous to health and addictive.

Tuesday 21st March
20 years ago: The Rev WV Awdry, British clergyman and acclaimed writer of the Thomas the Tank Engine series of books, died at the age of 85.

15 years ago: British schoolgirl Amanda (Milly) Dowler aged 13, vanished when walking home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England. Her body was eventually found in September 2002 and Levi Belfield was convicted of her murder 9 years later.

Wednesday 22nd March
20 years ago: 14-year-old Tara Lipinski became the youngest ever winner of the World Figure Skating Championships.

5 years ago: Australia’s most wanted man Malcolm Naden was captured in Gloucester, New South Wales, after 7 years on the run. He was wanted for indecent assault and murder charges, resulting in him pleading guilty to all 32 counts and being sentenced to life imprisonment plus 40 years without parole.

Thursday 23rd March
30 years ago: an IRA car bomb exploded at a British army base at Rheindahlen, West Germany injuring 31 people.

10 years ago: Sony released the Playstation 3 console in Europe and Australia (released in both the US and Japan 4 months earlier).

Friday 24th March
40 years ago: Joseph Ratzinger was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising in Germany. He was later to become Pope Benedict XV1.

25 years ago: Dirk Fremout became the first Belgian to travel in space.

Saturday 25th March
150 years ago: Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini was born in Parma, Italy. In 1937 he became the first music director of the NBC Symphony Orchestra leading to great popularity in the United States and beyond. He died in January 1957 in New York and his body was returned to his homeland for burial.

80 years ago: The Washington Daily News became the first newspaper to feature a perfumed advertisement.

Sunday 26th March
100 years ago: the Seattle Metropolitans became the first US winners of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup after beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in the final series.

80 years ago: A statue of spinach-guzzling, cartoon character Popeye was erected in Crystal City, Texas. Known as the spinach capital of the world, growing the aromatic vegetable is the city’s main industry.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Anniversaries 13th to 19th March 2017

Monday 13th March
90 years ago, the British Army ceased using the lance as an official battle weapon – presumably, they didn’t like it up ‘em anymore!

In 1947, the musical Brigadoon, by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, opened on Broadway.

Tuesday 14th March
75 years ago, the first successful use of penicillin to treat a patient took place when Anne Miller, who was dying of streptococcal septicaemia, was given an injection of penicillin atYale–New Haven Hospital, Connecticut, USA.

It is 10 years since the death of UK actor Gareth Hunt, remembered for playing footman Frederick Norton in the TV series Upstairs, Downstairs and Mike Gambit in The New Avengers.

Wednesday 15th March
Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States was born on this day in 1767.

80 years ago, H. P. Lovecraft, American horror/fantasy/science fiction writer died in poverty at the age of 46. Virtually unknown in his lifetime, he is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors in his genre.

Thursday 16th March
In 1976, Harold Wilson, Labour leader for 13 years and Prime Minister for almost eight, announced his resignation to a shocked nation.

2 years later in 1978, Former Italian premier Aldo Moro was kidnapped at gunpoint in Rome by a gang believed to be from the Red Brigade.

Friday 17th March
In 1992, in a referendum, the people of South Africa voted to back political reform and put an end to apartheid.

On that very same day, American actress Grace Stafford, best known for providing the voice of the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker died. She was also the wife of animator and producer Walter Lantz, who created the character.

Saturday 18th March
In 1967, the supertanker SS Torrey Canyon hit a rock on a reef between the Cornish mainland and the Isles of Scilly while attempting to take a shortcut to South Wales. 32 million gallons of crude oil were spilt – the worst spill in UK history.

15 years ago, Burger King became the first fast-food restaurant chain to sell veggie burgers on a nationwide basis in the USA.

Sunday 19th March
40 years ago, the acclaimed American television sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended after 7 seasons. She passed away as recently as January 2017, at the age of 80.

In 1992, Buckingham Palace announced the separation of the Duke and Duchess of York – Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. (Married July 1986, divorced May 1996.)

Monday, 6 March 2017

Anniversaries 6th - 12th March 2017

Monday 6th March

In 1957, the Gold Coast declared independence from the UK, creating the country of Ghana.
British comedian Frankie Howerd was born 100 years ago today. Most famous for TV series Up Pompeii and appearing in many Carry On… movies, he died of a heart attack in April 1992.

Tuesday 7th March

250 years ago today, French-Canadian explorer and former governor of Louisiana, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville died. He is remembered as being the founder of New Orleans.

100 years ago the world’s first jazz record was released: Livery Stable Blues by the Original Dixieland Jass Band (note: jass was restyled as jazz later that same year).

Wednesday 8th March

In 1942, José Raúl Capablanca died aged 53. Cuban world chess champion (1921–27), he was considered to be possibly the best chess player of all time.

It is 10 years since the death of John Inman, British comedy actor. Best known for his role as Mr Humphries in the television sitcom Are You Being Served? he was noted for his catchphrase ‘I’m free!’

Thursday 9th March

The first documented discovery of gold in California happened on this day in 1842. Taking place at Rancho, San Francisco, it led to a small gold rush, with about 2,000 people coming to mine gold.

U2’s iconic album The Joshua Tree was released on this day in 1987.

Friday 10th March

In 1937, Russian novelist, playwright, short-story writer and satirist Yevgeny Zamyatin died. His novel We strongly influenced both Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In 1977, astronomers discovered a system of rings around the planet Uranus.

Saturday 11th March

Joseph S. Cullinan, American oil industrialist and founder of Texaco died in 1937.

In 1952, Douglas Adams, British comedy writer and dramatist was born. Best known for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, he died in May 2001 from heart failure.

Sunday 12th March

British actress Googie Withers was born 100 years ago on this day. A leading lady of the British stage and screen in the 1940s and 1950s, she is fondly remembered for her portrayal of the role of prison governor Faye Boswell in LWT’s Within These Walls in the 1970s. She died as recently as July 2011, at the grand age of 94.
In 1997, Australian Susie Maroney became the first woman to swim the Florida Straits – 112 miles (180 km) from Cuba to Key West, Florida.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Farrah Fawcett at 70

Further to my previous posting on this blog entitled Charlie’s Angels at 40, today would have been the 70th birthday of the TV series star, Farrah Fawcett.

Born on 2nd February 1947, Texan, Farrah Leni Fawcett, was born of Irish, French, English and Choctaw Native American ancestry, into a Roman Catholic family with one older sister. Her father was an oil field contractor while her mother was a homemaker.

Iconic poster image
She initially rose to international fame early in 1976 when posing in a red swimsuit, which became the best-selling pin-up poster in history selling over 20 million copies.

Best remembered for her stunning smile, blonde flowing locks and pin-up model beauty, she was cast as Jill Monroe in the original TV series of Charlie’s Angels in 1976. At that time she was styled as Farrah Fawcett-Majors due to her 9-year marriage to Lee Majors (star of The Six Million Dollar Man).

From 1979 until 1997 and then 2001 to 2009 (her death) she was romantically involved with actor Ryan O’Neal, producing a son, Redmond James Fawcett-O'Neal.

Also to star in such movies as Logan's Run, Saturn 3, The Cannonball Run, The Apostle, Dr. T and the Women and The Burning Bed, she was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. An NBC documentary outlining her battle with the disease (Farrah’s Story) won her a posthumous Emmy award for her work as a producer.

After enduring chemotherapy and surgery, it was reported on her 60th birthday that she was "cancer free". However 3 moths later she experienced a recurrence and was diagnosed with stage IV cancer that had metastasised to her liver.

With subsequent unsuccessful holistic treatments in Germany, she finally passed away in June 2009, at the age of 62.

RIP Farrah.

Friday, 30 December 2016


This year I bought myself a small Christmas present. 

When recently looking through one of the upstairs cupboards in my house, I noticed my extensive collection of vinyl records. With vinyl making something of a resurgence and having nothing to play them on, I decided to invest in a turntable that converts the music into MP3s. The turntable arrived yesterday and I have now started what will be, a very long task of conversion.

Forgetting quite how many 33s, 45s and 12 inch singles I had collected over the years before CDs and downloads took over, it was fascinating to start going through them all, while bringing back memories of people and old friends associated with those memories, many of which I have long lost contact with.

The first pile brought me records by such diverse artists as Lionel Richie, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Bill Withers, Chicago and the Little River Band, but the 12 inch single that brought back most memories was an early 80s remix of “Buttercup” by Carl Anderson.

To Top-40 fans, Carl Anderson is not a name that particularly rolls off the tongue, but for those interested in musical theatre he is fondly remembered for playing Judas Iscariot in the Broadway and film productions of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Written by Stevie Wonder, “Buttercup” was originally recorded by the Jackson Five but never actually released by them until their 2009 compilation I Want You Back!  Unreleased Masters came into being.

In my opinion, the song certainly lends itself to Anderson’s vocal versatility to transform between R&B and jazz and however much of a fan I am of the Jacksons, their slightly slower version although very pleasant, didn’t really do it for me.

Carl Anderson passed away in 2004 at the age of 58 after a battle with leukaemia. 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Musical Irish Englishness?

Ireland is a very gifted nation musically, but all may not be quite as it seems when it comes to a certain three of its music stars.

The Boys are Back in Town

Phil Lynott, the late lead singer and bassist of rock outfit “Thin Lizzy” did not emanate from the “Emerald Isle”. He was actually born in August 1949 at Hallam Hospital (now known as Sandwell General Hospital) in West Bromwich, England, to an Irish mother and Guyanan father.

Christened at St Edward’s church in Selly Oak, Birmingham, he spent some of his early life in and around the city, and subsequently in Manchester when his mother moved there.

At the age of 4 he went to live with his Irish grandmother in Dublin while his mother remained in the UK. Although remaining in contact with his mother, he stayed in Ireland throughout what was said to be a happy childhood.

With his later years taken up with a dependency on drugs and alcohol, Lynott died at the age of 36, of pneumonia and heart failure, due to septicaemia, in January 1986.

In 2005 a life sized bronze statue of the singer was unveiled close to Grafton Street in Dublin (see image above). Since that time it has once been knocked off its pedestal by vandals in 2013 and more recently run into by a van snapping its base. Thankfully it has now been fully restored and it can be considered that “The Boy is Back in Town!”

All Kinds of Everything

In 1970 a fresh faced, pretty Irish girl became an overnight sensation winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Amsterdam with “All Kinds of Everything”

At the tender age of 18 Dana, born Rosemary Brown, became the first of Ireland’s record seven victories in the contest. But Irish Dana was actually born and grew up in the London suburb of Islington.

At the age of five, Dana’s parents decided to return to live in their native Derry in Northern Ireland. London was still a smog ridden city and because of the harmful effects it was having on some of her siblings, the family were convinced they would be better off, for health reasons, returning back over the sea.

In more recent times Dana Rosemary Scallon (as she is now referred to) served as a member of the European Parliament and has twice unsuccessfully run for the Irish Presidency. 

Often controversial with modernist views, it was revealed during her 2nd attempt at the Presidency that she was now a dual US and Irish citizen. She denied hiding this fact from the public, but it did not help her in the vote winning quest where she came 6th to Michael D Higgins.

Dana has four children and lives with her husband in County Galway, Ireland.

The Irish Rover

Shane MacGowan, best known as lead singer and songwriter of the Celtic punk band “The Pogues”, was born on Christmas Day in 1957 at Pembury, Kent, England to Irish parents.

“The Irish Rover” spent his early life in County Tipperary, but returned to the UK at the age of 6, living in many parts of the south-east of England during his youth including London and Brighton.

As a boy he won a literature scholarship into London's Westminster School, but was expelled in his second year at the historic seat of learning when caught in possession of drugs.

Pertinent to his “rock’n’roll” lifestyle, MacGowan has suffered from binge drinking for many years, becoming notorious for performing when under the influence of alcohol. In the summer of 2015 he fractured his pelvis when leaving a Dublin recording studio from which he still continues to experience mobility issues. He lives in Dublin with his long-term girlfriend.

All three artists are/were fiercely proud of their Irish nationality and in turn are proudly celebrated by their nation. 

But even though their heritage and background is obviously Irish, surely we British can also claim a part of them as our own?