Thursday, June 24, 2010

POPnews (UK) - June 24th

[As is usually the case with great works of infrastructure, the story of the building of the Humber Bridge is nearly as epic as the span itself... While plans for the structure were first drawn up in the 1930s - and then revised in 1955 - it wasn't approved until 1959 with the passage of the Humber Bridge Act (which had been promoted by the Kingston Upon Hull Corporation). It was the 1966 Hull North by-election, though, which finally cleared the way for the actual building to begin; the seat - vacated by the death of Labour MP Henry Solomons - was held by the government of Harold Wilson largely due to the promise of its eventual construction. Having retained the seat, Wilson then prevailed upon his Minister of Transport Barbara Castle to secure the funding. That took until July 1972, when work finally began; then, of course, there were the usual plethora of tea breaks... It took so long to build the bridge, in fact, that Christopher Rowe had time to write a song about it, which he fittingly entitled The Humber Bridge.]

1314 - The Battle of Bannockburn concluded the First War of Scottish Independence with a decisive victory by Robert the Bruce's Scottish forces; Scotland regained its independence in the aftermath of this battle, though the victory owed more to the ineptitude of Edward II than to the prowess of the Scottish King, who'd previously been soundly defeated by Edward I on a number of occasions.

1340 - At the outset of the Hundred Years' War most of the French fleet was destroyed by the English - commanded in person by King Edward III - at the Battle of Sluys, during which the French Admiral Hugues Quiéret was also slain.

1497 - Cornish traitors Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank were executed at Tyburn in London for their part in that year's Cornish Rebellion against the rule of King Henry VII.

1509 - Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon were crowned King and Queen of England in a lavish double ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

1717 - The Grand Lodge of England - the first Grand Lodge (now the United Grand Lodge of England) in the tradition of Freemasonry - was founded at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House, in London's St Paul’s Churchyard; Anthony Sayer was elected to serve as the first Grand Master.

1902 - King Edward VII developed appendicitis, two days before his coronation; Sir Frederick Treves (with the assistance of Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister) performed a then-new life-saving operation, and the coronation went ahead a little more than six weeks later, making all those coronation souvenirs with the old date on them highly collectible.

1981 - The Humber Bridge - connecting Hessle in Yorkshire and Barton-upon-Humber in Lincolnshire over the Humber estuary near Kingston upon Hull - was opened to vehicle traffic, although it wouldn't be officially opened by HM The Queen until July 17th; upon its opening it would be the world's longest single-span suspension bridge for 17 years, until it was bested the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark. Currently the world's fifth-largest such bridge, it serves 120,000 vehicles weekly, who pay up to £2.70 in tolls each way.

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Pop History Moment: The Moscow Victory Parade

The Moscow Victory Parade was held on this day in 1945; it celebrated (in a typically sombre, hyper-serious, totally Russian kind of way) the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in what they called the Great Patriotic War. On that rainy day Joseph Stalin watched the massed might of the country march past him from atop Lenin's Tomb in Red Square.

I was labouring through the previous post when in the immense mental jumble of mostly nouns and dates came a single thought, like a piercing ray of light... I bet the Moscow Victory Parade is on YouTube. And whattaya know? It IS on YouTube. I so love it when that happens. In fact, I even have a name for it. I call it a 'Research Epiphany'.

This particular epiphany came when I read that the Moscow Victory Parade was the first event in Russian history to be filmed in colour. Let's face it - that's something I gotta see; after growing up with an essentially English view of World War II, I find it exhilarating to experience seemingly familiar events from an unfamiliar perspective. In fact, sharing that sensation is one of the chief raisons d'etre for this blog.
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POPnews - June 24th

[For years this lovely bit of water-coloured animation was the sign-off at the end of the programming day on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada's national broadcaster. This version was always a favourite of mine, as I find it very stirring, so I thought I'd share it with you on the song's 129th anniversary.]

972 CE - The Battle of Cedynia, the first documented victory of Polish forces, took place when that country's Duke Mieszko I defeated Odo I, Margrave of Saxon Ostmark.

1128 - At the Battle of São Mamede, near Guimarães, Portuguese forces led by Alfonso I defeated an army loyal to his mother Dona Teresa and her lover Fernando Perez de Trava; following the battle, Alfonso took to calling himself 'Prince of Portugal', and the battle is now seen as the first step towards an independent Portugal, which sovereignty was affirmed after the Battle of Ourique in 1139.

1374 - A sudden outbreak of St. John's Dance caused people in the German town of Aachen to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapsed from exhaustion.

1497 - John Cabot became the first European in Newfoundland in nearly five hundred years when he landed, possibly at Cape Bonavista.

1535 - The Anabaptist state of Münster was conquered and disbanded following the Münster Rebellion; an attempt by Bernhard Knipperdolling to establish a theocracy there was met with harsh reprisals, as many of the radicals were later tortured and executed in the town square.

1571 - Manila, now the capital of the Republic of the Philippines, was founded by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.

1692 - The city of Kingston, Jamaica, was founded.

1880 - Ironically enough, O Canada was first performed publicly in Quebec City as part of that city's St. Jean-Baptiste Day festivities.

1901 - The works of a talented but unknown 20 year-old named Pablo Picasso were given their first public exhibition at a cafe called Els Quatre Gats in his hometown of Barcelona.

1916 - Canadian Mary Pickford became filmdom's first million dollar lady by forming the Pickford Film Corporation within Famous Players.

1918 - Legend has it Canada's airmail service was instituted, between Montreal and Toronto.

1938 - A 450 tonne (496 ton) meteorite struck the earth in an empty field near Chicora, Pennsylvania.

1945 - The Moscow Victory Parade took place in that city's Red Square following the defeat of Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War; it was the first event in Soviet history to be filmed in colour.

1947 - Kenneth Arnold made the first widely reported UFO sighting, near Mount Rainier, Washington.

1949 - The first television Western aired on NBC; Hopalong Cassidy starred William Boyd, who was uniquely qualified for the role - he'd played the character 66 times since 1935 in an enormously popular series of films.

1957 - The US Supreme Court ruled that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment in Roth v. United States.

1983 - Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, returned to Earth safely as part of NASA's STS-7 Space Shuttle mission.

1985 - The Space Shuttle Discovery completed its mission - STS-51-G - which is today best remembered for having Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the first Arab and first Muslim in space, as a Payload Specialist.

2002 - The Igandu train disaster in Tanzania killed 281, making it the worst train accident in African history.
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