Monday 1st February 1915: British Passports had gone on general issue at the start of the First World War but proved to be subject to fraudulent use so, on this day, 1st February 1915, it became obligatory by law to include a photograph on the document. The passport was a one-page document folded into eight, with a cardboard cover. It contained a photo and signature, together with details of the holder, such as the size of a person’s nose and eyes, and also described their complexion!
However – this change presented a new challenge and the newspapers of 2nd February throughout the kingdom seem to have carried the same message of pre-planning working:
NEW PASSPORT OFFICE: ‘The new Passport Office in the Foreign Office Quadrangle opened its doors for business yesterday, and did a brisk trade from the outset. Within ten days of laying the foundation the office was complete down to every detail of lighting, heating, sanitation, and equipment. The opening of the new office will relieve the strain upon the Foreign Office.’
2nd February is Candlemas. In the Christian church this commemorates the occasion when the Virgin Mary, in obedience to Jewish law, went to the Temple in Jerusalem both to be purified 40 days after the birth of her son, and to present her son Jesus to God as her firstborn.
Throughout the centuries in Britain Candlemas Day was regarded as the agreed end of the Christmas season, and therefore the time to take down Christmas decorations – that was until Twelfth Night took over that role.
In England there were also many traditions which focused on the day’s name – one declared it as the day on which candles could be dispensed with during working hours.
There are also numerous weather-lore sayings and beliefs that focus on the day. One of the long-standing weather-lore beliefs was that ‘a fine and frosty Candlemas Day with no snow – more winter to come than that has gone before.
An old proverb says that ‘if a badger finds snow when he peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day, he will walk abroad; but if he sees, the sun shining, he will draw back into his hole and lie low a while.’
We are not alone – in the USA, Candlemas is known as Groundhog Day: if the Groundhog sees its shadow when it pops out of its burrow on this day because the sun is shining, it will go back in and the winter will be prolonged by another six weeks. This is also the date on which BEARS emerge from their winter hibernation to inspect the weather: if it is bad they will remain outside, but if it is fine they will reach the pessimistic conclusion that this cannot be expected to last and will retreat to their caves.
One of the many parish related traditions took place at Woodbridge in Suffolk with the Carlow Bread distribution. In a 1783 George Carlow, a local Tanner, died and was buried in his garden. He left a rent charge of £1 on the property to provide 60 two-penny loaves and six score penny-loaves for distribution to the poor on Candlemas Day forever. It has not, however, managed to keep this up to the present day.
Wednesday 3rd February 1960 was the day that Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Macmillan made a significant speech to the Parliament of South Africa that is now described as the “Wind of Change” speech. The critical words in the speech were: ‘The wind of change is blowing through this continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.’
This was, in fact, the second time he had given this speech: he was repeating an address already made in Accra on 10 January 1960. That had received minimal recognition. This time it received press attention, at least partly because of the stony reception that greeted it. The speech implied a policy shift in regard to apartheid when he said: ‘As a fellow member of the Commonwealth it is our earnest desire to give South Africa our support and encouragement, but I hope you won’t mind my saying frankly that there are some aspects of your policies which make it impossible for us to do this without being false to our own deep convictions about the political destinies of free men to which, in our own territories, we are trying to give effect.’
He had spent a month in Africa visiting a number the then British colonies and this speech signalled clearly that the Conservative-led British Government intended to grant independence to many of these territories. Most of the then British possessions in Africa did become independent nations in the 1960s.
Saturday 4th February 1893 was the day that the Liverpool Electrical Railway was formally opened by Lord Salisbury. On Monday 6th February the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette reported that – ‘The Press Association’s Liverpool correspondent says:- Lord Salisbury on Saturday inaugurated the Liverpool Overhead Electric Railway which runs from end to end of the docks. His lordship pressed a button, which started the generating machinery, and in a brief address wished success to the venture. Lord Salisbury and a number of invited guests then went for a trip along the line, and afterwards drove to the Town Hall’.
The Leeds Times of Saturday 11th provides the additional details that the railway ‘extends a distance of about seven miles along the line of docks. The ceremony took place at the electric generating station, Bramley Moore Dock, after which his Lordship and sundry others made a tour of inspection of the line from the Alexandra to the Custom House stations.’
The Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper of Sunday 5th February seems to have used a detailed description from the previous week – but it predictably provides much more factual information than the daily press when it reports:
LIVERPOOL’S OVERHEAD RAILWAY: Lord Salisbury will this Saturday open the Liverpool Overhead Electric railway which is the largest electrical railway the world has yet seen. The overhead structure is composed almost entirely of wrought iron, and is carried on columns, the total length being seven miles, and the total cost something over £600,000 or £85,000 per mile. Nearly 25,000 tons of wrought iron have been used in the construction.
The motive power to be employed is electricity, and the responsibility of this portion of the undertaking was placed in the hands of Mr Thomas Parker, chief engineer and general manager of the Electric Construction Corporation. The train cannot travel at a speed of more than 35 miles per hour as, that at any speed greater than this, the motors would deliver energy back which would act as a break upon the train, the motors being designed to meet the conditions of the contract which requires that the trains run the whole length of the railway making 13 stops in 29 minutes. The signals are electrically worked by the trains themselves and it is believed that considerable savings in the working expenses will result. All the carriages are exactly alike, and contain compartments for two classes of passengers – 41 seconds, 15 firsts – with through communications from end to end.
Monday 5th February 1924: One source of information tells us that on this date one ‘Frank Hope-James of the Greenwich Observatory added the ‘pips’ to the Greenwich time signal – one per second from 5 seconds to the hour to the exact hour and they were broadcast by BBC.’
Another – BBC – source claims that the six beeps were designed by John Reith, head of the BBC, and Frank Watson Dyson, the Astronomer Royal, and that they were controlled by two mechanical clocks at the Royal Greenwich Observatory – hence their official name, the Greenwich Time signal. There was just one difference back then. The pips were all of uniform length – there was no elongated beep to round off the signal, which apparently proved confusing for BBC radio announcer Charles Lister. He claimed he may even have triggered a later, historic, change when, sometime in the 1960s, he asked his boss at the BBC “Which of the six pips is the important one?” As today’s listeners know, it’s the final pip that matters most, but its elongation didn’t materialise until years later – in 1972, according to David Rooney, the former curator of timekeeping at the Greenwich observatory. To Lister’s dismay, it may have been the introduction of an atomic clock, and the addition of a “leap second”, that actually gave life to the idea. In 1990 the BBC transmitted the last ‘pips’ from Greenwich. Since then it has generate its own ‘pips’!
Today the pips are heard most often by BBC Radio 4 and World Service listeners.
Thursday 6th February 1958: In 1948 I listened on our battery powered radio – we had no electric in the house where we lived – and heard Manchester United beat Blackpool FC 4 goals to 2 in the FA Cup Final at Wembley. On that day I became a ‘Man U’ supporter. I still am – and I still vividly remember this day in February 1958.
I was at home when the news came through that the Manchester United airplane had crashed. Bit by bit the news worsened. Mum was not interested in football and Dad was on night shift. I slept badly that night. The next morning was very sombre as Dad – a pretty good footballer in his younger day – and I caught up with the news. It didn’t matter who you supported – sadness swept across the country and beyond. As I type this, the memory of the days that followed are coming back. I, like a great many people across the country I suspect, still have copies of the newspapers that told us the story:
The crew deaths: Captain Ken Rayment, the co-pilot who survived the crash but died in hospital three weeks later, and cabin steward Tom Cable.
The players that died in the crash: Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor, Liam ‘Billy’ Whelan plus Duncan Edwards who survived the crash, but died in hospital 15 days later.
The club staff: Walter Crickmer the club secretary, Tom Curry the trainer and Bert Whalley the chief coach.
The journalists there to report the match: Alf Clarke (Manchester Evening Chronicle), Donny Davies (Manchester Guardian), George Follows (Daily Herald), Tom Jackson (Manchester Evening News), Archie Ledbrook (Daily Mirror), Henry Rose (Daily Express) and Eric Thompson (Daily Mail).
Frank Swift – the former England & Manchester City goalkeeper, writing for the News of the World – died on his way to hospital.
Two passengers, travel agent Bela Miklos and Willie Satinoff, a club supporter, racecourse owner and close friend of Matt Busby also died.
An investigation into the crash initially suggested pilot error, saying that Captain James Thain had taken off without de-icing the wings. He was later – for many much too late after – cleared when it was found that the build-up of slush on the runway had prevented the plane taking-off.
Sunday 7th February 1796 – over the past 12 months I have included snippets from ‘The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife’ which provides a fascinating glimpse of rural life 200+ years ago. Today is the day the farmer’s wife, Anne Hughes, made her first entry [the spelling is as written by Anne].
‘Today hav John and I bin wed this 3 yere and here I do set down all that I do every day.
Today I did do my butter maken, leving Sarah to cook most of the dinner, as the butter was longe time cumin, indeed not till John had put in a crown piece and turned did it cum. Sarah did burne the dinner, like she always do, and John was very cross therebye, he mislyking Sarahs cooken, so I do sometimes hav to let him think it is me. Men be very tiresome sometimes.’