On Friday 15th February 1963 Cecil Beaton wrote in his journal: ‘It seemed strange to find myself packing possibly for a whole year in California while London remains blanketed with snow and ice. The whole day was feverish. Earlier, with traffic around Covent Garden almost at a standstill, I had been caught in a taxi. Got out and ran to the Opera House where I was finishing work on two productions simultaneously, an opera and a ballet. In the morning I had to be in the scene-painting shop for vital, last minute decisions about ‘Turandot’; unexpectedly, Margot Fonteyn had burst in, wearing fur-topped boots and wondering, with an innocent expression, if, after all, her country scene dress had not better be made of a different material? I blanched at the difficulties but sought solace in the fact that the day was a red-letter one since Princess Margaret came to lunch.’
Friday 16th February 1957: Born Frank Abelson in Liverpool in 1928, and reputed as taking his stage name because his Russian grandmother had said he would be her “number vorn” singer, Frankie Vaughan was at the top of this week’s British pop charts. It was the last of his three week stay at the top with ‘Garden of Eden’. Readers of a certain age will remember the song – and know the line in it that says ‘and a voice in the garden tells you she is forbidden’. I certainly do – but until now I was not aware that the line attracted censure from some religious circles which caused a partial broadcasting ban. If you’ve lost your copy of ‘Garden of Eden’ it’s currently posted on YouTube.
Thursday 17th February 1972 was the day when Prime Minister Edward Heath narrowly won a vote in the House of Commons on whether they should ratify, or not, the treaty for the United Kingdom to join the European Community.
Two years previously, and prior to the 1970 election, Heath had stated that it would be wrong for any Government to consider joining the European Community to take this step without the ‘full hearted consent of Parliament and people’.
However, on this Thursday in 1972, he ignored his earlier statement and turned the matter into a vote of confidence by pledging to resign and to call new elections saying that “If the House will not agree … my colleagues and I are unanimous that in these circumstances, this Parliament could not sensibly continue.” By a margin of just eight votes (309–301), the Bill was passed.
Later many challenged the validity of this vote – claiming the decision and the vote was contrary to British law, and that it breached a constitutional convention requiring prior consultation of the people via a general election or a formal referendum. In other words – Heath was right first time round, and was wrong the second time.
Wednesday 18th February 1478: Last week we had the 16th century story of ‘conflict’ involving King Edward VI, Queen Mary and Lady Jane Gray. This week we are going back to the 15th century and the day that George, Duke of Clarence – lover of Malmsey wine and the younger brother of the devious King Edward IV – died. ‘So what?’ you might say.
Well – if Edward was devious, George was evil; blind ambition and disloyalty underpinned his many attempts to take the crown from Edward and make himself King. It couldn’t last though, and in January 1478 Edward had George arrested and tried before the Lords of Parliament. They found George guilty of treason against his brother and condemned him to death for ‘his many treasonable acts’. However King Edward hesitated – loathe to execute his brother but driven by the Lords’ decision. Understandably, George was terrified – particularly as he would be beheaded – and asked for a different form of death. This was agreed and, on this day, George, Duke of Clarence, and brother to King Edward IV of England was gently lowered into a vast butt of Malmsey wine so that he may ‘die with a sweet taste in his mouth’.
Saturday 19th February 1910: If football (soccer) is not for you I apologise for the following but, as I’m a life-long Manchester United supporter, please humour me.
The Sunderland Daily Echo of Wednesday 16th February had carried a small note:
‘Manchester United will open their new ground at Old Trafford next Saturday, when Liverpool will be opposed in a League match. Given favourable weather it is quite possible that all football records for Manchester will be exceeded by the crowd which will assemble to watch the game. It is estimated that the ground will give a good and comfortable view of the game to about 65,000 people.’
The Manchester Courier of Saturday 19th looked forward to the match: ‘From among the list of First League games, the one which stands out with most prominence is that at Old Trafford where Manchester United will open their new ground with the match against Liverpool. Visitors to the ground will be surprised at its up-to-date character, and it may justly be claimed that it is the best in the British Isles. Though the work is not yet complete 50,000 people will be able to see the match today in comfort, and according to one of the architects, Mr Alexander Leitch, every spectator will be able to view every incident of the play. With Liverpool and the United so close together in the table [Liverpool were just ahead of United in the top half of the table], a more interesting game could not have been chosen for such an occasion. There will be a good service of cars to and from the ground, and there will be no congestion at the entrances and the exits.
Except that Bell, who is still unable to turn out, the United will be at full strength.’
The Manchester Courier of Monday 21st reports on the match:
UNITED’S NEW GROUND – AN ENORMOUS ATTENDANCE – UNFORTUNATE START
‘With so much interest centred in Cup-tie, doings the League programmes were a secondary consideration on Saturday, though the fact that the Manchester United club were opening their magnificent new ground at Old Trafford sufficed to attract a crowd of 50,000 people, including a fair number, it is said, who broke in without paying. It was a wonderful sight and a memorable match, inasmuch as the United suffered defeat after apparently having the issue in their safe keeping. The Manchester men made a great effort to pull the game out of the fire, however, and a terrific drive by Wall was only prevented from finding its billet owing to Hardy, the Liverpool goalkeeper, turning the ball round the post. When Mr McArthur, of Newcastle, sounded the cessation of hostilities, Liverpool had won a remarkable victory by 4 goals to 3.’
Thursday 20th February 1861: There had been concern regarding the stability of the spire of Chichester Cathedral for some time. On this day it fell and the Hampshire Telegraph of Saturday 23rd February describes the fall of that spire: ‘The inhabitants of this city were thrown into the utmost consternation and sorrow on Thursday, and all lovers of the beautiful in ecclesiastical architecture will be deeply affected by the loss of the beautiful tower and spire of our venerable Cathedral. Until Sunday last the utmost confidence was felt by the architects, and others connected with the works, that the precaution that had been taken in centring up the tower arches with massive timbers would render the superstructure safe. At that time, however, some cracks and other signs of weakness made their appearance, and measures were at once taken to prevent the damage spreading. These exertions were continued with energy until about noon on Thursday, when Edward Ayling, timekeeper, in the employ of Mr T Kitson, mason, observed a large stone falling , and others threatening to fall. He immediately gave the alarm to Mr Bushby, of Little Hampton, who had a gang of about 30 men at work at the time. The Cathedral was immediately cleared. At half-past one the whole mass, computed at 6,000 tons of stone, fell perpendicularly into the church, scarcely a stone having fallen outside the walls. It was a fearful sight to look upon, and the effects were visible in every face.
A great part of the nave and transepts, with their choir, presbytery and lady chapel still remain, but present only the appearance of an immense ruin. In this sad calamity, it is some relief to know that not the slightest accident has occurred to any living being. For the present the daily services will be held in the Subdeanry Church.
A fund was set up to raise the £48,000 needed for the rebuilding – contributors included Queen Victoria. The sum was soon raised even though it was a considerable amount at the time – equivalent to c£4 million today. The architect was Sir George Gilbert Scott and the work was completed in five years – the spire being rebuilt, a few feet taller than the one that fell. The rubble from the original spire was used to construct a chapel in the near-by village of West Ashling.
On Friday 21st February 1947.Edie Rutherford, a South African housewife and Socialist, living in Sheffield, wrote in her diary: ‘So the Government wants women back in industry, whole time or part time. I shudder at the thought. Willing though I am to do my bit; the memory of crowded trains, standing around waiting for them in the dark and cold, scrambled meals, and no time to do a thing properly – I just HATE and DREAD the thought of all that again. Especially as, if one works part-time, about 30 shillings a week is thought an adequate return. It just isn’t worthwhile for that. When a woman gets to middle life, and is as capable as I am, her sense of values is outraged by such reward’.
At this same time, the Nottingham Evening Post of this date, under the headline ‘WORKS REOPENING’, tells its readers that:
Charles Butler Ltd announce that all employees of their Daleside Road (Nottingham) and Keyworth factories should report for work on Monday at 8.30 am.
Messrs C Myers, Alfred Street Central are re-opening their factory at 8.30 am on Monday.
All departments of Messrs Wilson and Iliffe, blouse manufacturers, Handle Street, Nottingham, will resume work on Monday at 8 am.
The aero division of Rolls-Royce at Sawley, resume fully on Monday. All machinists at Adams factory should report on that day. Other employees in Nottingham dispersals will be notified individually.
The Barlock Typewriter Co, Basford state the majority of their departments will resume work on Monday, but the coal position is critical, and failing a supplementary allocation, they may have to close the following week