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Sunday, 31 May 2015

William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison was born on February 9, 1773,  the youngest of Benjamin Harrison V and Elizabeth Bassett's seven children.

William was brought up at Berkeley Plantation at Charles City County, Virginia.

Engraved portrait print c. 1800 of William Henry Harrison at age 27 

William's father was a planter and a delegate to the Continental Congress (1774–1777) who signed the Declaration of Independence. He was Governor of Virginia between 1781 and 1784.

William's older brother Carter Bassett Harrison was elected a representative of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives.

William attended the Presbyterian Hampden-Sydney College between 1787-1790. He was fluent in Latin and French.

Harrison's nickname was "Old Tippecanoe " and he was a well-respected war veteran.

Harrison was elected the ninth president of the United States in 1840, and took the oath of office on March 4, 1841.

 He was the last president born as a British subject before American Independence.

Harrison was the oldest president to take office at 68 years, 23 days, until 1981 when Ronald Reagan was a year older than Harrison. He was the last president to be born before the United States Declaration of Independence.

Harrison gave the longest inauguration speech on record, in bad, snowy weather, without wearing an overcoat or hat. A detailed statement of the Whig agenda, it lasted an hour and forty minutes.

William Henry Harrison inauguration

He caught a serious case of pneumonia as a result of his long speech in the inclement weather. Harrison tried to rest in the White House, but could not find the necessary quietness. His very busy social schedule made it hard to rest.

Harrison's doctors tried cures of applying opium, castor oil, leeches, and Virginia snakeweed. But the treatments only made the president worse.

Harrison died on April 4, 1841. He was the first President to die in office and with the shortest term served. Vice President John Tyler, becomes President upon Harrison's death.

Death of Harrison, April 4, 1841

Harrison's funeral took place in Wesley Chapel in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 7, 1841. His original interment was in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.. He was later buried in North Bend, Ohio.

His grandson was the 23rd President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison.

Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president of the United States between 1889-1893.

Benjamin was born on August 20, 1833, in North Bend, Ohio, as the second of eight children to John Scott Harrison and Elizabeth Ramsey (Irwin).

Benjamin was the grandson of William Henry Harrison. He was the only president to be the grandson of a former president.

The Republican candidate, Harrison was elected to the White House in 1888, beating Grover Cleveland.

Official White House portrait of Benjamin Harrison, painted by Eastman Johnson

After Benjamin Harrison served one full four-year term as president, Cleveland ran again and, this time, beat Harrison.

Benjamin Harrison was the first president to use electricity in the White House. After he got a nasty shock, however, his family refused to touch any of the switches and would sometimes go to bed with the lights on.

Benjamin Harrison became the first president to attend a baseball game while in office when he watched the Cincinnati Reds defeat the Washington Senators 7-4 in 11 innings on June 6, 1892.

He was the last US president to have had a beard.

1896 Pach Brothers studio photograph of United States President Benjamin Harrison.

Besides being president, Benjamin Harrison was a successful lawyer. He argued many cases before the United States Supreme Court.

After leaving office in 1887, Harrison moved to San Francisco, California, where he taught at Stanford University.

Harrison developed what was thought to be influenza or grippe in February 1901. He was treated with steam vapor inhalation and oxygen, but his condition worsened. He died from pneumonia at his home at 4.45 in the afternoon on March 13, 1901, at the age of 67.

Harrison is interred in Indianapolis's Crown Hill Cemetery, next to his first wife Caroline. After her death, his second wife Mary Dimmick Harrison was buried next to him

Saturday, 30 May 2015



The earliest tuneable instrument, the stringed harp, was first plucked in modern-day Iraq in around 4500 BC.

The earliest harp still existing is an instrument from the Sumerian civilization, about 3000 BC. It is thought that the instrument came into being when the string of a bow was stretched and several more strings were added to this configuration.

A rock engraving of a harpist, dating from the 18th century BC, exists at Saqqara, Egypt.

Two types of harps were known in the Assyrian civilization of the 8th and 7th centuries BC. One had its resonating sound chest toward the bottom, the other toward the top.

In the 9th century BC the Syrian harp known as the trigon appeared with a frontal pillar support. This was copied and adapted by the Greeks in the 4th century BC. Eventually it became the model for harps throughout Western Europe.

The word harpa was first used around the year 600 and is a generic term for stringed instruments.

During the growth of Islam, the harp traveled from north Africa to Spain during the eighth century. Its use soon spread throughout Europe.

The harp has been on Ireland’s coat of arms since the thirteenth century.

The most celebrated of the twelfth-century harpists of Ireland was Torlogh O'Carolan (or Carolan), who was blind. He composed about 200 songs, many of which were published in Dublin in 1720.

The harp was added to European orchestras at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Sebastien Erard (1752-1831), was a French piano and harp maker. He patented his double-action harp in which each pedal has three positions in the early 19th century: this became the basis of the modern concert harp. At his Paris workshop Enard also invented the mechanical harpsichord, and the piano with double escapement.


The verb harp means to talk on and on about one subject similar to a harpist plucking the same string over and over.

A modern harpist plays using only the first four fingers on each hand. They pluck the strings near the middle of the harp using the pads of their fingers. Irish harpists use their fingernails to pluck the wire strings.

A top-of-the-range harp will set you back £140,000 ($200,000). Lyon and Healy's Louis XV Special concert grand is intricately carved and clad in 23-carat gold leaf.

The harp has been Ireland's national symbol since the thirteenth century.

Sources The Independent,, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc.

Friday, 29 May 2015

King Harold II of England

King Harold II was born around 1022, the son of Godwin (1001–1053), the powerful Earl of Wessex. His mother, Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, was sister-in-law of Cnut, King of Denmark and England.

His sister, Edith of Wessex, married English king Edward the Confessor.

For some twenty years Harold was married to Edith the Fair (Edith Swannesha) and had at least six children with her. The marriage was widely accepted by the laity, although Edith was considered Harold's mistress by the clergy.

King Harold had a tattoo over his heart that read: "Edith and England.".

In 1064 Harold was shipwrecked at Ponthieu. off the coast of Normandy in 1064. William of Normandy (William the Conqueror) claimed that Harold pledged support for his succession to England’s throne (see below).

 ("Harold made an oath to Duke William"). (Bayeux Tapestry) 

Due to Edward the Confessor’s vow of chastity, his marriage was childless and the question of succession became a prominent one as he neared the end of his reign. One of the claimants was the king's cousin William of Normandy whom Edward promised would succeed him.

Edward the Confessor died on January 5, 1066. The English king disinherited William of Normandy on his deathbed and appointed Harold instead as his successor. His coronation quickly followed on January 6, 1066.

King Harold II places the crown on his own head

Shortly before the Battle of Hastings, Harold sent William an envoy who admitted that Edward had promised the throne to William but argued that this was over-ridden by his deathbed promise to Harold. In reply, William argued that Edward's prior promise to him took precedence.

William and Harold's armies clashed at the Battle of Hastings on  October, 14, 1066, where after nine hours of hard fighting, Harold was killed and his forces routed.

Harold's death depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry,

The earliest account of the Battle of Hastings said that Harold had been killed and dismembered by four knights. The first report of Harold being shot in the eye with an arrow did not appear until 30 years later.

Two of Harold’s six brothers, Gyrth and Leofwine, also died at the Battle of Hastings.

It was Edith the Fair who identified Harold after the Battle of Hastings. His body was horribly mutilated  and Edith the Fair walked through the carnage of the battle so that she might identify Harold by markings on his chest known only to her. It was because of Edith the Fair's identification of Harold's body that Harold was given a Christian burial by the monks at Waltham Abbey.

Source Daily Express


The ancient Chinese invented a small portable musical instrument, the sheng, on which the player blows or sucks to make a thin metal reed vibrate. Such Chinese free-reed wind instruments were first mentioned in writings dating from the 14th–12th centuries BC.

In the eighth century three sheng were sent to the Japanese court and these have been preserved in the Shōsōin imperial repository in Nara.

A sheng brought to Europe in the 1770s created considerable interest, but there is a long gap before harmonicas were being sold in Vienna in 1825. They quickly caught on as a cheap and enjoyable way of making music, and by the 1850s, the harmonica (or mouth organ) was in mass production.

There is a persistent legend that the German musical instrument maker Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann (June 17, 1805 – October 1, 1864) invented the harmonica (and the accordion) but this cannot be substantiated. Buschmann stated in a letter of 1828 that he had just invented a new instrument, but the manufacture of harmonicas had begun some years previously in Vienna.

Chr.Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann

German emigrants took the harmonica to America, where the style of playing changed and the blues harmonica sound emerged.

A bus driver gifted a young John Lennon with a harmonica which he went on to play extensively during his early performances and initial recordings with the Beatles.

American astronaut Walter Schirra was probably the first man to play a musical instrument in space He blew a mean Hohner harmonica on a Gemini mission, which prompted an advert that read: "Buy a Hohner harmonica. Learn to play Jingle Bells and three billion people might just look up to you!"

Here is a list of songs with a harmonica part


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Thomas Hardy


Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840 in a thatched, stonemason's cottage in Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester, Dorset in south west England. He was left for dead after his birth but an observant midwife noted signs of life and gave him a good slap..

Thomas Hardy's birthplace and cottage at Higher Bockhampton

His father, Thomas, was a hard up master mason who also made cider and played the fiddle at local festivals.

Thomas jnr. was a product of a shotgun wedding between his father and mother, Jemina. They'd married six months before his birth.

Thomas was a delicate and sickly child whose well being was a cause for constant anxiety and was kept at home until the age of 8.

He acquired an early interest in books, which his well-read mother encouraged. Thomas was reading Dryden andJohnson before the age of 10.

At the age of 8, Thomas went to Julia Martin’s school at Higher Bockhampton but was transferred a year later to Mr. Last's Academy for Young Gentlemen in Dorchester, which involved a daily walk of several miles.

At Mr. Last's Academy Thomas learned Latin and demonstrated academic potential. Because his family lacked the means for a university education, his formal education ended at the age of sixteen, when he became apprenticed to James Hicks, a local church architect.


During his time with John Hicks, Hardy habitually got up at 4.00 in the summer and 5.00 in the winter to read (mainly poetry) before leaving for work at 8.00.

Hardy moved to London in 1862, where he enrolled as a student at King's College London. He won prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architectural Association.

During his time in London. Hardy was assistant architect in London to Sir Arthur Bloomfield. He was in charge of the excavation of the graveyard of St Pancras Old Church prior to its destruction when the Midland Railway was extended to a new terminus at St Pancras.

Hardy worked under Sir Arthur Blomfield in the Adelphi for six years, during which time poetry was his main interest. However, he was frustrated in his efforts to get his poems published.

Hardy's first published piece, was a light comic prose article called "How I built Myself A House" appeared in Chambers’ Journal in 1865.

Ill-health obliged Hardy to return to Dorset in 1867 when he again joined Hicks.

Settling at Weymouth, Hardy decided to dedicate himself to writing. He wrote his  first novel Poor Man and the Lady the same year, but he failed to find a publisher partly because it was deemed too politically controversial.

After he abandoned his first novel, Hardy wrote two new ones that he hoped would have more commercial appeal, Desperate Remedies (1871) and Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), both of which were published anonymously.

A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873) was Hardy's first novel to be published under his own name.

It was the praise heaped on the serialization of Far From the Madding Crowd (1874) which persuaded Hardy to become a full time writer.

Hardy wrote all day every day, wrapped up against the cold in an old knitted shawl, wearing socks but no shoes and ancient trousers he mended himself with string.

Hardy thought his poetry would outlive his prose, however, his novels won more laurels with the public than the critics and to this day none of his novels have ever gone out of print,


Hardy's novels were influenced by his humble origins and are very class conscious. Many Dorset people thought they recognized themselves in his characters and thus he was not liked in his area.

The term "cliffhanger" is considered to have originated with the serialized version of A Pair of Blue Eyes (which was published in Tinsley's Magazine between September 1872 and July 1873) in which Henry Knight, one of the protagonists, is left literally hanging off a cliff.

Hardy's 1874 novel Far From the Madding Crowd tells of a beautiful woman's affect on three men. "Far From The Madding Crowd" is a quote from Grey's Elegy In A Churchyard.

Tess Of The D'urbevilles (1891) tells of the rise and fall of a poor woman when she enters polite society. Hardy outraged many by depicting the heroine as a woman, who had been seduced. However, the novelist was not concerned by the fuss commenting rather mysteriously, "Tess was a good milchcud to me."

Tess was based on Hardy’s grandmother who had an illegitimate baby at the age of 24 and was nearly hanged after being unjustly accused of stealing a copper kettle.

Jude The Obscure (1895) about the battle between the flesh and spirit. It tells the story of lowly Jude Fawley, a stonemason, whose relationships with women betray his passion for learning then his studies for the priesthood. This caused an even greater outcry and was slammed by critics for its passion and immorality. Lampooned as "Jude The Obscene" by the scandalized critics it enraged the church, who labelled the book as dirt, drivel and damnation. The Bishop of Wakefield hurled his copy onto his fire. As a result of the criticism, Hardy confined himself to his first love, poetry .

The Dynasts, an epic poetic drama about the historical events of the Napoleonic era, was published in three successive parts which appeared in 1903, 1906 and 1908. It is considered by many to be Hardy’s greatest achievement.


Thomas Hardy was physically, a small man, standing 5ft 6ins.

A retiring, sensitive and shy man, Hardy was aware of his relatively humble origins. Gloomy by nature at times he was not much liked in Dorchester during his lifetime.

Many locals accused Hardy of meanness. For instance the famous writer refused to give his barber locks of his hair, because the hairsnipper would sell them on.

Hardy's sense of humor mainly involved fooling and needling people, especially educated strangers

Whilst restoring the Church of St Jilt in St Juliot, Cornwall, Hardy fell in love with the rector's sister Emma Gifford. Their courtship inspired Hardy's third novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes.

Thomas Hardy and Emma Gifford married on September 17, 1874 at St Peter's Church, Paddington, London. The ceremony was conducted by Emma's uncle, Edwin Hamilton Gifford, Canon of Worcester Cathedral and Archdeacon of London.

Emma Gifford

The Hardys went on honeymoon to Dartington Hall, in the west country, Queen's Road, in Brighton, then sailed to Dieppe and travelled by train to Rouen and Paris.

In 1885 Hardy and Emma moved into Max Gate, a house the novelist had designed himself and his brother had built. The seven bedroomed home was built near Dorchester, two miles from his birthplace.The room in which Hardy wrote many of his novels overlooks the wild Dorset heathland.

Emma was, as Hardy was frequently made to understand, his social superior. The friction this caused, as well as their childlessness dampened the flame of their marriage. In time, Emma and Hardy spent more and more time apart and he began seeing other women such as Florence Dugdale, companion to Lady Stoker, sister-in-law of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.

In 1899 Emma became a virtual recluse and spent much of her time in attic rooms, which she asked Hardy to build for her and she called "my sweet refuge and solace."

Although Hardy had been estranged from Emma for some years, her sudden death in 1912 had a traumatic effect on him. He made a trip to Cornwall to revisit places linked with Emma and their courtship and wrote a series Poems of 1912–13, exploring his grief.

Two years later Hardy married Florence Dugdale, a Dorchester JP, who was his secretary. Thomas was 74 and Florence a feeble, slight, drab, 35-year-old brunette. Despite their age difference, she bought stability to his life.

Florence hated Max Gate but she stayed on there as a widow after his death for the rest of her life. Her only revenge was to chop down the fir trees planted lovingly too close together by Hardy, who had refused for decades to let them be pruned or 'wounded', as if he needed to surround himself physically as well as morally with a thick belt of dark growth choking out light and air.


Not content with being a poet, a novelist and an architect, Thomas Hardy was a fine folk fiddler. He was taught the violin by his father and at the age of 9 he was playing it locally.

Hardy's musical tastes extended beyond folk and took in Holst and Wagner. The Radio 4 program Thomas Hardy's iPod tells a story about Hardy discussing his fondness for Wagner's ability to conjure wind and rain in his music with the composer Grieg. "I would rather have the wind and rain myself," replied Grieg, dismissively.


A member of the Council For Justice To Animals, Hardy was against bloodsports, dog chaining and the caging of birds.

Emma once requested her husband to always refer to her very favourite cat by its full name: Kiddeley-wink-em-poops. Hardy unsurprisingly refused.

The second Mrs Hardy, Florence was tormented by the unseen presence of the first Mrs Hardy and as part of the exorcism process she killed all of Emma's cats.

When E.M. Foster visited Thomas Hardy in 1924 he was shown by the gloomy author the graves of his pets. "This is Snowbell-she was run over by a train…This is Pella, the same thing happened to her…This is Kitkin, she was cut clean in two, clean in two."
"How is it that so many of your cats have been run over, Mr Hardy? Is the railway near?"
"Not at all near, not at all near-I don't know how it is".

Hardy and Florence had a wire terrier called Wessex who was a peculiarly disagreeable dog, biting even the most eminent of visitors.

The couple also had a blue Persian cat called Cobby who was given to Hardy late in life. He vanished after Hardy died.


Hardy tried to be a village atheist, but was very sensitive to the cruelty of this world and wasn't convinced of his atheism. He was inclined to believe in a god who frustrated him as the writer couldn't decide if all the suffering he saw was because God is cruel or merely powerless to intervene. "Hardy isn't sure of what he does believe and not sure of what he doesn't." commented Thomas Huxley, the inventor of the word "agnostic" on the famous novelist's faith.

A portrait of Thomas Hardy in 1923

Hardy's wife Emma was a Christian who became increasingly shocked by the unchristian themes of many of her husband's novels.


Thomas Hardy fell ill in December 1927 after catching a chill a fortnight before Christmas. He died peacefully a month later on January 11, 1928, after dictating his final poem to his wife on his deathbed.

Hardy's last movement was an inclination of his head towards Florence who was at his bedside, as though he was endeavoring to nod to her.

His funeral, on January 16th at Westminster Abbey, was a controversial occasion: Hardy's family and friends had wished him to be buried at Stinsford, but his executor, Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, had insisted he should be placed in Poets' Corner. A compromise was reached, whereby his heart was buried at Stinsford in Emma's grave and his ashes were interred in the abbey.

Grave of Thomas Hardy's heart at Stinsford parish church

Among the pall bearers at Hardy’s funeral were J.M. Barrie, Rudyard Kipling and George Bernard Shaw.

Sources The Observer, The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes

Warren G. Harding

Warren Gamaliel Harding was born November 2, 1865, in Blooming Grove, Ohio. His parents originally lived on a farm but decided to go into medical practice as a means of providing their family with a better life. While Dr. George Tryon Harding opened his office in a small town in Ohio, his wife, Phoebe Elizabeth Harding, practiced as a midwife.

November 2 is the only day of the year that was the birthday of two US presidents: Warren Harding and James Polk (born 1795).

Divorcee Florence DeWolfe had been a student at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. After leaving her husband she supported herself and her son by giving piano lessons. One of her students was Harding's sister. Florence and Harding eventually married on July 8, 1891.

Florence Harding was deeply involved in her husband's career and Harding affectionately called his wife "the Duchess", based on a character in a serial from the New York Sun, in which the Duchess kept a close eye on the Duke and their money, running anything that required efficiency.

Warren and Florence Harding in their garden.

Harding was the owner of a newspaper called Marion Daily Star. The paper was failing when he bought it, but he and Florence turned it into one of the biggest newspapers in the country.

Harding decided to run for the Ohio State Senator in 1899. He was later elected as the lieutenant governor of Ohio. From 1915 to 1921, he served as a US Senator from Ohio.

When Harding ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1920, he was considered an also-ran with little chance of success. The leading candidates could not gain a majority to secure the nomination, and the convention deadlocked. As the ballots passed, Harding increased his support, and he was nominated on the tenth ballot.

Harding conducted a front porch campaign, remaining for the most part in Marion, Ohio, allowing the people to come to him. He was elected over Democrat James M. Cox and Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs.

Warren G. Harding delivered the first speech by a sitting U.S. President against lynching on October 21, 1921 at Birmingham, Alabama. The lynchings were illegal hangings committed primarily by white supremacists against African Americans in the Deep South and Harding spoke in support of Congressman Leonidas Dyer's federal anti-lynching bill, which passed the House of Representatives in January 1922.

Warren G. Harding, by Harris & Ewing.

Harding owned an Airedale terrier called Laddie Boy. At dinner in the White House, the president's dog was allowed to beg guests for food and play with children.

Newspapers often published mock interviews as Laddie Boy shared the wisdom of his position. When the pooch died, 19,000 newspaper boys chipped in a  penny each to make a copper statue of him, which is now in the Smithsonian museum

Harding was an enthusiastic poker player and once gambled away the entire White House china set in a game.

President Warren Harding installed the White House’s first radio on February 8, 1922.

President Harding died suddenly of heart disease whilst on a western tour. He passed away during the middle of conversation with his wife in a San Francisco hotel's presidential suite, at 7:35 p.m. on August 2, 1923.

Whilst Harding was lying ill in San Francisco, it was reported that back at the White House Laddie Boy howled for three days, knowing there was something wrong with his master.

Warren Harding was the only US President to have died in the month of August.

Sources About.comThepoodleanddogblog

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Keir Hardie

James Keir Hardie was born in Newhouse, Lanarkshire, Scotland on August 15, 1856. The illegitimate son of Mary Keir, a domestic servant, James grew up in desperate poverty.

He started working as a coal miner at the age of ten. Hardie's bosses stopped him from working down the mine when he organised a union.

Hardie became a politician, and was elected as the Member of Parliament for the East London constituency of West Ham in 1892.

At first Hardie was a Liberal, but he was interested in forming a working class party. Together with various trade unions and the Fabian Society he founded the Independent Labour Party in 1893 to represent the laboring classes in the British Parliament.

Portrait of ILP leader Keir Hardie painted at the time of the foundation of the organisation in 1893.

Seven years, after Hardie founded the Independent Labour Party, it became the modern Labour party in 1900. He was elected as the first Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1906.

Despite being brought up as an atheist, Hardie converted to Christianity through the ministry of the great American evangelist D L Moody. He joined the Evangelical Union Church and became a lay preacher. He once wrote "I claim for Socialism that it is the embodiment of Christianity in our industrial system."

Hardie met his future wife Lillias at a temperance meeting.

Keir Hardie eschewed the smart suits worn by other MPs in favor of crumpled jackets.

A photograph of Keir Hardie in 1909.

Hardie was mocked in Parliament when he wore a 'cloth cap' instead of a top hat.

Hardie died in Glasgow on September 26, 1915 of pneumonia, following a series of strokes.His family in Cunnock, Ayrshire, was so poor that a collection had to be organised to provide for his daughter, sons and widow. 

Happy Birthday

In 1893 two sisters, Mildred Hill, a music teacher at the Louisville, Kentucky Experimental Kindergarten, and Dr. Patty Hill, the principal of the same school,published, jointly, Song Stories for the Kindergarten and Primary Schools. Patty wrote the words and Mildred set them to music. Of all the songs in the collection, their favorite was "Good Morning to All.”
Good morning to you
Good morning to you,
Good morning, dear children
Good morning to all.
The Hill sisters' students enjoyed their teachers' version of "Good Morning to All" so much that they began spontaneously singing it at birthday parties, changing the lyrics to "Happy Birthday."

The Hill sister's song soon spread beyond the confines of the school. Its very simplicity and directness appealed to people of all ages. The first book including the "Happy birthday" lyric set to the tune of "Good Morning to All" was The Elementary Worker and His Work published in 1912.

Various movies and radio shows started using the song as a birthday greeting.  It was sung in the 1931 Broadway musical The Band Wagon and was part of Western Union's first "singing telegram" in 1933.

Mildred died in 1916, together with a third sister named Jessica, sought copyright for "Happy Birthday."In 1934 the sisters proved that they, indeed, owned the melody. Because the family legally owns the song, it is entitled to royalties from it, whenever it is sung for commercial purposes.

The actress Marilyn Monroe performed her infamous rendition of "Happy Birthday to You".during a televised birthday celebration for American president John F. Kennedy at New York City's Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962,

“Happy Birthday” was the first song to be performed in outer space. On March 8, 1969, the astronauts on Apollo IX sang it to celebrate the birthday of Christopher Kraft, who at that time was director of NASA space operations.

Warner Chappell, the copyright owners of the song "Happy Birthday" make up to $2 million a year in licensing deals.

“Happy Birthday" was named the highest-earning song of all time in the documentary The Richest Songs In The World, which aired on BBC Four on December 28, 2012. Runner-up was Irving Berlin's "White Christmas."

In September 2015, a federal judge ruled that the original copyright for "Happy Birthday" was only granted for specific arrangements of the music, not the song itself, so the song's lyrics are in the public domain.

To play "Happy Birthday" on your phone, press 112163 112196 11#9632 969363.

Monday, 25 May 2015


Hanukkah (sometimes transliterated Chanukkah) is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights. It starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev.

Since the Jewish calendar is lunar based, every year the first day of Hanukkah falls on a different day – usually sometime between late November and late December.

In Hebrew, the word "hanukkah" means "dedication." The name reminds us that this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 BC.

According to Jewish law, Hanukkah is one of the less important Jewish holidays. However, Hanukkah has become much more popular in modern practice because of its proximity to Christmas.




Hannibal Barca was born in 247 BC in Carthage, North Africa. His name was derived from Jehovah’s Old Testament rival god, Baal.

Hannibal's father, Hamilcar Barca, was a Carthaginian General who established a Carthaginian empire in Spain. He died in battle and Hannibal inherited from his father an aversion for Rome.

At the age of 8, Hannibal's father made him swear to always hate Rome on the family altar. A year later he was accompanying his father on the Carthaginian expedition to conquer Spain.


From his boyhood, Hannibal was trained as a soldier.

Hannibal served between 229-222 under his brother-in-law, Hasdrubal in Spain.

Following the assassination of Hasdrubal in 221,. Hannibal was elected at the age of 26 Commander-in Chief of the Carthaginian army.

The Second Punic War between Carthage and the Roman Republic broke out in 218. Hannibal marched an his army of 38,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry over the Pyrenees and the Alps into Italy.

Hannibal's army also included 38 elephants. It was not unusual to use elephants in war in Hannibal's day. The big charging jumbos frightened the enemy and their height allowed the archers to survey the whole battlefield. In addition they were relatively speedy with a maximum speed of 18 mph and only needed around five gallons of water per mile.

On Hannibal's way through the Alps, his passage was constantly blocked by immovable rocks. The Carthaginian commander resorted to pouring vinegar into the cracks of the rocks which were then heated up with blazing logs underneath. The boulders crumbled into fragments, allowing a zig zag descent.

It took Hannibal and his army 15 days to cross the Alps, battling storms, snow and barbarians.

After crossing the Alps, Hannibal's  army swept through North Italy  winning three dramatic victories—Trebia, Trasimene, and Cannae. The Carthaginian commander distinguished himself for his ability to determine his and his opponent's strengths and weaknesses, and to play the battle to his strengths and the enemy's weaknesses—and won over many allies of Rome.

The Death of Aemilius Paullus by John Trumbull, 1773

On one occasion, Hannibal fooled his opponents at night-time by tying torches to the horns of a herd of cattle. The Romans mistakenly thought it was Hannibal's army,  but the North Africans were advancing in a different direction

The Roman General Quintus Fabius used defensive delaying tactics against Hannibal, attempting to avoid pitched battles. In fact he was nicknamed "The Delayer" back home.

Hannibal occupied much of Italy for 15 years, but a Roman counter-invasion of North Africa forced him to return to Carthage, where he was decisively defeated by Scipio Africanus at the Battle of Zama on October 19, 202 BC.

The Battle of Zama by Henri-Paul Motte, 1890
Hannibal caused great distress to many in Roman society. Hannibal became such a figure of terror that whenever disaster struck, the Roman senators would exclaim "Hannibal ante portas" ("Hannibal is at the gates!") to express their fear or anxiety.

The Romans built statues of Hannibal in Rome itself to advertise their defeat of such a worthy adversary.


Hannibal was described as very dark skinned, with black, kinky hair and beard. He would have looked similar to modern Tunisians or Sicilians, who are descended from the Phoenicians.

Statue of Hannibal by Sébastien Slodtz, 1704, Louvre

On becoming Commander-in Chief of Carthage, Hannibal married a Spanish princess, Imilce.

Hannibal was virtuous all the way through North Italy but when he got to the luxurious city of Capua in Italy, where he spent inter the good life got to him and his campaign started becoming less effective.


After the Second Punic War ended in 201, Hannibal successfully ran for the office of suffete (a civil magistrate) As suffete he was able to overthrow the power of the oligarchic governing faction at Carthage and bring about certain administrative and constitutional changes.

Hannibal's reforms were unpopular with members of the Carthaginian aristocracy and in Rome, and he fled into voluntary exile in 195. During this time, he lived at the Seleucid court, where he acted as military adviser to Antiochus III in his war against Rome.

The precise year of Hannibal's death is unknown (it was approximately 182 BC). He died in the Bithynian village of Libyssa on the eastern shore of the Sea of Marmara. Hannibal took poison, which, it was said, he had long carried about with him in a ring, knowing that he was about to be handed over to Rome.

Before dying, Hannibal left behind a letter declaring, "Let us relieve the Romans from the anxiety they have so long experienced, since they think it tries their patience too much to wait for an old man's death."

Source Enyclopedia Britannica

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Tom Hanks


Tom Hanks was born on July 9, 1956 in Concord, California. His father, Amos Mefford Hanks, was an itinerant cook and his mother, Janet Marylyn (Frager), a hospital worker of Portuguese ancestry.

Tom Hanks is a distant relation of the 16th president of the United States and abolisher of slavery, Abraham Lincoln. He is Lincoln's fourth cousin four times removed.

As a youngster, Tom Hanks worked as a bellhop at the Hilton in his hometown of Oakland, California and carried the luggage of shots luminaries as Cher, Sydney Poitier and Bill Withers.

Hanks had poor grades in high school and lousy SAT scores. He ended up at Chabot, a nearby community college, because it accepted everyone and was free.


After dropping out of college, Hanks moved from California to Ohio to join the Great Lakes Theater Festival. While there, Hanks won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Tom Hanks' first movie was the 1980 slasher release He Know's You're Alone. Hanks' dinner plans are ruined when his date's head is graphically sliced off, landing in his living room's fish tank.

Hanks got his first big break starring in the TV sitcom Bosom Buddies. The comedy ran for two seasons, and, although the ratings were never strong, television critics gave the program high marks.

A guest appearance on a 1982 episode of Happy Days ("A Case of Revenge," in which he played a disgruntled former classmate of Fonzie) prompted director Ron Howard to ask Hanks to read for a supporting role in the 1984 movie Splash. Hanks ended up landing the lead and it proved to be his break-out role.

As a child, Hanks wanted to be an astronaut; he played a real-life one in Apollo 13 and co-produced the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, The actor is also on the the National Space Society Board of Directors. To honor Hanks' commitment, the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid "12818 Tomhanks" in 1996.

Tom Hanks as Commander Jim Lovell in Apollo 13

Tom Hanks gained 2st 2lb for his role in the basketball movie A League Of Their Own in 1992.  He credits a local ice cream shop for helping him expand so quickly.

To make himself look like an average, out-of-shape, middle-aged man for the scenes in the beginning of Cast Away (2000), Tom Hanks didn't exercise and allowed himself to grow pudgy. Production was then halted for a year so he could lose 50 pounds and grow out his hair for his time spent on the deserted island.

Hanks has won several awards for acting. He won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Philadelphia. He also won a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a People's Choice Award for Best Actor for his role in Forrest Gump.

At the age of 45, Hanks became the youngest person to receive the lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute in 2002.

In 1999 Hanks received the Distinguished Public Service Award aboard the USS Normandy. The highest Naval honor for a civilian, Hanks was awarded it for his contribution onscreen.


Hanks was married to actress Samantha Lewes from 1978 until they divorced in 1987, and they had son Colin, 38, and 33-year-old daughter Elizabeth together.

Tom Hanks married actress Rita Wilson, with whom he costarred in the film 1985 Volunteers, on April 30, 1988.

Hanks and Rita have two sons. The elder, Chester Marlon "Chet" Hanks, had a minor role as a student in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.Their younger son, Truman Theodore, was born in 1995.

Tom Hanks' younger brother Jim sounds so similar to Tom that he often does substitute voice-over work for computer games when Tom doesn't have the time.

Before marrying Rita Wilson, Hanks converted to the Greek Orthodox Church, the religion of Wilson and her family.

During an interview on October 7, 2013, on The Late Show with David Letterman, Hanks announced that he has Type 2 diabetes.

Hanks has characterized himself as being a "Bible-toting evangelical" for several years as a teenager. He remains a church-goer but now prefers to "ponder the mystery of it all."

Tom Hanks checks into hotels using the name of Scottish music hall singer Harry Lauder as an alias.

Tom Hanks collects 1940s typewriters and now has over 200. He keeps one by the telephone to jot off notes to friends.



"Hangover" was a common term in the 19th century meaning "unfinished business". Around the early 20th century, the common meaning shifted slightly to mean as it does today.

In ancient Assyria, people consumed ground up bird's beaks mixed with highly pungent tree sap to cure hangovers.

After a feast many Romans would sleep on costly saffron-filled pillows in the belief that they would avoid a hangover.

In Mongolia, a traditional hangover cure was to eat a pickled sheep's eye in a glass of tomato juice.

In 1996, a book about hangovers was published under the title The Wrath Of Grapes.

The world's longest recorded hangover lasted four weeks in 2007. An unnamed Scotsman suffered it after drinking 60 pints - roughly 35 litres - of beer following a domestic crisis.

The medical term for a hangover is veisalgia. It comes from the Greek for pain, 'algia', and Norwegian, 'kveis,' for uneasiness.

To prepare for a night of heavy drinking, people in Puerto Rico rub a slice of lemon or lime on their armpits to avoid a hangover.

Sprite can break down acetaldehyde, a metabolite of ethanol, making it an effective hangover-curing drink.

Hangovers cost the U.S. economy more than $220 billion in lost productivity each year.

Friday, 22 May 2015


Between 1196 and 1783 at Tyburn tree near London’s present-day Marble Arch, 40,000 - 60,000 people were hanged, often in batches. Stands were built for the crowds who came to watch. John Austin, a highwayman, was the last person to be publicly hanged at Tyburn gallows on November 3, 1783.

"The Manner of Execution at Tyburn", 17th century

In 1724 Margaret Dickson was hanged for murdering her illegitimate baby shortly after birth. She was later found still alive and was allowed to go free because under Scots Law her punishment had been carried out. Only later were the words "until dead" added to the sentence of hanging.

Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers, was the last peer to be hanged on May 5, 1760, after being convicted of murdering his steward, John Johnson. He killed his servant after being given bad oysters.

Ferrers was the first felon to be killed by the ‘hangman’s drop’ technique of execution — where the condemned dies instantly from a broken neck rather than being slowly throttled.

One of the earliest excursions organised on Britain's railway system was to see a public hanging at Bodmin jail.

The Last Public Hanging in the U.S.took place on August 14, 1936 in Owensboro, Kentucky when Rainey Bethea was executed. Bethea was convicted of robbing, raping and strangling to death a wealthy white woman, 70-year-old Elza Edwards. Approximately 20,000 people gathered around the gallows to witness the execution.  Mistakes in performing the hanging and the surrounding media circus contributed to the end of public executions in the United States.

Wilhelm Keitel was a German field marshal who served as chief of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, the OKW) for most of World War II. The Americans botched the hanging of Keital on October 16, 1946. The trapdoor was too small and he smashed his head going down, and the force didn't break his neck so it took a full 24 minutes for him to suffocate.

Wilhelm Keitel's detention report from June 1945

Hangings took place in public in Britain until 1868 and thereafter within prison walls, until the abolition of capital punishment in 1965.

Albert Pierrepoint  (March 30, 1905 –  July 10, 1992) was the most prolific UK hangman of the 20th century (435 executions) and became a celebrity. Yet he concluded in his memoirs that hanging was "not a deterrent."

Albert Pierrepoint Wikipedia Commons

Names that Pierrepoint executed included  William Joyce ("Lord Haw-Haw") and more than 200 Nazi war criminals. Only on one occasion did he actually know the condemned — murderer James Corbitt, who he hanged on November 28, 1950; Corbitt was a regular in his pub, Help The Poor Struggler, and had sung "Danny Boy" as a duet with Pierrepoint on the night he murdered his girlfriend in a fit of jealousy because she would not give up a second boyfriend.

A gallows for hangings was kept in working order at London's Wandsworth Prison after 1965 until the death penalty was totally abolished in 1998.

Grover Cleveland was the only American president in history to hold the job of a hangman. He was once the sheriff of Erie County, New York, and twice had to spring the trap at a hanging.

Australian Ronald Ryan was found guilty of shooting and killing prison officer George Hodson during an escape from Pentridge Prison, Victoria. He was executed by hanging in Melbourne on February 3, 1967.

Ryan's hanging was met with some of the largest public protests in Australian and led to the end of capital punishment. No-one was executed in Australia after Ryan.

The phrase 'Pulling My Leg' refers to anyone speeding up the demise of the condemned at the gallows by doing just that.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

George Frideric Handel


George Frideric Handel was born on February 23, 1685 in Halle, Duchy of Magdeburg, in modern day Germany to Georg Händel and Dorothea Taust.

Händel-Haus (2009), birthplace of George Frideric Handel

His father, 63 when George Frideric was born, was an eminent barber-surgeon who worked for the Duke of Saxony. He died when George Frideric was 11.

Handel's baptismal registration (Marienbibliothek in Halle)

His father originally intended George Frideric for the study of the Civil Law and strictly forbade him to meddle with any musical instrument. However,  he practiced music clandestinely, by means of a little clavichord privately conveyed to a room at the top of the house. By the age of seven, George Frideric was a skillful performer on the harpsichord and pipe organ.

During a trip to Weissenfels young George Frideric was lifted onto an organ's stool, where he surprised everyone with his playing. This performance helped convince his father to allow him to take lessons in musical composition and keyboard technique from Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, the organist of Halle's Marienkirche. It was the only formal musical instruction he would ever have.

In 1702, following his late father's wishes, Handel started studying law at the University of Halle.  He only lasted a year before abandoning his studies to become a violinist.


Handel accepted a position in 1703 as violinist and harpsichordist in the orchestra of the Hamburg Oper am Gänsemarkt. Handel learned the rudiments of opera composition while employed there and was able to get Almira and a second opera, Nero, performed there during the temporary absence of the theatre's director, Reinhard Keiser. Almira was successful, Nero less so.

Between 1706-10  Handel traveled around Italy and visited Rome, Venice, Naples and Florence and met many of the greatest Italian composers of the day.

In his earlier years Handel's music was thought to be weak in melody though strong in harmony and interplay of musical strands. His four years in Italy remedied that failing.

Handel first achieved fame in 1709 with his opera Agrippina, which ran for 27 nights successively. The audience, thunderstruck with the grandeur and sublimity of his style, applauded for Il caro Sassone ("the dear Saxon"—referring to Handel's German origins).

In 1710, Handel became Musical Director  to the Elector of Hanover, the future King George I. of England

George Frideric Handel's Rinaldo, the first Italian language opera written specifically for the London stage, premiered on February 24, 1711 at the Queen's Theatre in London's Haymarket. It was a great success with the public, despite negative reactions from literary critics hostile to the trend towards Italian entertainment in English theatres.

In 1712, George, Elector of Hanover, gave  Handel, permission to make a visit to London. There he was received to great acclaim and Handel decided to settle permanently in England. Unfortunately this meant ratting on his contract with George, much to his ex employer's annoyance..

Handel was awarded a yearly income of £200 from Queen Anne after composing for her the Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate, first performed in 1713.

When George was crowned King of England in 1714, great embarrassment ensued for Handel. The new English monarch noting the public acclaim and recognizing his talent, forgave his fellow German for dishonoring his contract, even doubling his pension.

Water Music is a collection of orchestral movements, often considered as three suites, composed by Handel for a boating party for King George I. It premiered in the summer on July 17, 1717 when the king requested a concert on the River Thames. The concert was performed by 50 musicians playing close to the royal barge from which the George I listened with some close friends.

Georg Frideric Handel (left) and King George I on the Thames River, 17 July 1717. Painting by Edouard Hamman 

The king was said to have loved Handel's Water Music so much that he ordered the exhausted musicians to play the suites twice more, before and after supper.

In 1720 Handel was appointed as Master of the orchestra for the Royal Acadamy of Music. He was responsible not only for engaging soloists but also for adapting operas from abroad and for providing possible libretti for his own use,

By the late 1720s he was facing financial ruin when  the Royal Acadamy of Music went bankrupt. Its failure was mainly due to the Prince Of Wales setting up a rival company and taking away Handel's singers and royal patronage.

Whilst working virtually non-stop for 21 days on The Messiah, Handel had no time to eat and he survived almost totally on coffee. He completed his oratorio on September 14, 1742.

The Messiah was first performed at Fishamble Street, Dublin on April 13, 1742, as part of a charity series of concerts that Handel was invited to give by the Lord Lieutenant.

The final bars of the "Hallelujah" chorus, from Handel's manuscript

The Messiah was repeatedly revised by Handel, reaching its most familiar version in the performance to benefit the Foundling Hospital in 1754.

Handel's Messiah was not amongst Queen Victoria's favourite works, she thought it "heavy and tiresome"

Judas Maccabaeus was an oratorio in three acts composed in 1746 by Handel in tribute to Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland's defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden. In the Victorian age this work was as popular as The Messiah.

Music For The Royal Fireworks was written by Handel in 1749 to celebrate the peace of Aix-La-Chapelle, the treaty ending the war of the Austrian succession. Over 12,000 attended its first performance on April 27, 1749 in London's Green Park and London Bridge was jammed solidly for three hours.

The premiere of Music For The Royal Fireworks did not go well. The set was burnt by fireworks and in the ensuing panic, two people died.

Handel's Fireworks Music, A hand-colored etching.

Handel could be crusty and blunt and liable to fly off the handle. For instance when the famous soprano Francesca Cuzzoni refused to sing the song Handel had written for her London debut, he picked her up bodily and threatened to throw her out of the nearby window unless she did as she was told. Cuzzoni sang the song.

In his last years, by now blind, Handel concentrated on organ playing and conducting, with a bit of composing thrown in.


Never married, Handel was a workaholic bachelor who was married to his music.

George Frideric Handel in 1733, by Balthasar Denner (1685–1749)

Apart from music Handel derived much of his enjoyment from his art collection which included works by Rembrandt.

Handel loved his food especially generous helpings of sausages. Once he ordered dinner for two in the local inn. When the food was bought to him, the landlord saw only Handel and commented that he had been led to understand Handel was expecting company. "I am the company" the composer told him, sitting down to work his way through both dinners.

In 1720 Handel moved into 57 Lower Brook Street, Mayfair (now 25 Brook Street and Handel Museum). Handel initially rented the property until he became a British citizen. The composer threw old tickets for concerts from a kiosk there.

In 1726 Handel decided to make London his home permanently, and became a British citizen. The naturalisation of Handel as a British citizen came via an Act of Parliament which required him to enter into communion with the Church of England.

In the 1960s the rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix lived next door for a spell at 23 Brook Street.

Handel was born in the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and spent his early years in the same area of Germany but they never met.

During a performance of his opera Cleopatra in 1704, Johann Mattheson allowed this friend Handel to take over as conductor for a while. Later in the performance Mattheson wished to resume conducting, but Handel refused to leave the podium. Mattheson immediately challenged Handel to a duel. The performance ceased, and the audience gathered in the street in front of the Hamburg opera house to watch the fight. Mattheson was a skilled swordsman, while Handel was a rank amateur. However, Handel was dressed in a heavy coat featuring large wooden buttons. The point of Mattheson's sword lodged firmly in one of these buttons and remained there until friends separated the composers and sent them on their way.  The pair were afterwards reconciled and remained in correspondence for life.


By the time he had reached his early 40s Handel was suffering great pain from rheumatism. In April 1737, at age 52, Handel suffered a stroke which disabled the use of four fingers on his right hand, preventing him from performing. He returned to Aix-la-Chapelle to take a cure. Seven years later the Prime Minister Walpole announced to the nation that Handel was unable to compose as he had the palsy. However he recovered and went onto compose works such as Judas Maccabaeus.

George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner

By 1753 Handel had gone blind but he continued to compose with the help of his friend John Christopher Smith.

On April 11 1759 Handel collapsed during a performance of The Messiah and died three days later. Some 3,000 people were present at the funeral service at Westminster Abbey. He was buried at Poets corner under a monument that reads: "George Frederic Handel".

Handel died worth £20,000, and left legacies with his charities to nearly £6000.

Handel was one of the first composers to have a biography written of him (1760) and to have a collected edition of his music published (180 parts, 1787-1790)

George Handel was one of history's most prolific composers with 303 hours of music to his name, He is thought to have composed more notes of music than any other composer.

Sources The Book Of Lists 3 by Amy Wallace,, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce