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Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Royalty, War on Thursday, 23 May 2013
This edited article about the Spanish Armada originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 265 published on 11 February 1967.
Queen Elizabeth giving her famous speech at Tilbury
Who said “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm”?
The answer is Queen Elizabeth I at Tilbury on 9th August, 1588.
The Spanish Armada sailed to attack England in July, 1588. It consisted of 129 ships manned by 8,000 sailors and carrying about 20,000 soldiers. Its first task was to embark another army, led by the Duke of Parma in the Spanish Netherlands, and add them to the invasion force.
But, as the Armada sailed up the Channel, it was under steady attack from the smaller but more mobile and efficient English fleet under Howard and Drake, and it took refuge off Calais. Fireships were then sent among the Spanish ships, causing havoc, and, when the Armada set sail again, the English swept down on them and put them to flight. A few remnants of the Armada managed to reach home after a storm-tossed voyage round the north of Scotland and Ireland, where many of them were wrecked. The threat of invasion had ended.
Though by early August England was safe, it did not seem so to those who were living through those dramatic days. No one realised that Parma had by now no hope of invasion.
In this time of crisis, Queen Elizabeth I came into her own. All thoughts of peace and caution were banished – the people were united behind her. An army was formed to guard her in London, and another at Tilbury under the Earl of Leicester was ready to resist any invader.
Elizabeth, despite fears for her safety, rode to Tilbury on 8th August. ‘Full of princely resolution and more than feminine courage . . . she passed like some Amazonian empress through all her army.’ The men fell on their knees and she cried: “Lord bless you all!” The next day, splendidly mounted, she watched a mock-battle, reviewed her troops and then made one of the greatest speeches ever uttered by an English sovereign – the quotation at the head of this page is taken from it.
Soon afterwards the people began to realise how complete England’s victory over Spain had been and, while all Spain went into mourning, England rejoiced, thanked God – and praised her sailors, their ships and the Queen.
Posted in America, Historical articles, History, Religion, Ships on Thursday, 23 May 2013
This edited article about the Mayflower originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 264 published on 4 February 1967.
One of the most historic of all sea voyages was made in the year 1620, in the reign of King James the First. King James was an intolerant ruler who wished to impose his views on many things, including religion, on his subjects, declaring that any of them who would not worship as he wanted them to would be driven out of the country.
A group of God-fearing people who refused to be dictated to in the matter of their beliefs, took the king at his word. They had already left England and settled in Holland, and in 1620 some of these exiles set out in a little ship, the Speedwell, to cross the Atlantic and make a home in the New World.
The Speedwell called at Southampton, and when she sailed from there she was accompanied by another ship, the Mayflower, which had another band of ‘pilgrims’ on board. The two vessels sailed bravely down the English Channel, but by the time they reached Plymouth, the Speedwell was leaking so badly that she could go no farther. Most of her passengers were transferred to the Mayflower, which sailed on across the Atlantic, braving great storms. The emigrants who landed from her and established a settlement on the American coast became the founders of the United States of America.
Posted in Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Sea on Thursday, 23 May 2013
This edited article about Captain Webb originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 264 published on 4 February 1967.
Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel in August 1875 by John Keay
The vicious seas slammed into the flank of the little sailing boat, and spray covered the men peering anxiously to starboard in search of a tiny black dot in the water.
It was an important dot – a human being, struggling to be the first man ever to swim across the English Channel.
Nowadays the Channel is swum every year, with a fleet of escort boats with strong engines which can bring them alongside in a matter of seconds if a swimmer gets into trouble. But the only escort for Captain Matthew Webb on 24th August, 1875, was one cockleshell of a boat, which was in almost as much danger from the rough seas as Webb himself! Even the men aboard the boat thought Webb was a madman. They were there because they had been paid by a London newspaper, but they fully expected to return to Dover carrying the body of a drowned man.
Webb had begun with a spectacular dive from Dover Pier. He was a short, strongly-built man, already the holder of a Royal Humane Society Medal for trying to rescue a sailor who had fallen from a ship’s rigging in the Atlantic. Later, as a test before swimming the Channel, he had outswam a boat full of oarsmen on the Thames.
Now, with his body smeared with grease as a protection against the cold, he was fighting his way across against weather which grew steadily worse with every hour that passed.
He swam breast-stroke, as most swimmers did in those days. It took him more than three hours to cover the first four and a half miles, but even so he was in good spirits. A cup of beer was handed down to him, also beef tea, and a spoonful of cod liver oil.
He grinned up at the men in the boat, handed his cup back to them, and kept on.
Then, after eight hours, he let out a yell of agony.
“Cramp!” exclaimed one of the men in the boat. “Quick! Get alongside or he may go under!”
But when they reached Webb, it was not cramp that was causing the trouble. He had been stung by a jellyfish on his shoulder, and his arm was so numb that he was keeping himself afloat by treading water.
The men in the boat urged him to come aboard, to give up and try again another day. But Webb simply asked for brandy, and then swam on.
In time the pain in his shoulder eased. It was now the middle of the night. Instinctively Webb took advantage of the tide, and changed course. But he was weak now. Aboard the boat, a diver prepared for the possibility of having to rescue Webb if he lost consciousness and went under.
But somehow Webb kept going, even when at dawn the wind increased, the seas broke over him, and the boat was swept so far away from him that if he had given up there would have been little hope of rescuing him.
What saved him was the sudden arrival of a rowing boat from France, which took station on his weather side, to break the force of the seas.
With the French coast only two hundred and fifty yards away, Webb was swimming so slowly, with such feeble strokes, that even the most optimistic felt he could never make it. The boatmen flung a sounding line, and shouted encouragement to Webb – that in a few moments he would be able to touch bottom and walk the rest of the way. He waved back, felt for the beach with his feet, stumbled, and went under. Slowly, tottering, he came up again and staggered the last few yards to dry land.
A cheering crowd carried the swimmer to an hotel.
Thus Captain Webb founded a new sport. But there must be many swimmers, fighting exhaustion and cramp in the bitter cold of the Channel year after year, who wish he hadn’t!
Posted in Disasters, News on Thursday, 23 May 2013
This edited article about disaster and survival originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 264 published on 4 February 1967.
The scouting party climbing in the Peak District by Bill Lacey
Fourteen-year-old Boy Scout Michael Parsons strode along as fast as he dared, picking his way among the tilting, ice-covered rocks that lay in his path. Ahead of him were his scoutmaster and another boy. Michael was intent to get to the head of the party of ten and be one of the first home from the tiring expedition which had started off so cheerfully that morning and was now faced with disaster.
Already night was falling and the mist had brought flurries of sleet.
Michael came to a stretch of level ground which looked safe . . . Suddenly, he felt himself slipping, his boots failing to grasp the slippery rocks.
Desperately, he tried to find something for his hands to clutch, but he merely succeeded in grasping small stones which showered down on him like stinging hail.
He cried out and his head cracked against a boulder. Then there was only blackness . . .
There are many beautiful spots suitable for hiking in the Peak District National Park which had been the destination of the Scout party which had set out that morning of 17th February, 1957, from the village of Hayfield, in Derbyshire.
But to the north of it lay a dangerous oasis – high, stark moorland dominated by the menacing Dark Peak.
Seen from far off, the moorland looked inviting. It was often bathed in sunshine – but sunshine that would suddenly, treacherously change into a blinding, all-enveloping mist. It was precisely these conditions which the ten Scouts experienced.
For hours they had wandered about in circles, desperately trying to pierce the blanket of sickly yellow, hoping for a glimpse of a familiar landmark. They had to guess at their route – and they guessed wrongly . . . Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Bible, Missionaries, Religion, Saints on Thursday, 23 May 2013
This edited article about the Bible originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 264 published on 4 February 1967.
St Paul dreamed he saw a young Macedonian who asked him to travel to his country, by Clive Uptton
The earliest of the many churches founded by St. Paul were in the land which is today called Turkey. Paul worked and prayed hard for the little groups of Christians whom he had gathered in the cities of that land. He also re-visited them from time to time.
During his second great missionary journey there, Paul felt sure God was calling him to go even further afield, and to bring the Christian message to the shores of Europe.
Paul’s latest travels had taken him to the most westerly shores of Asia Minor, from which the sailing ships of those days crossed regularly to the shores of eastern Europe. On the waterfront at Troas (the ancient city of Troy) he and his new helpers, Silas and Timothy, must have seen many sailors and traders from ports on the Greek coast.
Perhaps these sailors caused the strange dream (Acts 16, Verse 9) which came to Paul one night, and turned his thoughts towards new lands.
In that dream Paul saw a man from a part of Greece called Macedonia. The man was pleading with him, and saying “come over into Macedonia and help us”. When he woke up, Paul had no doubt that the dream was a call from God to cross the seas once more, so he lost no time in getting a passage for his friends and himself in one of the ships which made the 200-mile trip to the Greek port of Neapolis, calling at the island of Samothrace on the way.
The voyage was uneventful, unlike others that Paul had to make (later on he was to be shipwrecked three times!). But we can guess how impatiently he looked out for his first glimpse of the European coast.
After landing, he and his companions made for the city of Philippi, where they were befriended by a lady called Lydia, who sold the purple cloth for which the district was famous. She and the other members of her family became Christians, and insisted on providing board and lodging for the visitors.
Things went well at first, but became difficult when Paul got mixed up in local affairs, and a poor weak-minded slave girl involved him in trouble with the authorities. The girl had been used by her owners as a fortune-teller. When Paul’s healing touch restored her wandering mind, she was no longer able to describe her strange fancies. Her owners complained to the magistrates, and as a result Paul and his companions were publicly beaten and hauled off to prison.
That night an earthquake shook the prison, and the prisoners could have run away (Acts 16, Verse 26). Instead, they stayed behind with the terrified jailer, who was so impressed by the way they behaved, as well as by their preaching, that he, too, became a Christian believer, as did all his family.
Next day, the friends were released from prison and allowed to continue their journey into Greece, Paul preaching in Athens, and founding the church in Corinth, to which he later wrote some of his famous letters.
Posted in Ancient History, Bravery, Historical articles, History, War on Thursday, 23 May 2013
This edited article about Regulus originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 264 published on 4 February 1967.
Rome and Carthage had been locked for nine years in a struggle for the dominance of the Mediterranean. Carthage had been founded about 100 years before Rome by the Phoenicians.
The Carthaginians controlled much of the Mediterranean and made alliances with the enemies of Rome.
Conflict between these two great powers arose in Sicily when one of the cities, menaced by the Carthaginians, appealed to Rome. The Romans agreed to help.
Three long and bloody wars lay between Roman success in Sicily and the raising of their standards over the smoking ruins of Carthage.
Characteristically, the Romans decided to carry the war into enemy territory after expelling them from Sicily. The Romans never made particularly good seamen but they learnt enough to defeat the Carthaginians on their own element and so opened the sea-road to Africa.
In 256 B.C. a great Roman army was landed upon the African coast commanded by two consuls, Manlius and Regulus. Their army overran the country in a swift and efficient campaign. The very ease of their success led to their undoing. Elections were pending in Rome and Manlius, together with a large part of the army, was recalled. Regulus continued the war with success and the enemy sued for peace. But the consul met their proposals with terms so harsh that, in despair, the Carthaginians fought on. They were fortunate in obtaining the help of a Spartan mercenary army and with these skilled soldiers, they turned the tables on Regulus. In a fierce battle the Roman force was overwhelmed and the consul taken prisoner. Only a handful of men escaped to the waiting Roman fleet, and of these many were lost in a storm that shattered the fleet at sea. A few ragged survivors brought back the news which caused such dismay in Rome.
The invincible legions had been defeated in a land battle. It needed little to persuade the Romans to forget the lure of empire, to concentrate on home affairs and to remain a purely Italian power.
It was at this crucial moment the consul Regulus returned. He had been sent as a messenger by Carthage to carry an offer of peace to Rome. Instead he urged his fellow-citizens to continue the war in the knowledge that Rome must ultimately triumph. Then, because he had given his word to do so, he returned to Carthage to torture, as it was said, and to death.
Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Literature on Thursday, 23 May 2013
This edited article about Mary Shelley originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 264 published on 4 February 1967.
The girl watched, horror-struck, as the huge shape began to rise slowly. It was vaguely human in form, but something told her that it was a monster – a monster artificially created by a brilliant doctor. Now the creature stood towering before her, then slowly it began to shuffle forward. The girl gave a scream of fear . . . and woke up.
That nightmare of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, wife of the famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, started one of the most well-known literary characters on his spine-chilling career. Today, 150 years after the dream, few people have not heard of Doctor Frankenstein and his monster.
Mary Shelley was born on 30th August, 1797. Soon after her marriage, she went with her husband to live on the shores of Lake Geneva, where their neighbour was also a poet, the great Lord Byron. On one occasion when the Shelleys, Byron and various friends were together, someone suggested that they should see who could write the best horror story. Mary laughed and shook her head. At 19 she felt she could not compete in such illustrious company. But that night, after her frightening dream, she changed her mind. She wrote furiously while the effect of the dream still gripped her.
Two years later, in 1818, her book Frankenstein was published. Its effect on the reading public was sensational and the young wife of the poet was famous overnight.
During the rest of her life, until her death on 1st February, 1851. Mary continued to write books, but none ever achieved the same fame as the one inspired by her horrifying nightmare.
Posted in Boats, Bravery, Disasters, Famous Inventors, Historical articles, History, Ships on Thursday, 23 May 2013
This edited article about Henry Greathead originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 264 published on 4 February 1967.
Henry Greathead and the Greathead Lifeboat
A cheer left the throats of hundreds of onlookers as a wave lifted the boat from its special carriage, and the ten oarsmen pulled with a will. Henry Greathead felt a glow of pride as he steered the boat he had built into the choppy seas off South Shields that bleak day on 30th January, 1790. Christened the Original, it was the world’s first specially designed lifeboat.
Born on 27th January, 1757, Henry Greathead grew up to become a ship’s carpenter. He learned his craft on various voyages in sailing ships, and in 1785 he set up business in South Shields as a boat-builder. He became fascinated by the idea of building an unsinkable boat to save life at sea.
In 1789 the ship, Adventure, of Newcastle, was lost on the Herd Sands outside South Shields. The entire crew was drowned in view of thousands of spectators who lined the shore only 300 yards away. The sea was too rough for any normal boat to reach the unfortunate sailors. As a result of this disaster a prize was offered for the design of a boat which might have saved the lives of the Adventure’s crew The winning model was made by a schoolteacher called William Wouldhave. Henry Greathead was entrusted to make the clay prototype into the actual boat, and was encouraged to make a number of his own modifications.
The result was a boat 30 feet long, 10 feet wide and 3 feet 4 inches deep. It was lined with 7 cwts. of cork inside and out and it could carry 20 people. This boat, so aptly named the Original, was to see service for the next 40 years during which it saved many lives.
Henry Greathead continued the work of designing and building lifeboats, improving each as he gained experience. Fourteen years after the launching of the Original he had completed 31 more craft, eight of which were for service abroad.
Modern lifeboats are ingenious pieces of design and engineering, equipped with the latest electronic devices. They are a far cry from the wood and cork boats of Henry Greathead, powered only by the muscles of their brave crews.
When Henry Greathead died in 1816 he had the satisfaction of knowing that hundreds of sailors owed their lives to his boats.
Posted in Boats, Historical articles, Sea, Ships, Travel on Thursday, 23 May 2013
This edited article about sailing originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 264 published on 4 February 1967.
Arab "Dhows" on the Red Sea
I stepped back in history a thousand years or more, once, and sailed in Eastern seas much as the ancients did. The year was 1938-39. Like many other seafarers, I had often noticed swift Arab dhows in Red Sea ports such as Djibouti, Jiddah, Port Sudan, and in Aden. By mid-1938, when sailing-ships were becoming very scarce for Europeans to sail in, I decided to go to Arabia and sail with these dhows. I could find no record that any European had bothered to learn much about them since the days of Marco Polo.
I found the native port of Ma’alla, by the Crater in Aden, a fascinating place. Ma’alla beach had probably changed little since the Queen of Sheba passed by. It was packed with swift-lined, graceful little sailing-ships, distinctive with their raking masts, colourful built-up sterns (though some were ‘double-enders’ i.e., pointed each end), complete lack of modern improvements, and sturdy dark crews. Europeans called all these ships ‘dhows’ and left them alone.
On the smelly beach were larger vessels, too, big ships of 200 and 300 tons. These, I was told, traded to India and down the coast of East Africa. Some carried pilgrims into the Red Sea, to land at Jiddah for the Moslem pilgrimage to Mecca. One or two were Indian. Most carried flags with strange devices, red ensigns decorated with some passage in Arabic from the Koran, or crossed swords, or simply Arabic words for EL-KUWAIT.
There were over 2,000 such dhows around the coasts of Arabia then, and several hundred of them lay on, at, or off Ma’alla. Others were being built or repaired there by craftsmen who could have shared Christ’s workshop and His tools. At little stone quays or at anchorages, a profusion of dhows discharged dates in heavy big packages, or loaded salt in bulk, and cotton-stuffs in bolts, and all manner of trade-goods from the free port of Aden, for distribution into the nearer East African, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea ports.
All this trade and highly colourful coming and going went on regardless of the great ships of Europe lying off Steamer Point, hurriedly taking in bunkers for the continuance of their voyages to India, Australia and the Far East. The two worlds, though adjacent, were utterly separate. Laden dhows slipped silently seawards past big liners, their graceful lateen sails spread to the monsoon wind, their commerce, their outlook, their seamanship, their whole concept of living, out of date by at least a thousand years. The world had passed them by. Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Education, Historical articles, History, London, Music on Thursday, 23 May 2013
This edited article about Muzio Clementi originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 264 published on 4 February 1967.
Most infant prodigies fade into obscurity while they are still very young. Not so Muzio Clementi, the pianist and composer, who lived for a time at No. 128, Kensington Church Street.
Clementi was born in Italy, the son of a musically-inclined silversmith. His father noticed the child’s unusual sensitivity to music and he persuaded a choirmaster in Rome to develop the boy’s talent.
Muzio Clementi was an apt pupil.
By the time he was 12, he had composed an oratorio – a complicated piece of music scored for voices, solo and chorus, backed by an orchestra. His confidence grew with his ability and he eagerly tackled much more difficult musical themes, so that at 14 he had already achieved several full-scale works, the themes properly counterpointed with subsidiary melodies. One of these – a mass – was performed in Rome and was accounted one of the musical sensations of the day.
Clementi’s fame – and his music – reached the ears of Peter Beckford, an English MP who was visiting Rome at the time. Impressed by the young Italian boy’s talent, Beckford persuaded the father to send him to England for further training under his care.
So Clementi came to live at a Wiltshire country house, where he studied hard at languages and science as well as music. He spent many hours exploring the possibilities of the new instrument that was replacing the harpsichord – the piano. In 1773, he was sent to London for his first public concert and from then on his success was immediate and lasting.
By 1777, he was conductor at the Italian Opera in London, and in 1780 he set off on a European tour, playing in Paris, Strasbourg, Munich and Vienna. He met Haydn, and played a musical ‘competition’ against Mozart before Emperor Joseph II of Austria; the contest was declared drawn. Clementi admired Mozart’s touch, and his own style subsequently changed, although he denied that Mozart’s influence had any bearing on this.
From 1782, Clementi was one of London’s most fashionable music teachers, and he later went into business as a piano-maker and music publisher. As he grew older, he devoted more time to composition, producing over a hundred sonatas and several symphonies, since lost. He died in 1832 and was given a public burial at Westminster Abbey.
Modern piano-playing techniques are still based on those developed by Muzio Clementi.