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Archive for December, 2011

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The last kingdom-paradise in the South Seas: Tonga

Posted in Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Royalty on Friday, 30 December 2011

This edited article about Tonga originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 887 published on 20 January 1979.

Queen Salote, picture, image, illustration

Queen Salote of Tonga by James E McConnell

The rain started just as Queen Elizabeth’s coronation cavalcade set off from Westminster Abbey for her triumphal return to Buckingham Palace as Britain’s newly crowned monarch. On that grey June day in 1953 the crowds had been waiting to acclaim her for long hours. Many had camped out on the pavements overnight. Then, in the early afternoon, the cold rain swept down, making the ceremonial horses prance and buck.

As the Queen, waving and smiling from her golden coach, captured the heart of London, so did another queen riding in an open carriage behind her, ignoring the rain and acknowledging the special cheers from the crowds along the royal route.

Queen Salote of Tonga, a jolly, ample figure in a silver and white gown, admired the stoic loyalty of the coronation throngs so much that she decided to leave her carriage covers down and face the torrent with them. The people loved her for that unselfish gesture. She returned their roars of welcome with laughter and plump waving hands. By the time it was all over, she had won an enduring place in the affections of all who had seen her.

For most people, Tonga was an unknown land, but after the coronation everyone in Britain knew where it was: a collection of islands on the other side of the world close to the International Date-line.

Queen Salote died in 1965 after reigning for 47 years. Her son, King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, now rules over the 169 islands and islets – mostly uninhabited.

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Ivan the Great freed Russia; Ivan the Terrible terrorised her

Posted in Historical articles, History, Royalty, Sinners on Friday, 30 December 2011

This edited article about Russia originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 887 published on 20 January 1979.

Ivan the Great, picture, image, illustration

Ivan the Great in a sleigh, a mode of transport he used on many expeditions to the north which helped to extend his kingdom, by Richard Hook

The tide of invasion turned. Those fierce, slant-eyed men from the far east, the Mongols, sometimes so aptly called the “Golden Horde”, loaded their wagons, mounted their horses, and went back by the way they had come many years before.

They left Russia united under the reigning Prince of Moscow. Moscow was the capital of the country, just as it is today.

Later, after the capture of the great Christian city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) by the “infidel” Turks in AD 1453, Moscow also became the centre of the Christian faith in Russia.

The Russia of those days was still a tiny country compared with the gigantic Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) of today. In fact it was not much bigger than the British Isles.

Then there came to power a remarkable man who was to extend Russia’s dominions very considerably. He was Ivan III, and he reigned for 43 years, from 1462 to 1505.

Because of his genius for both military enterprise and peaceful administration, he is known as Ivan the Great.

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‘The Jazz Singer’ and the advent of the Talkies

Posted in Cinema, Historical articles, History, Music, Technology on Friday, 30 December 2011

This edited article about the cinema originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 887 published on 20 January 1979.

Al Jolson, picture, image, illustration

Al Jolson, star of The Jazz Singer

They were nearly broke. In fact, the Warner Brothers, who made silent films in America, had been surviving for some years simply because of their canine star, Rin Tin Tin. His films had paid the studio’s rent and much more besides. But now? Things looked bleak.

The brothers half-hoped that sound films might save them, but no-one else thought much of the idea. True, experiments in adding sound to films had begun in 1900. By 1913, a Frenchman, Eugene Lauste, working in London, had actually made a sound-on-film projector and a reproducing apparatus. But the First World War stopped this being developed. Later efforts after the war suffered from one vital flaw: the sound was very bad.

Harry, Sam and Jack Warner made a one-reel film using their Vitaphone process, a sound-on-disc system, which had the very popular entertainer, Al Jolson, sitting in a cotton plantation singing Southern songs; he also sang “April Showers”. The film did not worry the other Hollywood movie-makers, because they could not see it as a rival to their films.

They suggested that the film, and others like it, would be just right for showgrounds. The Warners were discouraged.

A rising young executive, Darryl F. Zanuck, had other ideas and managed to persuade them to make a full-length feature film with sound. Why not film a current New York hit, The Jazz Singer? Drowning men will clutch at anything. The brothers decided to go ahead and make the film.

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An obsolete flying Princess – the Saunders-Roe sea-worthy plane

Posted in Aviation, Historical articles, Ships, Transport, Travel on Friday, 30 December 2011

This edited article about aviation originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 887 published on 20 January 1979.

Saunders-Roe Princess, picture, image, illustration

The Saunders-Roe SR/45 Princess (bottom) by Wilf Hardy

With a hull like a boat’s, the flying ‘Princess’ was equally at home in the air and on the water

Luxury travel from Britain to America was the target of the designers of the Saunders-Roe SR/45 Princess flying boat, shown here. It was built just after the Second World War. Like all flying boats, it differed from orthodox aircraft by having a hull shaped like that of a boat. This took the place of a normal plane’s fuselage and enabled it to land or take-off from the sea.

However, the Princess failed because its ten engines were underpowered. It was flown under test in 1952. But as the airlines showed no interest in adding it to their fleets, the government withdrew its support after it had flown for only 100 hours.

The Princess was, for its time, a very large plane, being designed to carry 220 passengers on two decks. It had a range of 7,000 kilometres. This plane went for scrap in 1967, and since then no flying boats have been built in Britain.

With the development of large, jet-propelled passenger aircraft, flying boats became obsolete. Before long they had become one of the legends in the history of flight.

Nature’s brilliant mimics use trickery to survive

Posted in Animals, Insects, Nature, Oddities, Wildlife on Friday, 30 December 2011

This edited article about nature originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 887 published on 20 January 1979.

Caligo Moth, picture, image, illustration

The Caligo Moth looks like an owl when displaying the underside of its wings, by Arthur Twidle

Snakes are the most difficult of animals to spot in their natural surroundings. The colourful pattern on their skin is a perfect camouflage, enabling them to merge into their background. As long as a snake keeps still, it is almost invisible against the ground on which it lies.

Thinnest of all the snakes is the vine snake of Trinidad. Its thinness is its camouflage and causes it to look like one of the trailing vines hanging from the forest trees in which it lives. Hanging motionless from tree branches, vine snakes devour enormous numbers of lizards which venture too close to them.

Some species of snakes have no colour pattern to give them a protective camouflage. An example is the American black snake, which does not even have poison fangs.

Nevertheless, the black snake is still able to fool its enemies. When the snake senses danger, it immediately burrows into the nearest clump of fallen leaves and rapidly vibrates its tail. This sets up a loud rustling noise, and the would-be aggressor makes off, thinking that it has disturbed the venomous rattlesnake.

There are several other creatures which have to bluff their way out of danger. They have no colour camouflage for protection, so they save themselves by trickery.

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Baden-Powell – a hero of Mafeking and inspirational Chief Scout

Posted in Education, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Institutions, Leisure on Friday, 30 December 2011

This edited article about the Scout Association originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 887 published on 20 January 1979.

Baden-Powell, picture, image, illustration

Robert Baden-Powell by John Keay

“Be Prepared”. These word have a special significance for millions of people all over the world, for they are the motto of the Scout Association, formerly the Boy Scouts.

Scouting – and its equivalent for girls, Guiding – is now one of the most widespread group activities in the world. From an experimental camp of 200 boys held in southern England in 1907, the scout movement has grown so fast that it now has 11,000,000 members worldwide.

The idea of teaching boys to survive in the wild was the brainchild of a distinguished soldier named Major-General (later Lord) Robert Baden-Powell.

Born in 1857, Baden-Powell had come to love hiking, camping and studying wildlife. During the Boer War, this experience was to come in useful when he was fighting the guerrillas who could quickly melt into the veldt – the vast, trackless countryside of South Africa.

Baden-Powell returned to England a hero, after he had led the town of Mafeking through a siege of 217 days by the Boers.

In 1907, “B.-P.”, as he was affectionately known, set up his camp on Brownsea Island. Without intending it, he found he had started a popular movement.

Boys began appearing on street corners, holding their mothers’ broomsticks and wearing strange hats of all shapes and sizes. Baden-Powell therefore wrote the book that was to become the Bible of the scout movement – Scouting For Boys.

With the publication of this book, Scouting really took off. Two years after the first camp at Brownsea, 10,000 boys turned up at a rally at Crystal Palace. Girls came to the rally, too, and Baden-Powell’s sister, Agnes, helped him in founding the Guides specially to cater for them.

“B-P.” devoted the rest of his life to the movement he had unwittingly begun. Soon there were Cubs and Brownies, Sea Scouts and Rovers.

But on 8th January, 1941, children and adults mourned the world over. The Chief Scout was dead.

Jack Brabham: designer, engineer and Formula One champion

Posted in Cars, Historical articles, Sport, Sporting Heroes on Thursday, 29 December 2011

This edited article about motor racing originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 886 published on 13 January 1979.

1967 Grand Prix, picture, image, illustration

Brabham winning the 1967 Grand Prix, by Graham Coton

The controversial Brabham BT46B “fan-car” caused a major sensation when it won the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix with Austria’s Niki Lauda at the wheel. That machine represented the very pinnacle of modern-day automotive technology, its powerful engine-driven suction fan pressing all four tyres hard down into the tarmac as Lauda scorched past his bewildered opponents.

Unfortunately, motor racing’s governing body, the CSI, decreed the car to be contrary to the regulations and had it banned from all further competition. Another first-class piece of innovative thinking in Formula One had been quashed by bureaucracy, but the Brabham team had made a valid point nonetheless. Brains, not brawn, was to be their policy for success. They reverted to a slightly more conventional chassis layout and continue to rank amongst the “Big Three” in the world of Grand Prix car-constructors.

When we think of a vehicle as advanced as the BT46B, it is difficult for us to imagine just how long the name “Brabham” has been a day-to-day feature of Formula One motor racing.

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Stamina, intelligence and cunning: prerequisites for orienteering

Posted in Historical articles, Sport, Sporting Heroes on Thursday, 29 December 2011

This edited article about sport originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 886 published on 13 January 1979.

Skiing, picture, image, illustration

Orienteering on skis became popular during Sweden’s winter. Picture by Ron Embleton

Among the people of Scandinavia the sport of orienteering rivals soccer as the national sport. Although it has not become quite so popular in this country, the sport still has a large and faithful following.

John Disley, the British winner of a bronze medal in the 1952 Olympic Games Steeplechase, played a major part in introducing orienteering to Britain.

The aim of competitors is to use maps and compasses to find their way about the country from one control point to another. All the time they are racing against the clock.

John Disley’s definition of orienteering referred to the sport as carried out on foot. But this was not enough for the Swedes who invented orienteering 50 years ago. They adapted it for horse-riders, cyclists, motor-cyclists, motorists and canoeists. Then winter sports enthusiasts took it up, and orienteering on skis or skates became extremely popular during Sweden’s long months of freeze-up.

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Edinburgh: the Athens of the North or Auld Reekie

Posted in British Cities, Castles, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Interesting Words, Language, Scotland on Thursday, 29 December 2011

This edited article about place-names originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 886 published on 13 January 1979.

Edinburgh Castle, picture, image, illustration

Edinburgh Castle from the Grass Market by James Orrock

Do you live at Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is a name over which historians disagree.

Some maintain that the “Edin” refers to Edwin, a 7th century king of Northumbria, while others believe that it refers to another king called Eidin. Edinburgh’s original name Duneidiann (hill fortress of Eidin) supports this theory. In fact, both names influenced today’s spelling.

Scotland’s proud capital has other names. Edinburgh is known affectionately as “Auld Reekie” because of the chimney smoke that filled the air on calm days.

It has also been called “the Athens of the North”. Like the Greek capital, it is also built on crags and has also been famous for the arts.

But Edinburgh’s Gaelic name lives on – in New Zealand. In 1848, Scottish emigrants founded Dunedin in New Zealand. They made it as much like Edinburgh as possible, even repeating the street names.

Wordsworth and the birth of Romanticism in the Lake District

Posted in Architecture, English Literature, Famous landmarks, Geography, Historical articles, Literature on Thursday, 29 December 2011

This edited article about English literature originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 886 published on 13 January 1979.

William Wordsworth, picture, image, illustration

William Wordsworth at Dove Cottage by Harry Green

Our 18th century ancestors were not very keen on nature. They preferred to tame it, hence the wonderful gardens such as those created by master gardeners like “Capability” Brown and others.

As for mountains, many people considered them to be eyesores, obstacles to be avoided if possible and certainly never climbed.

Towards the end of the century, however, attitudes began to change.

The Industrial Revolution was beginning and many Britons were soon to be imprisoned in grim towns and even grimmer factories.

As if to compensate for these horrors, nature became fashionable. The arch-prophet was the poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850), and the area he made his own in verse was the Lake District.

This world-famous beauty spot is now a tourists’ paradise, but it was truly wild and solitary when Wordsworth knew it, even though he was to live into the railway age and the beginning of the tourist invasion. It is not quite as dramatic as the Highlands of Scotland, but it is marvellously in scale. Wherever you look, the proportions are perfect.

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