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Archive for July, 2013

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‘Liquid gold’ made John D. Rockefeller the richest man in the world

Posted in America, Historical articles, History, Industry, Philanthropy, Trade on Wednesday, 31 July 2013

This edited article about John D. Rockefeller originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 355 published on 2 November 1968.

Rockefeller and Andrews, picture, image, illustration

Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews, a candlemaker, saw the future in refining petroleum from wells

John D. Rockefeller was not a particularly bright boy. But he was what we call a plodder and, by applying his energies with steadiness to one problem at a time, he outstripped many of his more brilliant but less persevering rivals.

In fact, John D. Rockefeller plodded along to become the richest man in the world, and to be called “as rich as Rockefeller” was a compliment indeed.

He also became the world’s greatest philanthropist. Nobody before or since ever gave so much money away.

John Davison Rockefeller was born in the small village of Tichford in the County of Tioga, New York, on July 8, 1839. He was the second child of William Avery Rockefeller and his wife Eliza. He had an elder sister Lucy and a younger brother, William.

John’s father was a colourful character who dressed flashily (he loved fancy waistcoats), drank a lot, did not believe in religion, and was extremely sharp in business. He ran a farm, lent money at interest, and travelled around selling quack medicines.

By contrast, Eliza, John’s mother, was abstemious in habits and fervently religious. She saw to it that her children were brought up in the strict Baptist faith. She was also a stern disciplinarian. Once in the middle of a severe whacking, John yelled that he hadn’t done anything. “Never mind,” said his mother, “it will do for the next time.”

Father Rockefeller was good company when he was at home. He played on the melodeon (a variety of organ) and went rowing and swimming with his children.

It was from his sharp-witted father that John learned that, if money is saved carefully, and invested carefully, it earns more money.

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William Wordsworth accepted the laureateship under protest

Posted in British Countryside, English Literature, Historical articles, History, Literature on Wednesday, 31 July 2013

This edited article about English literature originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 355 published on 2 November 1968.

William Wordsworth, picture, image, illustration

William Wordsworth at Dove Cottage by Harry Green

William Wordsworth was born on 7th April, 1770, at Cockermouth, in Cumberland. He was a lawyer’s son.

Wordsworth was, above all, a poet of the Lake District, and he spoke with a strong Cumbrian burr. He often used local words in his poetry, e.g. “canty” for lively, and “bye-spot” for an out-of-the-way place.

Wordsworth’s poetry springs from the fields and mountains where he wandered as a boy, and to enjoy his poetry fully it helps to know the countryside he knew.

Wordsworth belongs to the same period of history as Sir Walter Scott, Charles Lamb, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey. He was seventy-three when, on Southey’s death, the post of Poet Laureate was offered to him. He accepted under protest, and only when the Lord Chamberlain made it clear that it “would not in any way interfere with his repose and retirement”.

In fact, during the seven years that he held the appointment, Wordsworth did not write one poem of the kind expected from the Poet Laureate. The honour came to him too late in life. It might have been very different if he had been at the height of his powers, but as it was, there are only two poems which may be even remotely considered the product of his office. The first, “Ode on the Installation of His Royal Highness Prince Albert as Chancellor of The University of Cambridge” in July, 1847, is known, not for its merit, but because it appears to be mainly the work of his son-in-law, Edward Quillinan. Although Wordsworth undertook to write it, he was prevented from doing so by the grave illness of his daughter. The other was included in a book of poems he sent to Queen Victoria in 1846.

Two years went by before Wordsworth left his beloved Lake District to pay his respects to the Queen in person. He was summoned to Buckingham Palace to attend a ball. The clothes, buckles, stockings and sword he wore for the occasion were borrowed – he had no need of “Full Dress” in his Lakeland retreat.

William Wordsworth wrote a great deal of poetry, but much of that which he produced during his later years is dull and uninspired. He was a great poet none the less, and a typically English one. His great love was for the world of nature, and he was content to spend his last years quietly in the Lake District contemplating:

The silence that is in the starry sky,
The sleep that is among the lonely hills.

The ‘romantic adventuring’ of Australian explorer Captain Charles Sturt

Posted in Australia, Discoveries, Exploration, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 31 July 2013

This edited article about Australia originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 355 published on 2 November 1968.

Charles Sturt expedition, picture, image, illustration

Sturt at Depot Creek

Thirty-two-year-old Captain Charles Sturt was bored with life in the garrison town of Sydney, Australia. Having fought against Napoleon in the Peninsular War of 1808-1814, he found that he could not settle down again to a normal peacetime routine. He desperately needed adventure, and was convinced that he would not be happy until he had done something that men would remember.

His chance came in September, 1828, when Sir Ralph Darling, the Governor of New South Wales, asked him if he would journey inland and try to find the sources of the state’s uncharted rivers. At that time there was much talk of an “inland sea” which was believed to exist in the centre of Australia. And even if the sea proved to be a myth, the exploration of the land itself would be of immense value.

The mission meant that Captain Sturt would have to cross a vast swampland from which few travellers had ever returned, and since he had little experience as an explorer, no one thought much of his chances of survival.

He set out on horseback, on the first of three journeys which were to open up the continent of Australia, and gain him the title of “the father of Australian exploration.” He was accompanied by a small party of soldiers and convicts, and a bullock-drawn dray containing supplies. And Sturt himself confessed, “Where I shall wander to, God alone knows.”

He began by following the Macquarie River, and he and his companions soon found themselves beset by swarms of mosquitoes and flies. Christmas and New Year went by. Then, one night, the team of bullocks wandered away, and was not seen again. One of the men also became lost in the bush, and did not reappear until four days later, when he staggered into camp with his tongue purple from lack of water.

After this, Sturt insisted that the members of his party stayed closer together.

They pushed on for a further 500 miles, and came across a previously undiscovered river. Sturt named it the Darling, after the man who had commissioned the expedition.

Due to a lack of provisions, the expedition was now forced to return to Sydney. The exhausted men had to walk much of the way because their horses were too weak to carry them.

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All Hallows’ and All Saints’ are one and the same feast day

Posted in Customs, Historical articles, History, Religion, Saints on Wednesday, 31 July 2013

This edited article about the Church year originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 355 published on 2 November 1968.

Hallowe'en, picture, image, illustration

Victorian Hallowe'en card showing children apple-bobbing

Many people have never heard of All Hallows’ Tide, but everyone knows the word “Hallowe’en”, which simply means “the eve of all hallows.”

But who or what is a “hallow”? The word is familiar enough from the Lord’s Prayer, in which we say “Hallowed be Thy Name,” but otherwise we rarely hear it. In fact it is the Saxon word for “holy” and, used as a noun, means a holy person, or a saint. All Hallows therefore means “All Saints,” and is the name of some churches. There is a famous church called All Hallows near the Tower of London.

The traditional ceremonies and pranks of Hallowe’en – the bob-apple game, the turnip lanterns, and the ghosts – have little to do with Christianity. They belong to the days when witchcraft was believed in and widely practised. These customs and superstitions were linked to All Hallows’ Tide because on this day (1st November) the Church remembers all the un-named saints of olden days who lived the Christian life, and in many cases died for their faith, but who have no particular day set aside in their honour. The belief that they live on in another kind of existence led to the linking of the day with the many superstitions connected with belief in ghosts.

Such a day has been kept by Christians since very early times. In the Orthodox Church (Greek, Russian and others) the Sunday after Whit Sunday has for centuries been set apart in honour of “All Martyrs” (that is, those who have actually died for their faith).

In the Western Churches, the customary date of All Saints’ Day had a striking origin. On that day, in the year 608 A.D., one of the most splendid of the ancient pagan temples in Rome, the Pantheon of Agrippa, became a magnificent Christian Church. Today this church is still one of the most famous shrines in Christendom, remarkable for its vast dome, which has been widely copied by architects of many countries. Its dedication to “Saint Mary and all Martyrs” on 1st November may have led to the fixing of that day for the commemoration of All Saints’ Day, which has been observed ever since on the same date.

In the New Testament, the name “saint” is given to all faithful members of the church, as for instance, by St. Paul in his first Epistle to the Corinthians (chapter one, verse two). But as the years passed, the title came to be reserved for those who had shown themselves to be outstanding examples of what a Christian should be. Even so, not all were actually martyrs. Some led quiet and uneventful lives, but by their example brought home to others the message of Christianity.

Christians of all times who were faithful believers but have not been “canonised” (that is, officially declared to be saints, by the Church) are remembered on the day after All Saints’ Day (2nd November). This is observed as “All Souls’ Day” in many churches, the day when the “rank and file” of Christians are remembered, following the commemoration of the real heroes. A few churches have this name – the church of the parish in which London’s Broadcasting House stands is one of them. All Souls’ is also the name of one of Oxford’s oldest and most distinguished colleges.

In 1797 Admiral Duncan defeated the daring Dutch in the North Sea

Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Ships, War on Tuesday, 30 July 2013

This edited article about the Royal Navy originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 354 published on 26 October 1968.

Admiral Duncan, picture, image, illustration

Admiral Duncan addresses the mutineers

While the British fleet was almost entirely immobilised by a mutiny early in 1797, startling news reached London that France and Holland were preparing an invasion force. The Dutch navy was ready for sea with 18 ships of the line 22 frigates, sloops and brigs (carrying from 44 to 10 guns) and 44 large transports fitted out to carry 30,000 troops.

In this emergency, only one British admiral could rely upon his men; he was Admiral Duncan, an impressive man of 6 ft. 2 in., with snowy-white hair, who had quelled a mutiny on his flag ship, Venerable, by diplomacy. When Adamant mutinied, Duncan mustered that ship’s company and held a mutineering sailor aloft with one hand. “Look at the fellow who dares to deprive me of the command of the fleet,” he cried, this ridicule ending further rebellion.

To keep the Dutch in harbour, Duncan sailed for Holland with Venerable and Adamant, anchoring 45 miles off the island of Texel in the narrowest part of the passage. By making a great show of coming and going and throwing out pennants to imaginary ships, he hoodwinked the Dutch into believing that he had a great fleet just below the horizon.

After five months, the Dutch were still in harbour and Duncan returned to Yarmouth to refit. There he learned that the mutiny was over and that a strong fleet was ready to sail. As Venerable lay in Yarmouth Roads with the heavier vessels of the North Sea Squadron, the Active, a cutter, appeared off Yarmouth and signalled that the Dutch were out of Texel with 16 big and eight small ships under sail.

On the morning of 11th October, the British fleet sighted the Dutch between Camperdown and Egmont, deployed in two lines. Duncan ordered his fleet to break the Dutch lines, each ship choosing her own opponent. At twelve o’clock, the British ships were closely engaged with the enemy. “The roaring of cannon was tremendous,” wrote an officer.

After five hours, two Dutch ships were blazing; others struck their colours and the rest made off as fast as they could.

In the face of this defeat, the Dutch Admiral, De Winter, surrendered and was carried on board the Venerable, where he offered Duncan his sword as a token of defeat. Duncan refused it saying, “Rather a brave man’s hand than his sword.” This battle cost Britain 700 killed or wounded on Duncan’s nine ships.

Rider Haggard was a badly educated brilliant best-selling novelist

Posted in Adventure, Africa, Cinema, English Literature, Historical articles, History, Literature on Tuesday, 30 July 2013

This edited article about Rider Haggard originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 354 published on 26 October 1968.

Rider Haggard in Africa, picture, image, illustration

Rider Haggard watched the fierce war dances and later wrote about them, by Neville Dear

As a schoolboy, Rider Haggard was regarded as not only dull but stupid. His mother described him as “heavy as lead in body and mind,” and his father, the Squire of Bradenham, in Norfolk, considered that he was “only fit to be a greengrocer.”

“I think that on the whole I was rather a quiet youth,” he said in later life, “. . . certainly I was very imaginative, although I kept my thoughts to myself, which I dare say had a good deal to do with my reputation for stupidity. . . . Without doubt I was slow at my lessons, chiefly because I was always thinking of something else . . . (but) I rarely forgot the substance of anything worth remembering.”

As a result of his slowness, Rider, who was born at Bradenham Hall, in 1856, did not receive as good an education as his five brothers. Unlike them, he was not sent to public school or university.

When he was nineteen, his father arranged for him to go to South Africa as aide to the Lieutenant-Governor of Natal.

It was then that Rider’s imagination came to the fore. He frequently had to travel into the veld and bush country, and he soon learnt to speak the Zulu language. He watched the natives performing their fierce war dances, listened to their stories of famous battles, and made notes of all the strange ceremonies and rituals he witnessed.

He set these “impressions” down on paper and posted them to London, where they appeared in various magazines. As was to be expected, his father scoffed at these literary efforts and told his son that he would never be more “than a penny-a-liner” – a run-of-the-mill writer. Luckily Rider did not allow this to discourage him.

By dint of his enthusiasm and energy, he rose to be Master and Registrar to the High Court of the Transvaal and during the next few years he witnessed a bitter struggle between the English, the Boers and the Zulus. He served as a volunteer lieutenant in the Pretoria Horse. Then, becoming disillusioned by the injustice meted out to the natives, he decided to “shake off the dust of Government service.”

For a short while he ran his own ostrich farm, then in 1881 he and his young English wife returned home to Norfolk. Rider began reading for the Bar.

It was then that “a little incident” occurred that led to his becoming a writer of romantic and adventurous fiction.

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At Tynewydd four miners and a boy were buried alive for ten days.

Posted in Disasters, Historical articles, History, Industry on Tuesday, 30 July 2013

This edited article about Welsh mining disasters originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 354 published on 26 October 1968.

Coal mines, picture, image , illustration

At the mouth of a Coal Mine in the nineteenth century

An uneasy quiet hung over the Welsh mining village. Four miners and a boy were trapped. Perhaps for eternity.

The afternoon shift was well under way when a dull roar sounded through the dimly-lit galleries of the Tynewydd Pit mine in the Rhondda Valley.

When the Welsh miners first heard the noise, they thought it was a fire-damp explosion, and flung themselves flat on the ground.

A few seconds later, they realised that it was something much more serious than that.

A “huge force of water” suddenly flooded the galleries. As it did so, the men ran for the shaft which led up to the surface.

But some of the miners working in more distant parts of the mine were unable to reach safety. A group of them – four men and a young boy – were trapped at the rock-face in which they had been boring holes for blasting.

They were drilling at the far end of one of the galleries when they felt “a great rush of air”. One of the men, George Jenkins, told how they tried to reach a door which let in fresh air. It was their one chance of escaping the oncoming water.

But before they could get halfway to the door, the water was swirling round their knees. And when they did reach it, they were unable to open it.

“We were getting deeper in the water,” said Jenkins, “until it was up to our throats. Then the boy cried, ‘I can’t hold on any longer! Catch hold of me, will you?’ ”

Jenkins grasped the boy with one hand, and the party struggled towards the gallery exit. Before long they had to stop because water was lapping against the roof. The men dejectedly made their way back again.

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The legendary Canadian Flight of Sopwiths under Raymond Collishaw

Posted in Aviation, Historical articles, History, War, Weapons, World War 1 on Tuesday, 30 July 2013

This edited article about World War One aviation originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 354 published on 26 October 1968.

Sopwith triplane, picture, image, illustration

The Canadian Sopwith triplane was called 'Black Maria' by Wilf Hardy

One of the most remarkable planes of World War I was the Sopwith Triplane. Designers of fighter planes at that time wanted to build a machine which could out-climb and, perhaps more important, out-manoeuvre the German fighters over the Western front.

The triplane idea was a revolutionary one. The three wings gave the plane considerable extra “lift”, and their short span enabled pilots to make tighter turns than any opponent – a vital advantage in the kind of aerial fighting which occurred during World War I.

The Sopwith engineers built a winner. When it was powered with a 130 Clerget engine, the triplane climbed to 6,500 feet in six-and-a-half minutes, achieved a speed of 115 mph at 10,000 feet, and yet it had a landing speed of only 35 mph. Its service ceiling was 20,500 feet.

The first Sopwith Triplanes to see active service were those which went to the R.N.A.S. towards the end of 1916, and they flew on Channel patrols. They were not able really to show their paces until later however, when the Royal Naval Air Service went to the help of the R.F.C. in April, 1917.

It was a bad month for the allies, and a period when Baron von Richthofen’s Jagdstaffel 11 was at its peak, but the Germans were in for a shock when an all-Canadian flight of R.N.A.S. Sopwith Triplanes arrived on the scene. The flight was commanded by Canadian Raymond Collishaw, who came from British Columbia.

The pilots adopted “Black Death” as their insignia and had their planes painted mainly in black. During the early summer of 1917, they waded into the Germans in their light triplanes and, between them, the six members of the flight destroyed no fewer than 87 enemy aircraft with the loss of only one of their own.

Collishaw himself scored a great victory when he shot down an Albatros D-3 piloted by Karl Allmenroeder, one of Richthofen’s ace pilots. Collishaw, who became the top scorer of the R.N.A.S., also served with the R.A.F. during World War II, and retired in 1943 with the rank of Air Vice Marshal, having earned the C.B., D.S.O., O.B.E., D.F.C., and D.S.C.

Frog-hoppers start life covered in ‘cuckoo spit’

Posted in Insects, Nature, Wildlife on Tuesday, 30 July 2013

This edited article about insects originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 354 published on 26 October 1968.

Looking for insects, picture, image, illustration

Children often see 'cuckoo spit' in fields filled with other insects, by Clive Uptton

Most people are familiar with the frothy fluid, known as “cuckoo spit”, which is seen on a great variety of plants in spring and summer.

If this fluid is closely examined, it will be found to contain a small, drab-coloured insect. This is the nymph (immature form) of a frog-hopper.

There are many species of frog-hopper, the commonest in Britain being Philaenus leucophthalmus. The adult is an active insect, often seen hopping or flying among bushes and trees. It gets the name “frog-hopper” from its squat, frog-like head, and its habit of jumping.

The nymph of the frog-hopper feeds on the sap of plants, and has to take in a great deal of fluid to supply it with the nourishment it needs. The excess water is passed out of the anus of the nymph and blown into bubbles by a stream of air which the nymph produces by pumping its telescopic tail in and out. The water is mixed with a waxy secretion produced by glands near the anus. This prevents the bubbles from bursting.

The fluid has a very definite purpose. It shelters the frog-hopper nymph from the heat of the sun, and from its enemies.

Sundry poets laureate were followed by the “hermit of Keswick”

Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Royalty on Tuesday, 30 July 2013

This edited article about English literature originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 354 published on 26 October 1968.

Robert Southey, picture, image, illustration

Robert Southey by Ralph Bruce

Several famous poets (Sir Walter Scott among them) thought so little of the post of Poet Laureate that they flatly declined the “honour”.

Thomas Gray, who wrote the famous poem, “Elegy in a Country Churchyard”, could have been Poet Laureate when Colley Cibber died, but he wrote bluntly, “For my part I would rather be sergeant-trumpeter or pin-maker to the palace.”

Instead, the appointment went to William Whitehead, son of a Cambridge baker, and the first laureate to “back Britain”. In a long series of official odes, Whitehead’s verse was devoted to his country’s part in world affairs. He had a genuinely patriotic spirit and, unlike so many laureates who preceded him, would not stoop to flattery.

Whitehead’s first official task was to produce an Ode in honour of George II’s fifty-fifth birthday. He wrote about Wolfe’s victory and death at Quebec, and in 1761 welcomed the accession of George III, the King who “gloried in the name of Briton”. Two years later, Whitehead was recording the end of the Seven Years War, and the birth of an heir to the King and Queen Charlotte (the baby grew up to become George IV).

Whitehead was Poet Laureate for more than a quarter of a century, and after him came Thomas Warton, a distinguished man of letters, who was appointed on 26th April, 1785. Warton held the office for five years.

No New Year Ode was forthcoming in January, 1789. The King’s mind failed – and his poet maintained a discreet silence. But the monarch soon recovered, and Warton’s Birthday Ode reflected the nation’s delight and relief.

Early the following year, Warton’s brief career as Poet Laureate ended, and Henry James Pye (“eminently respectable in everything but his poetry”, as Byron put it) took his place. Then, in 1813, George III was for the third time without a laureate. Walter Scott refused the laureateship outright, and it was left to Robert Southey to take over Pye’s “rights, privileges and benefits” as from 4th November, 1813, when he was 39.

Southey was born in Bristol in 1774. He came from a family of farmers and tradesmen, and by the age of eight had read the works of Shakespeare, and Beaumont and Fletcher. As a poet and author, his work brought to the laureateship a prestige it had not had before.

Southey, a sincere Christian, was very concerned for his country’s moral and political welfare. Like Whitehead, he hoped his laureate poems would strengthen the patriotic spirit of the nation. He was the author of a “Life of Nelson” and of several major political works – but he is probably best known for writing The Story Of The Three Bears.

Throughout his laureateship, and in spite of many inducements to come to London, Southey (the “hermit poet” who spoke only as the spirit moved him) never moved from Keswick, in the Lake District. He was respected at Court – but the less he saw of it, the better he liked it.