Archive for November, 2019

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The glass bottle

Posted in Arts and Crafts, Historical articles, History, Medicine on Tuesday, 26 November 2019

This edited article about bottles originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 675 published on 21 December 1974.

Milkman, picture, image, illustration

The Milkman

Can you imagine a world without bottles?  It’s hard to visualise a way of life without any bottles at all; and it would have been very hard for our ancestors to have done so at any time in the last 350 years or so.

For the bottle is one of the oldest forms of container. Egypt and Mesopotamia had glass bottles about 2,000 years ago, but even if we ignore them and think of Europe, English glassmaking dates back to Tudor times. Medicine bottles were being made then by glassmakers in the well-wooded Sussex Weald. There they could obtain the wood which was the necessary fuel for their ovens.

Tudor bottles were of irregular shape – no two were exactly alike – because they were not blown in moulds. It was only when the craftsmen began to blow the soft molten glass in moulds that it became possible to turn out quantities of bottles of identical size and shape. Even then, for many years, only the bodies of bottles were “mould blown”; the necks were made separately and stuck on by hand.

In England, the seventeenth century saw glass bottles replacing stoneware and traditional leather bottles, especially for wine. Wine bottles were often marked with a prunt or seal – a misleading term because this did not seal the bottle in the ordinary sense, but was a glass circle applied to the shoulder of the bottle, with the owner’s initials or badge moulded in it.

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Flora Macdonald

Posted in Adventure, Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Religion, Royalty, Scotland on Tuesday, 26 November 2019

This edited article about Scotland first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 521 published on 8 January 1972.

Flora and Prince Charlie, picture, image, illustration

Bonnie Prince Charlie bids farewell to his saviour, Flora Macdonald by Pat Nicolle

The great tract of moorland known as Culloden Moor was silent now. The guns that had belched fire and destruction stood abandoned and a thousand Scottish dead lay among the litter of a battle that had ended in the defeat of 7,000 Highlanders at the hands of the British.

It was the day of April 16, 1746, and Edward Charles, the Young Pretender, had just seen the dream of occupying the throne of his fathers vanish in the smoke of battle.

Fleeing for his life, the Young Pretender had little time to think back on those glorious preceding months when he had captured Perth, Edinburgh. All he was conscious of now was that he was a fugitive with a price of £25,000 on his head, and that somehow he must get back to France, from where he had sailed so full of high hopes, less than a year ago.

As he fled into the mists, he was sure only of one thing. Whatever happened, the clansmen would support and hide him when necessary.

The news of the disaster at Culloden spread swiftly, and eventually it reached the Hebridean island of Benbecula, where a young Highland girl, Flora Macdonald, was staying with relatives. Soon afterwards, by one of those strange twists of fate which sometimes change the whole course of history, the Young Pretender arrived on the island with a companion, a Captain O’Neil.

Hearing that Flora was there, and knowing that she was a Jacobite sympathizer, that is, one of the people who wanted the Stuart royal family back on the throne, in place of the German House of Hanover, he went along to see her. Their conversation was short and very much to the point.

“You say, Captain O’Neil, that you wish me to help the Prince to escape to Skye. But how is that possible? No one is allowed to leave Benbecula without special permission.”

“It is proposed that the Prince should disguise himself in woman’s dress. Your step-father is in charge of the militia here. Perhaps it is possible for you to obtain a passport for yourself and an Irish spinning maid, Betty Burke, who will, of course, be the Prince.”

Flora Macdonald thought about it for a few moments. “It is true I could get permission by saying I was going to visit my mother.” She looked into the captain’s anxious face. “I will agree to do it.”

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Hero of Niagara

Posted in America, Artist, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Theatre on Tuesday, 26 November 2019

This edited article about Blondin originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 683 published on 15 February 1975.

Blondin, picture, image, illustration

Blondin (Francois Gravelet) pushes a wheelbarrow across a tightrope over Niagara Falls

Thousands of people stared fascinated at a rope stretched across Niagara Falls on 30th June, 1859. The rope was over a thousand feet long and a hundred and sixty feet above the roaring tumult of the river.

Suddenly the crowd froze with excitement. A man had started to walk along the rope from the American side. Half-way across, he lay down; then he proceeded to do a backwards somersault. He reached the far side and, as the cheers rang out, a band struck up the Marseillaise.

The tightrope walker started back to the American side carrying a chair. When he reached the middle of the rope, he balanced the chair on two legs and sat down on it.

The performer’s name was Blondin, and he was the greatest of all rope-walkers.

Over the centuries, the world of the circus and of acrobats has cast such a spell over so many people that it is surprising how few of its great performers are remembered by name. But there is no danger of Blondin being forgotten because, indoors as well as out, he took spectacular risks which caught the imagination of literally millions of people who never actually saw him perform.

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