Today is the birthday of my friend Bart Rutherford, who, incidentally, had an ancestor mentioned in my book Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly, not as a criminal but as the guy who helped get Mad Dan Morgan get caught, so I thought I’d celebrate it with this post, my first for 2020.
Plenty of things happened “On This Day” but I’ve stuck to the positive ones, and birthdays of people I’ve heard of. I did look at some of the saints, etc. whose day this is, but none of them were of interest to me, except a nun called the Blessed Veronica, who apparently tried to teach herself to read, but was told by the Virgin not to waste time on this reading jazz... Hmm...
On This Day
1822 – The design of the Greek flag is adopted by the First National Assembly at Epidaurus. I have had a number of a Greek friends and workmates over the years, and even learned a few words of the national anthem, so - a very positive event!
1898 – Émile Zola's(famous French novelist) open letter J'accuse…! is published, exposing the Dreyfus affair. In case you aren’t familiar with it, it was a major antisemitic injustice perpetrated against a Jewish soldier, Alfred Dreyfus, who was unjustly accused of treasonously handing some French papers to the Germans. The guy who actually did do it, someone called Esterhazy, was eventually caught, but acquitted after a very brief trial, and poor Dreyfus was still stuck on Devil’s Island. Zola’s letter got him into trouble as there was a huge uproar in France over it - there was a lot of antisemitism around. He had to flee to England for a year. Writing that letter might even have cost him his life, as the guy who blocked his chimney in Paris, causing him to die of carbon monoxide poisoning, admitted to deliberate murder on his deathbed. Thanks to Zola, Dreyfus got a pardon, then eventually was restored to the army. You can read it all in Wikipedia and there have been some films, including a 1958 one with Jose Ferrer as Dreyfus, which you can watch online.
1910 – The very first public radio broadcast! It was a live performance of the operas Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
1993 –Space Shuttle Endeavour heads for space for the third time, launched from the Kennedy Space Center.
1893 – Roy Cazaly, Australian footballer and coach (d. 1963). Okay, not connected with anything remotely artistic or literary, but this footy player was the subject of a song, Up There, Cazaly!
1893 – Clark Ashton Smith, American poet, sculptor, painter, and horror writer (d. 1961). I know him best as a horror writer.
1926 – Michael Bond, English soldier and author, created the hugely popular children’s book series about Paddington Bear (d. 2017). They have sold millions of copies.
1933 - Ron Goulart, American SF author. Among other things, he ghost wrote the TekWar series under William Shatner’s name. I read the first one.
1977 - Orlando Bloom - Actor, Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. He was a gorgeous elf, a Legolas I could believe in. I remember his first scene, when he drifted down from his horse at Rivendell like a leaf... Legolas was a lot less pleasant in the film of The Hobbit (he wasn’t in the novel), but he did get to see a picture of his future best friend, “Ma wee lad Gimli.”
1990 – Liam Hemsworth, Australian actor. He was in The Hunger Games as Gale, the guy who didn’t get Katniss, though half the fans thought he should have. As someone who read the books, I think the author made the right decision.
Happy birthday, Bart!