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This Day in History - 14th January


1742 The death of Sir Edmund Halley, aged 86; astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist, and physicist. He was Astronomer Royal who gave his name to a comet.

1878 Queen Victoria watched a demonstration of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, by W.H. Preece at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Preece called it 'Signalling through Space without Wires'.


1886 Birth of Hugh Lofting, creator of ‘Dr Dolittle’. He trained as a civil engineer prior to enlisting in the Irish Guards to serve in World War I. He wrote illustrated letters home to his children from the trenches during World War I when actual news, he later said, was either too horrible or too dull. These letters became the foundation of the his successful Doctor Dolittle novels for children.


1895 A mining disater at Diglake Colliery in Staffordshire killed 78 men and boys, following a flood. On 7th March 1933 the remains of some victims were recovered after being entombed for 38 years, although many of the bodies were never found. On 12th January 2020 a memorial to those killed was unveiled at Audley Methodist Church.


1896 The first public screening of a film in Britain, at the London headquarters of the Royal Photographic society.


1898 The death, at Guildford, of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who wrote under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll and who was author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.


1904 The birth of Sir Cecil Beaton, fashion and portrait photographer, writer and theatrical designer. He was a photographer for Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines, often photographed the Royal Family for official publications and was a major influence on the work of photographer David Bailey.


1937 The first Gallup Opinion Poll was conducted in Britain. It was the invention of the American George Horace Gallup who founded the Gallup Institute in 1935.


1943 World War II: Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt met in Casablanca, Morocco, to discuss their strategy for the next phase of the war.


1947 The Covent Garden Opera Company opened with Karl Rankl’s production of Carmen, in the newly renovated theatre which had been a dance hall during the war.


1969 Football legend Sir Matt Busby announced that he would retire as manager of Manchester United at the end of the season. Formerly a Scottish football player and manager he was most noted for his time as managing Manchester United between 1945 and 1969. His manager records and longevity at the helm of Manchester United are only surpassed by Sir Alex Ferguson.


1975 A 17-year-old heiress, Lesley Whittle, was kidnapped from her home in Shropshire. Her body was found on 7th March, 1975, hanging from a wire at the bottom of a drain shaft in Bathpool Park, Staffordshire. Donald Neilson, also known as the Black Panther, was convicted of her murder (and three others) in July 1976.


1989 Muslims in Bradford ritually burned a copy of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in the first serious protest in Britain. The book had been banned in some Muslim countries.


2002 After three months of no cases being reported, the United Kingdom was finally declared free from the 'Foot and Mouth' infection, after a crisis that started in 2001 in which millions of cows and sheep were destroyed.


2013 Music and DVD chain HMV appointed an administrator, making it the latest casualty on the High Street and putting 4,350 jobs at risk. Quote from retail analyst Neil Saunders - "In the digital era, where 73.4% of music and film are online .... there is no real future for physical retail in the music sector."


2013 The first TV airing of 'Father Brown' the crime-solving Roman Catholic priest, loosely based on short stories by G. K. Chesterton.


2014 Monkeys at Paignton Zoo in Devon were banned from eating bananas. Keepers said - "Giving monkeys bananas that have been cultivated for humans is like giving them cake and chocolate. Reducing the sugar in their diets has calmed them down and made their group more settled."