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This Day in History - 7th December


521 The birth of Saint Columba, the Irish Christian who made his missionary trip to Scotland in 563. Columba is credited as bringing a revival of Christianity to Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. He died on the Scottish island of Iona and was buried in 597 AD by his monks in the abbey he had created there.

1545 The birth of Henry Stuart. He was the first cousin and second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the father of her son King James VI. He was murdered at Kirk o' Field in Edinburgh in 1567.

1732 The first Covent Garden Opera House, then called the Theatre Royal, opened in London to an elite crowd, for a performance of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, a tribute to Gay, who had died three days previously.

1817 The death of William Bligh, rear-Admiral who was captain of the HMS Bounty at the time of the mutiny.

1889 The first performance at the Savoy, London, of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 'The Gondoliers', their last real success. It ran for a very successful 554 performances, closing on 30th June 1891.

1940 The birth, in Liverpool, of the comedian Stan Boardman who broke into television via Opportunity Knocks and The Comedians.

1955 Clement Atlee resigned as leader of the opposition Labour Party, following months of speculation. Hours later he was made an Earl by the Queen; the first Labour leader to accept a hereditary peerage. Mr Attlee led his party for 20 years and had a seat in the House of Commons for 33 years. In 1942 he became deputy prime minister in the war cabinet under Sir Winston Churchill. During his six years as prime minister from 1945 to 1951 he oversaw sweeping changes to the welfare state, with the introduction of the National Health Service and the nationalisation of many key industries - the Bank of England, civil aviation, coal, telecommunications, transport, electricity, iron and steel.

1979 Cabinet minister Lord Soames was named transitional governor of Rhodesia to oversee its progress into legal independence. In 1964, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia Ian Smith had rejected British conditions for independence. Rhodesia became a British colony in 1923, and was dogged by violence and international alienation during its struggle for independence.

1979 Production of MG Midget sports cars came to an end. 73,899 of the last version were produced and the last 500 cars were painted black.

1983 A cat climbed to a height of 160ft up an industrial chimney, holding up the work of Lancashire's chief steeplejack and chimney demolisher Fred Dibnah.

1993 Protesters lost a 20 year fight to save a 250 year old chestnut tree in east London. Twenty protesters were arrested after they clashed with 200 police officers sent to ensure a court order to cut down the tree was enforced and that the planned motorway extension could go ahead.

2001 The Taliban regime gave up its stronghold in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The fall of Kandahar came after the Afghan capital Kabul had been retaken in November. An ebullient Tony Blair, Prime MInister at the time, said - 'That regime is effectively now disintegrated. The terror camps can be shut down, and I think that is a fantastic thing.'

2012 Jacintha Saldhana, a nurse at King Edward VII hospital - London, who took a hoax call about the Duchess of Cambridge from two Australian radio presenters posing as the Queen, was found dead at her home after committing suicide.