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  • Britain’s First Glider: Charles Spencer February 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Britain's First Glider: Charles Spencer

    ***an important correction to this article from Nathaniel below*** In 1868 the Aeronautical Society put up a stand at the Crystal Palace exhibition and prepared to show the nation their wares. There were many of the usual suspects: a miniature version of Stringfellow’s aerial steam carriage, for example, and prizes for anyone who get a […]

    Where Are the American Fairies? February 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Where Are the American Fairies?

    First of all a nod to an interesting article that has appeared in an interesting blog: ‘Turn your cloak for the Fairy Folk’ (New England Folklore). The author (Peter Muise) asks a fascinating question: why is it that fairylore never caught on in the New World? He quotes Owen Davies (a wanw British scholar) to […]

    From the Grenadier to the Beer Shop (via Mickey Mouse and Pussy Cat) February 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    From the Grenadier to the Beer Shop (via Mickey Mouse and Pussy Cat)

    ***Thanks to Mike L for drawing my attention to this classic series*** In Henry Carey’s Namby Pamby published in 1726 there is the following verse Now he acts the Grenadier, Calling for a Pot of Beer: Where’s his Money? He’s forgot: Get him gone, a Drunken Sot. Now consider, instead, this rhyme collected two hundred […]

    Did You Hear the One About Nessie, the Sceptic and the Water Horse? February 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Did You Hear the One About Nessie, the Sceptic and the Water Horse?

    Two of the most interesting Christmas books this year were Roland Watson’s The Water Horses of Loch Ness and Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero’s Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids. As is evident from the titles these books take opposite sides of the crypto argument: in fact, the authors […]

    In Search of the Lamia in Ethiopia? January 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    In Search of the Lamia in Ethiopia?

    This passage appears in an 1863 book about a Briton’s residence in Abyssinia. The author seems to be in two minds about the monster he is describing. Is it real or is it a figment of the locals’ imagination? In the text he seems to account for it as legend, but note that he had […]

    How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use January 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use

    There are grey moments in history and there are black moments and, then, every so often there are wonderful conflagarations as the very paper that the past is written upon catches fire. Think the sheer brilliant evenescence of Athens in the fifth-century B.C.; Baghdad in the ninth century; or, indeed, Florence in the fourteenth and […]

    The Dragon’s Tail! A Continent or a Ghost? January 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Dragon's Tail! A Continent or a Ghost?

    La cola del dragón (the Tail of the Dragon), was a book published in 1990 by Paul Gallez (obit 2007), a Belgian/Argentinean historian. In this book Gallez alleged that a map by Martellus (obit 1496), dating to 1489 showed South America. If you are trying to understand why this should matter read the last sentence again: […]

    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans January 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans

    ***Warning this post has some very unpleasant material: if you are having a bad day, do yourself a favour and just click away…*** ‘The west’, that monolith to which most readers of this blog belong, has gradually over the centuries, shied away from torture. But there are moments in history when societies return on themselves […]

    Horror and Scarcity: Reading Supernatural Fiction January 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Horror and Scarcity: Reading Supernatural Fiction

    Yesterday the postman brought three beautiful volumes of Sheridan Le Fanus’ short stories (Ash Tree Press). They are exquisitely made, not so much books as orgasms between covers, and they have exceptionally good introductions by Jim Rockhill. They were also expensive, particularly once you factor postage to another continent and the Italian’s government’s banditry in […]

    Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast! January 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast!

    Imagine the excitement of the archaeologists who had gathered at NA-57 off the Florida coast near Fernandina in 1972. In some offshore piles they had found various bits of ‘rubbish’ from European settlers: ceramics, pipes, glass fragments… Nothing special you might think. But what was unusual was the dating. British settlements began in the area in […]

    Purring: A Taxonomy and an Exhibition at Wigan January 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Purring: A Taxonomy and an Exhibition at Wigan

    This site has a small tag on the history of purring, the sometimes noble and often incredibly ignoble Lancashire marshal art whereby a man repeatedly kicked opponents or victims as hard as he could. We return to the theme today because of the exciting news that a Purring Display is going up in Wigan Museum, […]

    The British and Invasions January 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The British and Invasions

    I watched a few years ago an even then old documentary in which a  celebrated/notorious British Member of Parliament Enoch Powell interviewed (God knows how they pulled this off) a Soviet general and shared with him an unusual geographical philosophy. EP said that Britain and Russia were both protected by geography, one by water ‘as […]

    Welsh Leaf Mould, Pies and Cunning Magic January 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Welsh Leaf Mould, Pies and Cunning Magic

    A nineteenth-century letter detailing some very unusual goings on at Hawarden on the Welsh borders. On Sunday the 17 inst., it was discovered that some earth had recently been dug up under the east window of the church. At first it was supposed that some still-born infant had been deposited there [!!!]; but on procuring […]

    Spirit Photo Fakes: Katie King January 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Spirit Photo Fakes: Katie King

    The Count (a regular contributor here) is to blame. Beach had hoped to spend just a couple of thousand nano-seconds on spirit photography, but it is so extraordinarily interesting. Last time we looked at some late nineteenth-century photographs where ghostly  loved ones were portrayed with their families in the most transparent fakes.  But what about […]

    A Scottish Earthquake Remembered? December 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Scottish Earthquake Remembered?

    David Murray Rose was a late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century historian and, a far nicer word, an antiquarian. This comes from a letter he wrote in 1930 to the Inverness Courier and relates to an obsession of this blog: the degree to which information can be transmitted orally through time. First, the legend. Many years […]

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