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  • The Greatest Heist in History? The Captain of Kopenick November 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Greatest Heist in History? The Captain of Kopenick

    Much has Beach travelled in the realms of criminal gold. But rarely has he come across a villain of the quality of Wilhelm  Voigt (obit 1922): the Captain of Kopenick. Let’s begin with the shocked aftermath and then follow Voigt back through one of the most daring robberies in history. 17 October 1906 the German […]

    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine November 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine

    ***Dedicated to Laura: for an excellent background to Madame Tussaud follow this link (and look out particularly for Brad Pitt’s knickers)*** Anna Maria Tussaud (obit 1850) came to Britain in 1802 to show her famous wax impressions as an entrepreneur, but she remained in the country as an exile once the Napoleonic Wars had begun. […]

    Was Chess Invented in Ireland or China or India or…? November 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Was Chess Invented in Ireland or China or India or...?

                    There is a general consensus that chess came out of the east, that it arrived in Europe through the Arab Mediterranean and that from there it made its way to the royal courts of France and Germany. Certainly, by the fifteenth century a game that we recognise […]

    Goodwin Wharton and the Fairies November 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Goodwin Wharton and the Fairies

    In 1684 the Queen of Fairy was visiting the (fairy) Duke of Hungary in his estate under Moorfields (London), when the Duke hatched a dastardly plot. First he tried to poison her majesty with chocolate and then, having failed to ruin her insides, he attempted to blow up her subterranean palace with gunpowder. If you […]

    Sherlock Holmes in the Blitz November 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Sherlock Holmes in the Blitz

    ***Dedicated to Stu*** Some wonderful lunchtimes in the last week re-watching the Basil Rathbone (Holmes) and Nigel Bruce (Watson) Sherlock Holmes films, a series that begin in 1939 with the Hound of the Baskervilles and then went on to Dressed to Kill in 1946, with twelve films and numerous radio dramatisations intervening. Lovers of the […]

    Newgrange and a Hundred Generations November 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Prehistoric
    Newgrange and a Hundred Generations

    Newgrange, standing near the Boyne, is one of the great treasures of Ireland and, indeed, of Europe. Built some four thousand years ago by the first Gaels it is mysterious and, when the mist comes in, vaguely malevolent. It is also exclusive. Each year a tiny group of fortunate men, women and children – chosen […]

    Beachcombed 29 November 1, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
    Beachcombed 29

    Dear Reader, All well in the Beachcombing household except the roof renovations have not yet begun and the cold is closing in. Prepare for posts about arctic weather and creativity below zero. New aupair from the six counties is settling and apart from the fact we are all wearing long johns life is fine. In […]

    Review: Goodwin Wharton October 31, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: Goodwin Wharton

    In the spring of 1683, a disgraced scion of an English aristocratic family, Goodwin Wharton met Mary Parish a woman in regular communication with fairies (‘lowlanders’), angels, the dead and, of course, the Almighty. Mary was down on her luck having alienated her spirit guide, having argued bitterly with the royal family of faery and […]

    Welsh Candles and a Ghost October 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Welsh Candles and a Ghost

    A couple of weeks ago we travelled to the Church Porch at midnight to see who would die in the coming year. Here is a Welsh equivalent (kind of). Down to the last hundred years it was usual in many a district in Wales to burn candles in the parish church on the eve of […]

    Shakespeare’s First Anne October 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Shakespeare's First Anne

    Earlier this year we publicised that famous inventor of the compass, Flavio Gioia, who never, in fact, existed. Today, we offer a parallel tale from English literature: the story of Shakespeare’s first love. We refer here not to that hated appendage, Anne Hathaway, who married the bard after he got her pregnant and eventually got […]

    The Missing Autobiography of Mario Esposito October 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Missing Autobiography of Mario Esposito

    Mario Esposito (obit 1975) was a talented medievalist born to an Italian family in that glittering Dublin of Joyce, Yeats and Beckett. ME got involved with the struggle for Irish independence, was a keen mountaineer, but above all published on Irish manuscripts. His first academic article was written when he was 18, a rather misinformed […]

    Wikipedia Comes of Age: Wincest, Exobiddling, Osloed and Getting Wilked October 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Wikipedia Comes of Age: Wincest, Exobiddling, Osloed and Getting Wilked

    About ten years ago the present author was asked to present a paper on a medieval Christian thinker at an international conference. He began his talk that day by mocking Wikipedia’s treatment of said Christian thinker and got some cheap laughs. Last weekend in a melancholy mood – another decade of his life steamed off […]

    Fairy Jousting? October 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Fairy Jousting?

    This tale comes from an early thirteenth-century Latin collection of mirabilia. It has not, to the best of Beach’s knowledge been associated with fairies, but reading it eight hundred years after its composition, there seem to be some fey hints worth flagging up. Note that the Latin below comes from an early edition where there […]

    A Fourteen-Month Pregnancy in Nineteenth-century Cornwall? October 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Fourteen-Month Pregnancy in Nineteenth-century Cornwall?

    Polperro Press is a small publishing house that produces excellent quality monographs on Cornish themes. If every town of this size – Polperro is an idyllic Cornish port – had a book producing company of a third of this quality historians would be able to give up their day jobs: history, at least western history, […]

    The Last of 2973 October 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The Last of 2973

    From June to September 1940 2937 pilots flew in RAF fighters to retain British air superiority over the Home Counties in a scrap that has been remembered by history as ‘the Battle of Britain’. Immortalized by Churchill as ‘the few’ these men have come, even more than the Dunkirk-bound BEF, to symbolise the British achievement […]

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