Yorkshire Day

Yorkshire. Yorkshire, as all right-thinking people know, is known as ‘God’s Own County’ and quite right too. We’re lucky here at JAQUO because we have several Yorkshire writers. (As you would expect from a magazine of such quality). This means that JAQUO has quite a few articles about God’s Own County – the people and the places, the history and the food – which you can see here in our...

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Leitzel: Queen of the Air

Leitzel: Love and tragedy in the circus. In the early twentieth century, the name of Leitzel was famous. And yet few people today know her story. Born in Germany in 1892, she became the darling of the circus. Yet her rags-to-riches story is fascinating, as was the story of the love of her life … and her tragic end. She was born into a performing world and soon became a talented acrobat. She was the product of a female acrobat...

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The Empire State Building

Empire State Building: Trivia. What do you know about the Empire State Building? Here’s a series of weird and wonderful facts. Bore Fascinate your friends with Empire State Building trivia 🙂 For the golden anniversary of the building’s opening in 1981, workmen opened the time-capsule that had been buried in its cornerstone. The contents hadn’t stood the test of time. The items within it had rotted away during their...

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Jackie Kennedy: The Pink Suit

Jackie Kennedy: The pink suit. In early November, 1963, John and Jackie Kennedy were at the White House enjoying a private dinner with newspaper columnist Joe Alsop and his wife, Susan. After dinner, John Kennedy asked his wife to show their guests the pink suit that she intended to wear during their forthcoming trip to Texas. Jackie was reluctant at first but went to her room and fetched the plain, pink suit. Yes, that one. Looking...

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The Yorkshireman and the Sahara

Eric Jackson: Petrol in My Blood If you’re looking for a great read, full of adventure, humour and history, then I definitely recommend Petrol in My Blood by Eric Jackson. This is the autobiography of a Yorkshireman, born in a gipsy caravan in 1924, who started life with humble origins. Written when the author was in his eighties, the book spans generations and it’s a miracle that, because of his adventures, that he...

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Irrepressible:  The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford

Irrepressible:  The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford. Jessica, almost always known as Decca, was one of the famous aristocratic Mitford sisters who were notorious in the  twentieth century. There were six sisters (and one brother who died in the Second World War) and all drew notoriety in their own way. As society girls,they were constantly in trouble during their teens. Their mother always remarked that if ever she saw newspaper...

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Marni Nixon

Who was Marni Nixon? Is the name unfamiliar to you? The chances are that you don’t recognise the face either. But it’s very likely that you know her voice. Marni was responsible for some of the most famous singing voices heard on the silver screen.. Have you heard the soundtrack from My Fair Lady for example? Or seen the film? That’s not Audrey Hepburn that you’re listening to – it’s the voice of...

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Will Camilla be Queen?

Will Camilla be Queen? In 2005, it was announced that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker -Bowles would be married. They had been living together for quite some time. The queen and the practically-minded royal family approved wholeheartedly. Princes William and Harry had come to know her well and were delighted. And yet a poll showed that only seven percent of British people wanted her to eventually be queen. Yet ten years later, as the...

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The Great Pearl Heist

Joseph Grizzard and the Great Pearl Heist. Who was Joseph Grizzard? Joseph Grizzard was a cultured man. He was elegant, wealthy, owned a lovely home and had a wife and children. He was also a criminal mastermind. A Londoner, he had been born in 1866 and despite humble beginnings, by the Edwardian Era he was a wealthy man – thanks to crime. He was wonderfully urbane. In 1909, he was having a small dinner party at his home when...

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Who Was Julia Stanley?

Julia Stanley: Which version do you believe? Julia Stanley will go down in history. But her life is surrounded by myths and legends. What is the truth? Let’s look at the facts. She was born as one of five sisters in Liverpool in 1914. She wasn’t from a wealthy family but they were not poor either.  After the death of the girls’ mother, the father ruled over the household with an iron fist. When Julia was fourteen,...

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The Bobbed Haired Bandit

The Bobbed Haired Bandit. In 1989 it was clear to Ed Cooney Jr that his mother, now aged eighty five, was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Ed had been a computer programmer and had moved to Florida when he retired. His mother Celia, having no other family except Ed and his brother, had also moved from New Jersey to the Floridian sunshine. Ed didn’t realised that his mother had lived in Florida before – or anything...

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Hetty Green

Who was Hetty Green? Hetty Green was at one time one of the richest women in the world, certainly in the United States. She was born in 1834 to a wealthy family. She also had the advantage of being the only offspring her parents managed to bring up. She’d had a younger brother but he had died as a child. However, her parents – especially her father – had particularly wanted a son so Hetty never felt loved. But she...

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Who was Marli Renfro?

Marli Renfro: You know her well. The chances are that if you like movies, you know who Marli Renfro was but you might not recognise the name. What’s more, I’m willing to bet that you’ve seen her completely naked. She was in one of the most famous films – ever. But few people know her name. She was born in America in 1938. She grew up to be very attractive and she was only in her early twenties when she took...

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The Mysterious Death of Wallis Simpson

What happened to Wallis Simpson after the Duke of Windsor died? Wallis was of course, the Duchess of Windsor. Her husband the duke had formerly been King Edward VIII and famously he abdicated in 1936 so that he could marry her. Their affair and subsequent marriage had tongues wagging on both sides of the Atlantic and was the constitutional crisis of the twentieth century. They had a curious, scandalous and rather sad married life but...

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Cremorne Gardens, London

Cremorne Gardens, London Cremorne Gardens provided a popular place for entertainment in the Victorian era. Close to the Battersea Bridge, it offered all sorts of amusements for the population. It sounds so very genteel, doesn’t it? It gives the impression of well-bred ladies strolling in their finery and holding their parasols to shield their fair complexions from the sun. The name evokes an image of elegant gentlemen, courtesly...

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The Last Escaper: Peter Tunstall

The Last Escaper. True stories from Peter Tunstall,  Colditz prisoner of war. In the Second World War many British men, often RAF pilots, became prisoners of war in Germany. Their planes had been shot down and then men, often only in their late teens or early twenties, were captured and imprisoned by German soldiers. This is the story about one of them – Pete Tunstall. RAF pilot Tunstall was only twenty one when he was shot down...

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William Grover Williams: Racing Driver and Spy

The curious life and death of Grand Prix driver, William Grover Williams. Yes, William Grover was a racing driver and some motorsport historians will probably know his name because he was the winner of the inaugural Monte Carlo Grand Prix in 1929. But his life was much more fascinating than that last sentences implies.   He was British, having had an English father and a British mother. It was evident that he had a huge interest...

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Graham Hill

Graham Hill On December 5th, 1975, racing driver Graham Hill was due to appear at a ceremony at which the British Racing Drivers Club was going to honor his achievements as a racing driver. Hill had won the  Grand Prix Championship, the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours race during his racing career. But instead, over two thousand of his friends and colleagues attended his funeral. He had retired from racing just five months...

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Alberto Ascari

Ascari’s lucky racing helmet. Alberto Ascari was born in Italy in 1918. By the time he started motor racing as a young man, it was one of the most dangerous occupations in Europe. He knew this because his own father – also a racing driver – had been killed when Alberto was only seven years old. By the mid nineteen fifties, Alberto had twice won the Formula One World Championship and was looking forward to continuing...

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The Disappearance of the Mary Celeste

What was the fate of the Mary Celeste? The Mary Celeste became the world’s most famous ship in 1872. She had been found drifting in the North Atlantic Ocean – she was completely seaworthy and orderly but her entire crew had vanished into thin air. They were never seen again. You can read more about that here. Ever since that day, experts, the authorities and members of the general public have been speculating about the...

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Monaco? Forget it if You’re a Criminal

Is Monaco a police state? When the book you see below was published – and it wasn’t too long ago – the author believed that the gorgeous, fairytale principality of Monaco was a police state. The home of the wealthy and the playground of the famous, Monte CArlo is famous throughout the world for its glittering,luxury lifestyle. It’s also claimed that it’s one of the safest, crime-free places in the world....

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Tomatillo and Onion Tart Recipe

This easy-to-make dish can be prepared using tomatoes or their more exotic cousins, tomatillos. These are available in several gorgeous colours – the ones I have used here are a deep purple shade and are a little sweeter than the green varieties. It takes only a couple of minutes to assemble this tart and then it needs about twenty minutes in the oven. It has a wonderful Italian flavour and is a great dish to cook instead of...

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Lipton’s tea: Victorian advertising

Lipton’s tea: Victorian advertising. One of the first exponents of what we now call guerilla marketing must have been Thomas Lipton, back in Victorian times.  This grocery store owner was the master of publicity stunts. Sir Thomas was a Scot and on 9th July, 1878, traffic was at a halt in his hometown of Glasgow, as people watched the progress of three chubby and content pigs, dressed in bright clothes, and bearing the slogan...

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The Curious Love Life of Fabulous Fanny Cradock

The curious love life of bigamist Fanny Cradock Fanny Cradock was known as the first TV celebrity chef. She appeared on her show along with her ‘husband’, Johnny. Although he was her real-life partner, they were not married – a fact that could have scandalised some viewers when their show started in 1955. In fact, Fanny had first been married at the age of seventeen – to an RAF pilot. Accounts vary regarding...

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Didier Peroni and Gilles Villeneuve

Team orders in Formula One. At time of writing (July 2016) there’s a lot of mayhem going on about imposing team orders at the Mercedes Formula One HQ.  Now team orders are a subject of a very long article, or even a book, but today I want to talk about motorsport history — and the team orders at the Grand Prix of Imola in 1982. In that year, Didier Pironi of France and Canadian Gilles Villeneuve were team-mates driving for...

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Wallis Simpson’s Wedding Dress

Wallis Simpson’s wedding dress. Not a fashion success. In the nineteen thirties, when King Edward VIII gave up the throne of England for Mrs Wallis Simpson, many people just couldn’t understand what this highly eligible bachelor saw in her. Many  still don’t understand the attraction. In those days, and ever since, she has been described as a ‘fashion icon’. There is little photographic evidence to...

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When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain: History’s Unknown Chapters

When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain: By Giles Milton. Do you like trivia and strange stories from history? If you do, and you’re looking for a great read, then I highly recommend what Mr Milton has created here. It’s perfect for dipping into as each true story is a short one and you’ll learn such a lot about the weird and the wonderful. One or two of these tales from history might be familiar to you...

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The Man who Sank the Lusitania

The man who sank the Lusitania – Walther von Schwieger On Friday, April 30th, 1915, a German U-boat left a naval base in the North Sea. The submarine traveled around Scotland, then down to Ireland. She was commanded by thirty year old Kapitänleutnant Walther von Schwieger. The following day, the passenger liner Lusitania, with over fifteen hundred people aboard, left New York bound for England. The two vessels were to meet and...

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The Princesses and V.E Day

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, 1945. On May 7th, 1945, the BBC interrupted a broadcast of piano music to declare that the following day would henceforth be known as ‘Victory in Europe Day’. Hitler had killed himself several days before and the German forces had surrendered. On the following day the crowds outside Buckingham Palace were greater than they had been for the coronation of the king, George VII.  The crowds...

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Ivy Benson

Who was Ivy Benson? Have you heard of Ivy Benson? I doubt you have but her story is fascinating. Unusually, she was the leader of a swing band in England during the Second World War – and it was an all-girls band. They were incredibly popular. Women came into their own during World War Two. They drove trucks and buses, flew planes, worked as machinists and engineers, worked decoding messages and in general, took over the jobs of...

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May the Fourth be With You: Recipes

Star Wars recipes! May 4th is Star Wars Day and JAQUO writer Cheryl has put together a selection of recipes especially to celebrate this day. And oh boy, are they out of this world! Smoothies from the Star Wars Cookbook May the force of baking be with you in the kitchen! I was looking for an adventurous cookbook and stumbled across this Star Wars Cookbook. I was like I gotta have it. It looked so fun when I read the reviews about it....

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Was Victor Hervey, 6th Marquess of Bristol: The Real Pink Panther?

Was Victor Hervey, 6th Marquess of Bristol: The Real Pink Panther? He was born into money. He was titled. Yet Victor Hervey became a jewel thief and was the person who masterminded several robberies of a high-class nature. When he was only twenty three years old he was sent to jail. Two years before he was sentenced to prison, he had been declared bankrupt – he had squandered the family money. What was he to do? Well, his...

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Who Was Ivan Vaughan?

Ivan Vaughan might have changed your life 🙂 It’s unlikely that you know the name though. And he didn’t invent anything, he wasn’t a captain of industry or a pioneering scientist. In fact he was just a normal bloke and a schoolteacher for many of his adult years. He didn’t come from an extraordinary family and went to an ordinary school. Growing up, he had friends of course. One in particular friend was exactly...

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What is Earth Hour?

What is Earth Hour? Earth Hour is a worldwide initiative. It has its roots in Australia where the idea began in 2007. In 2015, Earth Hour is on March 28th and takes place between 8.30 and 9.30pm. Worldwide, people are encouraged to turn of their unnecessary lights between those times. This refers to your own local time. The goal of Earth Hour To be honest, there’s someone else who can explain this so much better than I can. See...

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The Murder of Sal Mineo

Who was Sal Mineo? Twenty years before he was murdered, Sal Mineo had been a Hollywood heartthrob. He specialised in playing young toughs such as his part in the James Dean movie, Rebel Without a Cause. But by the time of his murder in February 1976 his career had spent some years in decline. But he wasn’t depressed about his situation. True, he had sold his palatial home and was living in a $75 a month rented apartment but he...

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The Racing Driver and the Titanic

Washington Augustus Roebling II. Washington Roebling was named after his well-known uncle who had played a part in the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and as a boy, like others in his family, he had a huge interest in engineering. But for Washington, that had nothing to do with civil engineering but with cars and racing. He co-created the Roebling-Planche car which he drove successfully in several races in the USA. But late in 1911 he...

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Lennon & McCartney: The final conversation

Lennon & McCartney: The final conversation. In the final years of John Lennon’s life, the media had two major preoccupations when it came to the one-time Beatles. The first was that all four of the previous members of the group were constantly being asked if a Beatles reunion was on the cards. The answer was always in the negative. The second was the supposed animosity between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Journalists and...

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Famous last meals: The Titanic

Famous last meals: The Titanic Traditionally, when a prisoner is about to be executed, they can request whatever they wish for their last meal. What a tricky problem it would be to choose. I rather imagine that any pleasure derived from your favourite foods would be negated by the fact that you knew what was awaiting you in the morning. In the States, alcohol is not normally permitted for the last meal. Which is a shame because a good...

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Franklin D. Roosevelt: Assassination Attempt

FDR saved in Miami. When Franklin D Roosevelt was elected to office  he planned to relax a little before his inauguration. That was to take place in March 1933 so the month before, he accepted an invitation to go on a fishing trip to South Florida. Eleven days into the trip the yacht he was on, the Nourmahal, docked in pier one at Miami harbour. Roosevelt planned to speak briefly in Bayfront Park to which he travelled in an open car....

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Tragic Truth Behind Sheffield’s Famous Graffiti

The story behind the ‘I love you’ bridge. In 2001 local residents in the Park Hill area of Sheffield saw a rather amazing piece of graffiti. It wasn’t just that it was an ‘aww’ moment, it was also remarkable because of its location. It was written on the side of a walkway bridge one hundred and thirty feet off the ground. It read ‘Clare Middleton I Love You Will U Marry Me’. Everyone who saw...

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The Guinea Pig Club

The Guinea Pig Club of the Second World War. This very exclusive club was started in 1941 during WW2. There were exactly six hundred and forty nine members. But there was an incredibly high price to pay for membership. Members were all airmen who had been badly burned and disfigured in action They had all been treated by pioneer surgeon, Archibald McIndoe. He pioneered plastic surgery, hence the name of this elite club. Read on to...

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The 1957 Spaghetti Harvest

The 1957 Spaghetti Harvest 1957 was a year for celebration in the tiny town of Ticino in Switzerland. What many people don’t realise is that pasta isn’t only produced in Italy – it is also grown in some of the surrounding areas. And 1957 provided a bumper crop. The last two weeks of March are always an anxious time for the spaghetti farmer. Should there be late frosts, their spaghetti crop can be badly affected and...

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The Mermaids of Mapplewell

The Mermaids of Mapplewell Come with me on a journey to the past. A past that was stranger than we could ever imagine. In olden times, unusual creatures inhabited the earth but don’t imagine for a moment that I am talking about prehistoric days. No, the story which unfolds below is only a little more than a hundred and fifty years old. It was then, despite the technological advances being made by the people of the Victorian era,...

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The Clocks of Windsor Castle

The Queen’s Clockmaker. Steve Davidson has a fantastic job. He is in charge of the many clocks at Windsor Castle, one of the residences of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. But on two weekends of every year he has a truly unenviable job – the weekend in spring when he has to put the clocks forward and then in autumn when they need to be put back an hour. How many clocks? Including the royal residence itself, outbuildings and...

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How to Hull Strawberries

The best way to prepare strawberries. It’s so very easy to hull strawberries to prepare them for your favourite recipes. Use this method and you’ll have even more recipes at your fingertips. By removing that hard central core cleanly, you’ll be able to make strawberries stuffed with ice cream or chocolate or any other inventive ideas that will surely occur to you. See the image above – aren’t those...

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Intimate Letters of England’s Queens

The Intimate Letters of England’s Queens For lovers of history, or simply those who want to know more about fascinating lives – discovering Intimate Letters of England’s Queens is like finding a treasure trove. After all, there’s no better way about finding out about who these people really were than reading letters written at testing times in their lives. For example, we know the facts about Anne Boleyn. We...

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Started Early, Took My Dog: Kate Atkinson

Started Early, Took My Dog: Kate Atkinson What a remarkable book. It’s always a little tricky to write about a mystery story without alerting the reader to spoilers but if you’ve read Kate Atkinson’s books before, you’ll know that you’re in for a treat. If you haven’t, then what are you waiting for? It’s certainly time you discovered this author and her current series. Kate Atkinson has always...

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Eyam Village and the Great Plague

Eyam Village and the Great Plague. Eyam is a small and picturesque village in Derbyshire. If you visit, at first there is nothing to immediately distinguish it from other English villages but you’ll soon find history surrounds you. Three hundred and fifty years ago, the great plague came to the village. And the villagers decided to quarantine themselves to stop this horrible and fatal disease spreading to the rest of the north...

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Medieval Ravioli from England

Medieval ravioli recipe from England Ravioli is an Italian dish, right? And probably a fairly recent invention. Form of Curye was written in England in the fourteenth century (yes, in 13-something) and includes recipes for lasagna and ravioli. Forme of Cury was the name given by Samuel Pegge to a roll of cookery written by the Master Cooks of King Richard II of England. This name has since come into usage for almost all versions of...

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Eva Braun: Mrs Hitler

Eva Braun: The woman who married Adolf Hitler. Who was the woman who married the fuhrer? Of course, it was probably one of the shortest marriages ever, ending with the couple’s death on April 30th, 1945, but at that time, she had known Hitler for sixteen years. She was born to what was then known as a lower-middle-class couple in 1912, one of three sisters. She was educated at the local catholic school and then at a convent. She...

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The Boy in the Song: How Do You Sleep?

How Do You Sleep? By John Lennon. When John Lennon was recording the Imagine album in 1971, not all the musicians were aware that the song How Do You Sleep? was full of barbs directed at Lennon’s former band mate, Paul McCartney. But when Ringo Starr visited the recording studio during the session,it was obvious to him as soon as he walked in. He reportedly said “That’s enough, John.” Klaus Voorman, an old...

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Last Chain on Billie

Last Chain on Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top. Although the title of this book seems to suggest that this is the story of one elephant, it is really a fascinating history of elephants in captivity in the United States. Using the story of Billie’s life as a background author Carol Bradley tells about the earliest days of elephants being brought into the country to appear in circuses, fairs and...

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Pie recipes – for Pi Day!

Pie recipes – tried and tested    CLICK HERE FOR PIE RECIPES Articles are added to JAQUO every day and many of those are recipes – because we love to eat. And we love to share our favourite recipes with you. There’s nothing like homemade food and that seems to apply particularly to pies. Twenty years ago,it was no longer fashionable to cook – we ate out or we zapped frozen meals in the microwave. Those...

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Planet-Friendly Tips from Wartime Britain

Planet-friendly tips we can learn today from wartime Britain It seems strange but it’s true that there are lots of planet-friendly tips that were common practice in the UK during the Second World War. Everything,particularly food, was in short supply.Clothes were severely rationed. The motto of the time was: Make Do And Mend An entire generation was brought up to make the most of what they had. Clothes were repaired rather than...

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Norman Rockwell: Fake!

The Norman Rockwell painting that was a fake. Breaking Home Ties is one of America’s favourite illustrations.It was created by Norman Rockwell in 1954, originally for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. For years it was exhibited and admired by the American people but there was just one minor detail – it was a fake. More than fifty years after it had been painted, it was discovered that the artwork on display was a...

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Who Was Timothy Evans?

Who was Timothy Evans? Timothy Evans was twenty-five years old when he died in London in 1950. He was hanged for the murder of his wife and their baby daughter. But it was later discovered that there was one big problem. Timothy Evans was innocent. Evans was illiterate. He had suffered various illnesses as a child and had hardly any education. When he was still a boy, his family moved from their native Wales to London.  When he was...

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The Adventures of Poon Lim

The amazing survival story of Poon Lim. On 5th April, 1943, the crew of a small Brazilian fishing vessel spotted a life raft off the coast of Brazil. When they approached it, they found that it had a single occupant – a young Chinese man called Poon Lim. He had left his homeland several years before to work on a British merchant ship as a steward. But of course, this was now the Second World War and on 23rd November, 1942 his...

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John Lennon: The Beatles are bigger than Jesus

John Lennon: The Beatles are bigger than Jesus. In 1966, John Lennon was interviewed by Maureen Cleave, a friend of his, for an article entitled How Does a Beatles Live? John Lennon lives like this. In the lengthy article she spoke about his reading matter, Indian music, his Siamese cats, where he bought his clothes, films, games, his family and other trivia. The article, which was published in the Evening Standard on March 4th that...

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What is a Ponzi Scheme?

What is a Ponzi scheme? A Ponzi scheme is a type of fraud. Investors are encouraged to hand over their money being told they will get fabulous returns. The problem is, that there is actually no company making money to back up the claims. Charles Ponzi This scheme is named after Italian Charles Ponzi and a business venture he started in America round about 1920. As you can see from his photograph on the left,  he ended up in jail....

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Was Carmen Nigro King Kong?

Carmen Nigro: The man who thought he was King Kong In the early 1980s, Mrs Evelyn Nigro was thoroughly fed up of having a gorilla costume in her Chicago basement apartment. The thing was over fifty years old. It had mildew and it was getting smelly. She told her husband, Carmen – a seventy seven year old security guard, that it had to go. It was either the costume or her. It was playing havoc with her allergies. Reluctantly,...

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1964: The Year of Royal Babies

Four royal babies: 1964. Today there is a media frenzy when a royal baby is born. This wasn’t always the case in the previous century because the media hadn’t become quite as intrusive and the general population was more inclined to allow the royal family more privacy than they do today. Yet imagine what today’s media would have made of the news in 1964 when four royal babies were born, including one to Queen...

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What Does ‘Dord’ Mean?

What does ‘dord’ mean? Well, it was in the dictionary but nevertheless, ‘dord’ means nothing. I don’t mean by this that it means ‘nil’ or that it means ‘zero’ – it simply isn’t a word. No such word exists. So why was it in Webster’s Dictionary for five years? And what’s more, how did a non-existent word get in there in the first place? It must be a pretty...

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Murder in Miami: Christopher Wilder the Beauty Queen Killer

Murder in Miami: Christopher Wilder the Beauty Queen Killer. Christopher Wilder was rich. His friends described him as charming and gallant. He lived a playboy life in South Florida, living well and racing sports cars. He was particularly fond of beautiful young women. In the nineteen eighties he was still in his thirties and living in Boynton Beach in Florida. Murder at the 1984 Miami Grand Prix This was the second motor racing event...

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Mystic Sweet Communion: The Stranahans of Fort Lauderdale

Mystic Sweet Communion: The Stranahans of Fort Lauderdale. Almost hidden away, flanked by enormous high-rise buildings, is the Stranahan House on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. The house itself – now a museum –  is fascinating but what’s even more interesting is the story of its original owners, Frank and Ivy Stranahan. Ivy Cromartie was still a teenager in when she first went to a tiny South Florida...

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Who Was Kenneth Williams?

Who was Kenneth Williams? Kenneth Williams was a much-loved British actor and comedian. But somehow, he was so much more than that. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that he was an institution. He was certainly an original, that’s for sure. Starting his career in the theatre, he first found fame on the radio in the nineteen fifties. And one absolutely hilarious character he portrayed in the early sixties...

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Thelma Todd

Who Killed Thelma Todd? On a Monday morning December  1935, Thelma Todd’s body was found. She was in a car that was parked in the garage of her lover, Roland West. It was the exhaust fumes from the Packard convertible that had caused her death. Police rushed to the scene above the Pacific Highway between Malibu and Santa Monica. They took photographs, questioned locals and discovered that Thelma had bruises and that her face was...

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Was Karen Silkwood Murdered?

Who was Karen Silkwood? Many people believe that she was murdered. Let’s look at her background first. She began working at an Oklahoma chemical plant in 1972.  The facility was responsible for producing plutonium pellets for use in nuclear reactors. Yes, frightening. As did her colleagues, she joined the union and became concerned about the levels of safety for the workers employed in the factory who were exposed to dangerous...

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Tom Keating: Art Fraud

Tom Keating: Criminal or hero? In the nineteen sixties and seventies, Tom Keating made a very handy living as an art forger. But was he a criminal or was he simply exposing the shady side of the art world? He painted fakes in the style of several well known painters (whose works were valuable and in demand) and sold them without exactly revealing that they were ‘home made’. How much of a crime is that, exactly? Well, in...

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British Money Before Decimalisation

British money before decimalisation In a strange British perverse way, those of us who remember the ‘old money’ took a secret delight in its complexity. Today, it’s easy. Like dollars and cents, there are one hundred pennies to the pound. Arithmetic is simple. Foreign visitors are no longer baffled. The old system, which evolved relatively naturally sounds quite bonkers, but even the most innumerate people (such as...

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Gypsy Rose Lee

 Stripping Gypsy Gypsy Rose Lee, or Rose Hovick as she was originally named, was the product of a driven stage mother. Rose was born in 1911 and her sister June followed a year later. After the girls’ parents were divorced, the two youngsters were made to perform on the vaudeville stage to support the small family. Rose and June’s mother is said to have had a variety of forged birth certificates for the girls to...

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Who Was Isabella Beeton?

Who was Isabella Beeton? The ‘Isabella’ part of the name might not be familiar but many people have heard of ‘Mrs Beeton’, the Victorian lady who compiled the then best-selling book of  household management advice. But who was Mrs Beeton? It’s easy to have the impression that she was a rosy-cheeked, suitable plump, grandmotherly old lady who shared her years of experience  of cooking and managing a home....

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Who Was Peg Entwistle?

Who was Peg Entwistle? Peg Entwistle was British girl. To be accurate she was born in 1908 in Wales  to English parents. She was the eldest child of Robert Entwistle, an actor. It’s unclear whether her mother died or whether her parents were divorced but her father married again and Peg acquired two half-brothers. By 1913, the family had moved to the United States but their home was soon disrupted when Robert Entwistle was the...

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Lord Lucan

Who was Lord Lucan? And even more importantly, what happened to him? What was the eventual fate of this member of the British aristocracy who, it’s claimed, murdered his children’s nanny mistaking her for his estranged wife? These strange events took place on November 7th, 1974 and Lord Lucan, nicknamed Lucky by his friends, was never seen again. Did he kill himself in remorse after murdering his children’s nanny?...

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Lettice Curtis

Who was Lettice Curtis? During the Second World War the Air Transport Auxiliary was formed to move new, damaged or repaired aircraft to where they were needed by the Royal Air Force. Civilian pilots were used so that the trained fighter pilots could concentrate on winning the war. One hundred and sixty six of the pilots employed by the ATA were women and Lettice Curtis was one of the first to join up. By the time the war was over, she...

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Today in history: February

What happened on this day in February? 1st Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction 2004 Clark Gable born 1901 Lettice Curtis b 1915 2nd Nathan Lane born 1956 Gisele Pascal died 2007 Arnold Hardy born 1922 Lux Interior died 2009 Robinson Crusoe rescued 1709   3rd Buddy Holly died 1959 Three parent bill passed 2015 Nancy Kulp died 1991 Norman Rockwell born 1894 Lord Lucan declared dead 2016 4th Liberace died 1987 Charles Lindberg born...

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Demis Roussos

 Who was Demis Roussos? Demis Roussos was the most unlikely popular singer. In the nineteen seventies, when women were throwing their knickers at the (mildly sexy) Tom Jones, along came this fat, hairy Greek who sang like a girl – and his female fans loved him. He was the most unlikely sex symbol. Demis was incredibly popular in England and he put this down to the availability of cheaper European travel. He suggested that his...

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The Spirella Lady

History ramblings about, well, ladies’ undergarments. It’s a curious thing. When I was a child, grown-up women wore corsets. Today though, women seem to have an anything-goes policy. So what if you’ve got a huge bum? So what if your belly button shows through your t-shirt nestled in several rolls of fat? Well, in the 1950s and 1960s, women were more particular or, as my mother would have no doubt put it, they had...

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The Busby Babes & the Munich Air Disaster

The Busby Babes & the Munich Air Disaster. A plane accident in 1958 took the lives of eight football players from the Manchester United team. Two others were so badly injured that they never played  again. Staff from the football club died too, as did several respected sports journalists. The football players in the Manchester United team who were killed were all in their twenties, the youngest being twenty-one. The team was known...

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The Hitchcock Blondes

Who were the Hitchcock blondes? They were a trademark of Alfred Hitchcock’s many movies. I should say one of the trademarks because another was his habit of appearing in tiny cameo roles Horror and suspense were Hitchcock’s true specialities and this was enhanced – deliberately – by his use of what he referred to as ‘icy blondes’. See the quote below. In the middle of the suspense, their was...

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The Kennedy curse?

The Kennedy curse? Did Jackie Kennedy take the curse to the Onassis family? Many people believe that the Kennedy family was cursed. It’s certainly true that they suffered many tragedies. But only three of these alleged ‘curses’ took place before the nineteen fifties – on other words, before Jacqueline Bouvier married John Kennedy in September 1953. The first tragedy was actually brought about largely by the...

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Who Was Butterfly McQueen?

Who was Butterfly McQueen? I love old movies yet I have to admit that there’s one – a very famous one indeed – that I haven’t seen. I don’t know why. But I do know about one of the actors in the film. That’s Butterfly McQueen. She is one of the most memorable of the cast (even to people like me who have only seen clips but never the full film) and yet, she hated the part. She took the role because...

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The Mystery of Amy Johnson

The mystery of Amy Johnson. As a pioneer aviator, Amy Johnson from Yorkshire had broken several flying records by the time the Second World War started in 1939. But once the war had begun, the Royal Air Force had no use for female pilots. So the only opportunity for her to use her flying skills to help the war effort was to join the ATA – the Air Transport Auxiliary. This organisation, as the name suggests, used female pilots to...

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What Happened to the Von Trapp Family Children?

The von Trapp family from ‘The Sound of Music‘. Like many people, I was just a kid when I first saw this classic movie. It’s true that it’s a sickly-sweet film – the oldies loved it – but nevertheless it had its own charm for kids. It was the idea of Mary Poppins coming to rescue a gaggle of kids from their overbearing father that did it. Now of course, we know that the story was only very loosely...

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Expensive Operation for Constipated Goldfish

British pet-lover paid £300 for an operation for his constipated goldfish. This is true On 1st January, 2015, a British pet-owner could no longer conceal his concern for his goldfish. He’d noticed (and this is a mystery in itself) that the unfortunate fish was having a problem in the bowel department. Luckily, his local veterinary office, in addition to dealing with the average pet problem, specialised in  more exotic animals...

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Today in History: January

What happened on this day in January? 1st Blanche Barrow born 1911 First edition of the Time of London published 1788 Victoria became the Empress of India 1877 Alcatraz became a federal prison 1934 J.D. Salinger born 1919 Maurice Chevalier died 1972 R.T. James born 1914 Constipate goldfish’s operation 2015 R. T James born 1914 2nd Yorkshire Ripper arrested 1981 Robbie Gordon born 1969 Cuba Gooding Jr born 1968 Isaac Asimov born...

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The Monsanto House of the Future

A glimpse into the future in the nineteen fifties. I know that this sounds like something Doc Emmett Brown would say but it’s interesting to go back and see what ideas people had about the future. In 1957 the idea of the future was something that fascinated the Disney organisation and also a firm called the Monsanto Company. They thought, in common with Mr. Robinson from The Graduate, that the future could be summed up in one...

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Keep Fighting Michael

 Michael Schumacher #KeepFightingMichael Safety in the world of motorsport has made huge strides in the last few decades. And yet Michael Schumacher, the most successful racing driver of the modern era, is fighting for his life. But not due to an accident on the track. On 29 December 2013, having retired from racing, Schumacher was enjoyed one of his favourite sports and was skiing in the French Alps. He fell and received a serious...

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How do you cure a hangover?

How do you cure a hangover? Oh dear. Did you have too much to drink? Are you paying the price for it now? Well, purely in the spirit (sorry) of research, I have spent many years investigating hangover cures. My fondness for red wine has nothing to do with it – this has been completely altruistic. (I can hear you scoffing from here). So, there are plenty of old wives’ tales around. Hair of the dog – does that work?...

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The Queen’s Cousins: Scandal?

Queen Elizabeth II’s cousins. In 1987 the media uncovered what seemed to be a huge scandal. Newspapers reported that two sisters had been discovered in what they called an ‘asylum for mental defectives’ and what’s more, they were cousins of the queen, Elizabeth II. It was said that the two women were living in the most basic conditions and that they had no visitors. It seemed that this was a case of the royal...

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The Day the Music Died

Buddy Holly memorabilia. In the spring of 2006, Buddy Holly’s widow decided that she was going to put several items of Holly memorabilia into auction. Buddy Holly was twenty two years old when he died in an air crash. Also killed in the accident were Ritchie Valens (aged seventeen), The Big Bopper Richardson (aged twenty eight) and pilot Roger Peterson (aged twenty one). Maria Elena had married Buddy Holly just six months before...

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Who Was Evelyn Nesbit?

Who was Evelyn Nesbit? When Evelyn Nesbit died at the ripe old age of eighty two, she had been in obscurity for years. But at one time, her name was well-known on Broadway and in the theatres of Europe. She became even more well known in 1906 when,openly and in public, her husband shot her lover dead in a glittering supper club in Manhattan. Evelyn was only twenty at the time and had met her much older lover, Stanford White, when she...

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George Harrison Attacked at Home

In 1999, Beatle George Harrison was attacked in his own home. We like to think that we are safe in our own homes but in the early hours of December 31st, 1999, George Harrison and his wife Olivia were brutally attacked by a man wielding a knife in the Friar Park home. George said later that he was sure that he would die. George and Olivia had been watching television that night and had gone to bed at about 2am. Their son Dhani was...

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Sheila van Damm

Racy Ladies: Sheila van Damm. Sheila van Damm’s career was interesting to say the least. She was known in the nineteen fifties as Britain’s top woman rally driver and by the nineteen sixties she was running ‘naughty’ reviews on the London stage. Yet she arrived at both careers accidentally. You will most probably have heard of the famous Windmill Theatre in London. It shot to fame in the wartime years as it was...

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Princess Vicky & Prince Frederick William: Royal Romance

Princess Vicky & Prince Frederick William: Royal Romance. Princess Vicky was the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was a lively and intelligent girl and was well-trained by her parents to occupy a regal position. They expected her to marry well into another European royal house. They didn’t exactly arrange her marriage but they tried their best to facilitate it. When the Great Exhibition took place in...

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Princess Margaret and Group Captain Peter Townsend

Princess Margaret’s married lover Peter Townsend. Princess Margaret, the sister of Queen Elizabeth II, when thirteen when she first saw Group Captain Peter Townsend. He had arrived at Buckingham Palace to be interviewed for the position of equerry to her father, the king. He was twenty-nine, a war hero, good-looking … and married. He had married a woman called Rosemary – a woman who was attractive, fun-loving and...

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The Royal Scandal of Prince Eddy

Who was Prince Eddy? As we know, due to Queen Elizabeth’s uncle abdicating from the throne to marry Mrs. Wallis Simpson, the lineage to the British throne was altered. But that was also the case in the reign of Queen Victoria – in 1892. Victoria reigned for many years and, like the current situation today, the Prince of Wales had to wait a long time to become the sovereign. Similarly to Prince Charles today, he had grown...

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Modern Inventions we no Longer Use

Recent innovations – but we no longer use them. Do you realise how many items were invented within living memory that we no longer use today? We live in an age where new technology can be hard to keep up with. No sooner do we buy the latest smartphone than it’s outdated and we need to upgrade. We just get the hang of what the devil Google’s policy is on backlinks and then the whole landscape changes. Just think about...

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Royal Scandal: Prince Edward

Prince Edward: A virtually unknown member of the royal family. You might not have heard of Prince Eddy. It’s true that over the years he has been largely considered to be homosexual and, to put it nicely, mentally challenged. It’s true that his existence has been overshadowed by his the life of his brother but why did poor Eddy slip into obscurity? I say ‘poor Eddy’ because no-one seems to challenge the general...

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Who Lost His Address Book from a Helicopter Over the Greek Islands?

Dorothy Kilgallen’s famous question on What’s My Line. It’s no secret that I am obssessed with watching old episodes of What’s My Line on You Tube. I mean, the old versions from the late fifties and early sixties. They are simply brilliant. And one of my favourite panellists was Dorothy Kilgallen. She was very astute. especially when it came to guessing the identity of the mystery guest. If you’re...

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Florida Murder – The Sea Waif

The date was November 12th, 1963.  A crew member aboard the Gulf Lion, a tanker, spotted a small boat in the distance. In it was a man, waving frantically. The ship changed course and headed to the tiny boat and saw its single live occupant, a middle-aged man. Also in the dinghy was a seven year old girl – not alive, sadly. The man told his rescuers that his name was Julian Harvey. He had been the captain of a sixty foot...

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