Frank Pick (died 1941). The head of London Underground (or Underground Electric Railways Company of London as it was then known) was responsible for many of the underground’s iconic designs, including the Johnston typeface and roundel. He once offered to resign over a sculpture by Jacob Epstein on the organisation’s headquarters above St James’s Park Tube station. There were complaints that the penis of an infant boy featured in the sculpture was too prominent. In the end Pick’s resignation wasn’t necessary – Epstein climbed a ladder and chiselled an inch and a half off the offending organ.
Anthony Shaffer (died 2001). The 1972 film version of Shaffer’s play Sleuth was the first movie ever to have its entire cast (that is, Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine) nominated for Oscars. (The feat has only ever been equalled by the 1975 one-man movie Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!)
Chad Varah (died 2007). He founded the Samaritans while he was the priest at St Stephen, Walbrook, next to the Mansion House in the City of London. The original number was MANsion House 9000 – and the Bakelite telephone on which Varah took the calls is still displayed at the church to this day.
In 1907, the Cullinan Diamond was presented to Edward VII on his birthday. It remains the largest diamond ever found. When it was transported from South Africa, detectives travelled by ship carrying a decoy. The real jewel was sent by ordinary post (albeit registered).
Tim Rice (born 1944). In 2015 the lyricist wrote to the Spectator about the death during a cricket match in 1751 of the Prince of Wales, who would have succeeded his father George II as king. This was, said Rice, ‘the first known instance in cricket history of play stopping reign’.
In 1918, Germany and the Allies agreed the armistice ending World War I. The signing took place in a train carriage in the French forest of Compiègne. When France surrendered to Germany in 1940, Adolf Hitler insisted that the same carriage be taken to the same spot so that the French could sign the document there.
Neil Young (born 1945). The Canadian singer was responsible for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s hit Sweet Home Alabama. After Young criticised the Deep South for its racism and slavery in two of his own songs (Southern Man and Alabama), Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote their song in defence. The lyrics specifically mention Young (‘I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow’).
Whoopi Goldberg (born 1955). The star got her nickname because of childhood flatulence. ‘People used to say to me, “you’re like a whoopee cushion”.’