Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …
In 1860 the first Open golf championship was played. The tournament’s worst ever score is 121, achieved by Maurice Flitcroft in a qualifying round in 1976. A shipyard crane operator from Barrow-in-Furness, Flitcroft only entered because he had seen golf on the television and fancied a go. Other players became suspicious when he got down on all fours to put his tee into the ground. Furious, the game’s authorities banned him for life, which only spurred Flitcroft on. He entered tournaments under false names, disguised in deerstalker hats and Zapata moustaches dyed with food colouring. He became such a cult hero that American admirers created a tournament named in his honour. Flitcroft attended in person, saying ‘it’s the first time Jean and I have been out of the house together since the gas oven exploded’.
In 1867, the United States took possession of Alaska. It is now the only US state whose name is spelled on a single line of a QWERTY keyboard.
Alan Coren (died 2007). The writer once said that he disagreed with people who criticised Tesco. The supermarket, in his opinion, fulfilled a very important function: ‘It keeps the riff-raff out of Waitrose.’
Cassius Marcellus Clay (born 1810). The American lawyer and diplomat was a prominent anti-slavery campaigner. In 1910, Herman Heaton Clay (no relation) named his son Cassius Marcellus Clay as a tribute. This Cassius gave the same name to his own son – who grew up to be heavyweight boxing champion of the world (though changed his name to Muhammad Ali when he converted to Islam).
In 1965 the Beatles received a gold record for US sales of Yesterday. Paul McCartney had written the song at 57 Wimpole Street in London, where he was living with the family of his girlfriend Jane Asher. Fans outside the house stole some of the ornamental pineapples from the metal railings as souvenirs. Undaunted, Asher’s father made replacements by melting down some of his kitchen cutlery and taking a cast of a remaining pineapple.
Michael White (born 1945). The Guardian journalist responded to news of Robert Maxwell’s death at sea in 1991 by taunting Alastair Campbell (then working for the Daily Mirror) about ‘Captain Bob Bob Bob’. Campbell responded by hitting him. ‘I was 46 at the time,’ says White. ‘No one but my children had assaulted me in years.’ In 2000, when Campbell was working for Tony Blair, he called White for a question at a press conference. His direction to the official with the hand-held microphone was: ‘Michael White. Bald, distinguished-looking, bit of a bruise under the left eye.’
Arsene Wenger (born 1949). The Arsenal manager once gave his team a pre-match team talk then went to the toilet. While he was gone the police put their head round the door and told the players to stay put for a moment, as there was a bomb scare. They were sure it was a hoax, but needed to make some quick checks. Wenger, returning to find the players still sitting there, asked why there weren’t out on the pitch. Ray Parlour replied in his best comedy French accent: ‘There has been a berm.’ Wenger, unfamiliar with the Inspector Clouseau movies, responded: ‘A “berm”?’
W.G. Grace (died 1915). In 1898, captaining Gloucestershire against Sussex, Grace declared his team’s innings with himself on 93 not out. Why did he not try for the extra seven runs that would have brought him a century? Because 93 was the only score between nought and 100 that Grace had never made, and he wanted the full set.