John Cleese (Getty)

    July 10th: which rude hotelier inspired Fawlty Towers?

    4 July 2020

    Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …

    July 4

    Alec and Eric Bedser (born 1918). The cricketing twins once fooled batsman Frank Woolley by sharing an over. Alec bowled the first three balls at medium pace, before Eric sent down the remaining three as spinners. Woolley turned to the wicket-keeper and said: ‘That young man’s got a wonderful change of pace, hasn’t he?’

    Francis Maude (born 1953). The former Conservative Treasury minister says that he disagrees with those who called economics ‘the dismal science’: ‘Not because it’s not dismal, but because it’s not a science.’

    July 5


    In 1996 Dolly the sheep became the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. Because that cell was taken from a mammary gland, the name was chosen in tribute to Dolly Parton.

    In 2012 the Shard was inaugurated as Europe’s tallest building. When the previous building on the site was demolished to make way for the Shard, the release of pressure on the Jubilee Tube line running underneath caused the tunnel to shift several millimetres.

    July 6

    Janet Leigh in Psycho (Photo: Rex features/Shutterstock)

    Janet Leigh (born 1927). The sound of the knife stabbing Leigh in the Psycho shower scene was actually a casaba melon being sliced. Alfred Hitchcock made an assistant try several different types of melon until he found the right sound.

    July 7

    World Chocolate Day. The name ‘Twix’ is short for ‘twin sticks’.

    July 8

    Hugo Boss (born 1885). Early lines from the German designer’s company included the all-black SS uniform, the SA’s brown shirts and the black-and-brown outfits of the Hitler Youth.

    Pete Conrad (died 1999). The third man to walk on the Moon underwent Rorschach ink blot tests during his NASA selection process. One of the cards was left deliberately blank. Conrad replied: ‘But it’s upside down.’

    July 9

    Photo: BBC/ Hat Trick – Photographer: Ray Burmiston

    Barbara Cartland (born 1901). The author was once asked on the BBC Today programme if she thought that Britain’s class barriers had been broken down. ‘Of course they have,’ she replied, ‘or I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to someone like you.’

    Paul Merton (born 1957). The Have I Got News For You team captain’s real surname is Martin – he had to change it to join Equity, so chose the London borough where he grew up.

    July 10

    John Cleese (Getty)

    Donald Sinclair (born 1909). The owner of the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay was the inspiration for Basil Fawlty. John Cleese and the rest of the Monty Python team stayed there during filming. The others were so astounded by Sinclair’s rudeness that they checked out, but Cleese stayed on to take notes. By a complete coincidence the character of Siegfried Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small was also based on someone called Donald Sinclair – a different one.