Love Story


Erich Segal died last week.

The Guardian obituary, says the fame his first book Love Story brought him: shouldered aside a litany of other accomplishments: as classics scholar and teacher, literary critic and sports commentator, essayist and scriptwriter, historian and practitioner of comedy.

I don’t disagree with that.

I had known little of his other accomplishments until I read the obituary. But like most women, and perhaps a few men, of my generation I’d  sobbed my way through the film when I was a teenager. Then I bought the book and sobbed some more.

It Don’t Mean a Thing


Duke Ellington first played at Carnegie Hall 67 years ago today.

Kiwis love a bargain


Hemi Te Hipkins Senior Cultural Policy Analyst Cultural Policy Section Ministry of Internal Affairs Wellington has found a good reason why few of us are agitating to become a republic.

In a confidential de-briefing to Prince William he writes:

Ignore the gloomy republicans, Sir. Most of us are happy to maintain 1000 years of tradition (or whakapapa as we usually call it here), especially since we basically get the lot on the cheap.

Kiwis love a bargain, Sir, and what we’ve got is a bit like belonging to a library rather than buying the book. We get a Governor General, a couple of posh houses, nice visits (like yours), the odd Speech from the Throne, your Gran’s message at Christmas, and it all costs us about the same as the French pay for Mrs Sarkozy’s posh frocks – and a lot less than the Yanks cough up to run Obama’s chopper!

Apropos of William and our constitutional relationships, Chris Trotter at Bowalley Road has found historical precedents for not following strict rules of succession and has come up with a cunning plan:

WHY NOT KING BILLY? Seriously. It would make the monarchy interesting again – and God knows it needs it!
The alternative is Keith Locke’s worthy (but dull) Head-of-State Referenda Bill, which, if it becomes law, will almost certainly deliver some worthy (but dull) former judge or prime minister (Dame Sylvia Cartwright. Jim Bolger? Helen Clark!) as New Zealand’s first president.
No, if the monarchists are serious about preserving our current constitutional monarchy, HRH Prince William is their best bet. . .
. . .  So come on Prime Minister, introduce your own “Royal Succession Bill” and turn HRH Prince William into our very own “King Billy”.
If he refuses his antipodean subjects, he’ll be effectively declaring the New Zealand Republic.
President Helen Clark – anyone?

Now there’s a thought to turn some republicans back into monarchists, but it might also strengthen the resolve of some republicans.


Triumph, trials and tragedy in centennial yacht race


The Peninsula Cruising Club’s Canterbury centennial race from Wellington to Lyttelton, set off on this day in 1951.

Only one yacht finished the race and two were lost with all their crew.

Thirteen of the 24 starters were from the South Island including these three:

They were the Aurora, from Dunedin, the Galatea from Lyttelton and the Caplin  from Oamaru.

One of those crewing the Caplin,  was my father.

He kept a log of the voyage which recorded worsening weather.

Tuesday 23rd Jan, 1500 hours: Big jib tore when wind freshened . . . Heavy swell.

Wednesday 245h Jan, 1200 hours: Reefed mainsail again. Seas really mountainous . . . Caplin will not come about in heavy seas when under short sail. . .

1800 hrs: Wind gale force, seas breaching fully . Taking heavy pounding. In past 60 miles sailing have not gained any distance . . . Hove to.

Thursday Jan 26: Hove to all last night. Remained hove to. Did not need a sea anchor . . . Seas breaching badly but only one broke over us so far . . .

1600 hours: Weather forecast advised all shipping yachts in the area of Cook Strait or Kaikoura to take shelter. Decided to run for Cape Campbell about 40 miles away to leeward. Ran under staysail made rapid passage. Caplin runs beautifully.

2020: Cape Campbell light a-beam. Took 4 hours to tack our way round protecting reef. But nervous 10 minutes when the wind dropped completely. Considered starting engine. Wind returned with renewed fury. Dropped anchor.

2400 hours: Anchor started to drag, Broke seals, started engines . . .

Once they’d broken the seals and started the engine they were disqualified from the race. When the weather calmed they set sail and finally reached Lyttelton Harbour on January 30, a week after starting the race.

The race was won by the Nelson sloop Tawhiri. Windswift, from the Banks Peninsular Cruising Club, was second, although somewhat controversially, Dad wrote:

Windswift did not breach engine seals. Anchored in Kaikoura. Received help from fishermen and lay extra anchors. One of crew went ashore & was replaced. New sails taken on board. Only a very poor sportsman would try to claim second prize in these circumstances, more so after the loss of Husky had been confirmed.

Dad was not alone in his view. A newspaper report in the journal records:

“The committee has confirmed the Nelson yacht Tawhiri as the winner of the prizes for first and fastest times in the race,” said a statement issued by the committee of the Banks Peninsula Cruising Club which staged the race after a meeting last night.

“The committee has decided that under the rules of the Yacht Racing Association, the rules which governed the race, there was no other finisher,” the statement said.

But finishing at all was an accomplishment when two yachts were lost. The Husky was wrecked and all crew presumed dead. A second yacht, Argo, failed to make port and in spite of extensive air and sea searches no sign of the boat or crew was found.

Another race entrant, Astral,  was dismasted. A trawler, Tawera, took the yacht in tow but as the weather worsened the tow rope chafed through.

A newspaper report in Dad’s journal records the account of the trawler skipper, George Brasell:

“Astral was carrying a light and all we could do was to stand by alongside her and keep her in view. This was a tremendous task as it was blowing a full gale and a light was only visible when she topped the seas. My crew were tried to their utmost that night and did a wonderful job in trying to keep the Astral in sight. Visibility was very bad. We only picked up land once after leaving Lyttelton.

“About midnight on Friday the crew of the Astral signalled us to put oil on the water. We did as requested until daylight when we started to take the crew off by means of a line dragging each member through the water. Luckily the rescue was carried out successfully. I felt proud of my crew. The rescue was carried out at the height of the gale. . . “

The skipper and crew of Tawera were presented with Humane Society Gold Awards, the society’s highest honour, in recognition of their bravery.

An editorial in the Otago Daily Times of January 30 asked if the race should have been started:

Ocean racing is a most exacting pastime, and even in the best of circumstances, when all human skill and care have been called into play, it is a hazardous once. The sea and the air are truly elements of chance. The history of the classic sea-going yacht races is studded with narratives of accidents, perilous ordeals – and tragedy. . .

One question which clamours for elucidation is whether the race should have been started last Tuesday, when the weather was already deteriorating and the ordinary forecasts . . . were forbidding. . .

. . . Dangers allowed, for it is not in New Zealanders to eschew as element of danger in their recreations, this race should be a test of seamanship, not a struggle for survival.

January 23 in history


On January 23:

971 In China, the war elephant corps of the Southern Han were soundly defeated at Shao by crossbow fire from Song Dynasty troops. The Southern Han state was forced to submit to the Song Dynasty, ending not only Southern Han rule, but also the first regular war elephant corps employed in a Chinese army that had gained the Southern Han victories throughout the 10th century.

1368  Zhu Yuanzhang ascended to the throne of China as the Hongwu Emperor, initiating Ming Dynasty rule over China that lasted for three centuries.

1510  Henry VIII, then 18 years old, appeared incognito in the lists at Richmond, and was applauded for his jousting before he reveals his identity.

1556 The deadliest earthquake in history, the Shaanxi earthquake, hit Shaanxi province, China. The death toll may have been as high as 830,000.

1570  The assassination of regent James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray threw Scotland into civil war.

1571 The Royal Exchange opened in London.

1579 The Union of Utrecht formed a Protestant republic in the Netherlands.


1656 Blaise Pascal published the first of his Lettres provinciales.

1719 The Principality of Liechtenstein was created within the Holy Roman Empire.




1789  Georgetown College, the first Roman Catholic college in the United States, was founded.

1793 Second Partition of Poland: Russia and Prussia partitioned Poland for the second time.


Poland after the Second Partition (1793).

1813 Camilla Collett, Norwegian writer and feminist, was born.

1832  Edouard Manet, French artist, was born.

1849  Elizabeth Blackwell the USA’s first female doctor, was awarded her M.D. by the Medical Institute of Geneva, New York.

1855 John Moses Browning, American inventor, was born.


1855 A magnitude 8.2 earthquake hit the Welington region.

Massive earthquake hits Wellington region

1855  The first bridge over the Mississippi River opened.

1870 U.S. cavalrymen killed 173 Native Americans, mostly women and children, in the Marias Massacre.

1897  Sir William Samuel Stephenson, Canadian soldier, W.W.II codename, Intrepid. Inspiration for James Bond., was born.

1897 Elva Zona Heaster was found dead.The resulting murder trial of her husband is perhaps the only case in United States history where the alleged testimony of a ghost helped secure a conviction.


1899 Emilio Aguinaldo was sworn in as President of the First Philippine Republic.

1904 Ålesund Fire: the Norwegian coastal town Ålesund was devastated by fire, leaving 10,000 people homeless and one person dead.

 Ålesund in 1900 before the fire

1907 Charles Curtis of Kansas became the first Native American U.S. Senator.

1912 The International Opium Convention was signed at The Hague.

1920  The Netherlands refused to surrender ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany to the Allies.

1943 Troops of Montgomery‘s 8th Army captured Tripoli in Libya from the German-Italian Panzer Army.

1943  World War II: Australian and American forces defeated the Japanese army in Papua. This turning point in the Pacific War marked the beginning of the end of Japanese aggression.

1943 Duke Ellington played at Carnegie Hall  for the first time.

1948  Anita Pointer, American singer (Pointer Sisters), was born.

1950 – The Knesset passed a resolution that states Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

1951 Yachts left Wellington bound for Lyttelton in an ocean yacht race to celebrate Canterbury’s centenary.  Only one, Tawhiri, officially finished the race. Two other yachts, Husky and Argo, were lost along with their 10 crew members.

Disastrous centennial yacht race begins
1951  Chesley Sullenberger, Captain of US Airways Flight 1549, a flight that successfully ditched into the Hudson River, was born.
Chesley Sullenberger honored crop.jpg
1957  Princess Caroline of Monaco, was born.
1958 Overthrow in Venezuela of Marcos Pérez Jiménez

1960 The bathyscaphe USS Trieste broke a depth record by descending to 10,911 m (35,798 feet) in the Pacific Ocean.

The bathyscaphe Trieste

1964 The 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution, prohibiting the use of poll taxes in national elections, was ratified.

1973 President Richard Nixon announced that a peace accord has been reached in Vietnam.

1973 A volcanic eruption devastated Heimaey in the Vestmannaeyjar chain of islands off the south coast of Iceland.

1985  O.J. Simpson became the first Heisman Trophy winner elected to the Football Hall of Fame.

O.J. Simpson 1990 · DN-ST-91-03444 crop.JPEG

1986  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted its first members: Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.


1997 Madeleine Albright became the first woman to serve as United States Secretary of State.

2003 Final communication between Earth and Pioneer 10

Pioneer 10 at Jupiter.gifArtist’s Concept of Jupiter Encounter

2009 Dendermonde nursery attack occurred in Dendermonde, Belgium.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

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