Today in History: May 9

The story of the publication of the novel Watership Down is almost as beloved as the novel itself: Richard Adams, part of the U.K. Ministry of Housing and Local Government throughout the 1950s and ’60s (he rose to the rank of Assistant Secretary), began composing a story to tell his two daughters for each day’s drive to school.

Richard Adams is 96 today. He told the Telegraph in 2014, “The stories I told in the car had nearly always been shaped and cut and edited by myself for oral narration. When I was lying down to go to sleep in the evening I would think out the bit of story I was going to tell the girls the next day.” In 1972, at the age of 52, he typed up the story that he had been telling his daughters and sent it to literary agents and publishers. Four publishers rejected it, as did three agencies.

Rex Collings, a one-man publishing house, took a chance on the story. He wrote to a friend, “I’ve just taken on a novel about rabbits, one of them with extra- sensory perception. Do you think I’m mad?” The book was an instant classic, and the stories of Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and Blackberry were all hailed by critics, the book-buying public, and awards committees. In his 50s, Adams became a full-time novelist and has since published more than a dozen more.

* * * *
On May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law that named the second Sunday in May “Mother’s Day” and then requested a proclamation to that effect. The next day, 102 years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson issued the proclamation that declared the first national Mother’s Day.

* * * *
The Huffington Post, the news aggregator and commentary website, was launched on this date in 2005.

* * * *
Tenzing Norgay died 30 years ago today.

* * * *
Mona Van Duyn was born on this date in 1921. The late Daniel Berrigan was born 95 years ago today. (He died April 30.) Tony Gwynn would be 56 today.

* * * *
Alan Bennett is 82 today. Albert Finney is 80. Glenda Jackson is 80 today. Charles Simic is 78. James L. Brooks is 76. Candice Bergen is 70. Billy Joel is 67. “Miami 2017”:

Alley Mills is 65. Anne Sofie von Otter is 61. Rosario Dawson is 37.

Follow The Gad About Town on Facebook! Subscribe today for daily facts (well, trivia) about literature and history, plus links to other writers on Facebook.

Follow The Gad About Town on Instagram!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. lifelessons · May 9, 2016

    Loved the Watership Down tale, Mark…


  2. loisajay · May 9, 2016

    Watership Down….I just took it off the bookshelf yesterday to re-read. What perfect timing this is! Thanks, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Anton Wills-Eve · May 9, 2016

    So glad Adams is revered as much in your world as ours. That’s three of my all time favourite people in two days, Rickles & Attenborough the others. Well done. You could really surprise everyone tomorrow if you remember, but don’t worry I’ll be blogging on the day ! 🙂 ! Anton

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Piedra · May 9, 2016

    Thanks for reminding me of that book, Mark. I absolutely loved ‘Watership Down’! I read it many years ago, but I think it’s time for a reread.


Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.