January 26 in History

Today is Australia Day, the day that great nation celebrates as its foundation day.

On this date in 1788, the First Fleet, eleven ships from Great Britain with more than 1000 convicts on board, arrived in Sydney Harbor and raised the British flag. The First Fleet was sent to establish a prison colony far, far from home.

When the United States won independence, one of the side effects was the American right to refuse British convicts. In 1787, ships with the recently convicted were dispatched to Australia, and on this date in 1788, the First Fleet arrived. Over time, many of the convicts were pardoned.

Today is the country of Australia’s national day; among indigenous Australians it is called “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day,” but events that include their history and discuss the effect of the First Fleet’s arrival on their population are included more and more often.

* * * *
The Cullinan Diamond, a one-pound, five-ounce diamond (3,106.75 carats), was discovered by a miner named Thomas Evan Powell on this date in 1905 at the Premier No. 2 mine in Cullinan, in South Africa. After it was weighed and presented to King Edward VII for his birthday, it was split. Out of the large stone came nine major stones, ninety-six minor ones, and nine carats of unpolished stones (no one would refer to them as pebbles). The largest stone became the Great Star of Africa, which sits in the British monarch’s Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross. It is the largest clear cut diamond in the world: 530 carats, 74 facets.

* * * *
Vice President Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller died on this date in 1979. Lewis Mumford died on this date in 1990. José Ferrer died 25 years ago on this date. Harold Brodkey died on this date in 1996.

Ian Abercrombie died five years ago today. For more than five decades, he was an actor who seemed to always have work, and he may have hit his looniest heights with his seven appearances on Seinfeld:

Abe Vigoda died one year ago today.

* * * *
General Douglas MacArthur was born on this date in 1880. Stéphane Grappelli was born on this date in 1908. Paul Newman was born on this date in 1925. Jacqueline du Pré was born on this date in 1945. A video of du Pré conducted by her husband, Daniel Barenboim:

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Jules Feiffer is 88 today. Bob Uecker is 82 today. Henry Jaglom is 79. Scott Glenn is 76. Angela Davis is 73. David Strathairn is 68 today. Lucinda Williams is 64. “Something About What Happens When We Talk”:

Eddie Van Halen is 62. Ellen DeGeneres is 59. Wayne Gretzky is 56.

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  1. Alka · January 26, 2017

    Informative write up, Mark. Sadly Australia Day has a dubious reputation. A great country now but…many people still feel wronged by the past.

    This date, the 26th of January, is India’s Republic Day. My sentiments often play strong on such days.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Itching for Hitching · January 26, 2017

    Mark thanks for mentioning Australia Day. Yes, each year we have a little more unrest as to the significance of this day. However I believe that in the 18th Century the world was expanding or is that shrinking. To the Europeans, Australia must have appeared to be a very large chunk of fertile land ripe for the picking. Our land had already been visited by the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and at the time of the flag raising in Sydney Cove in 1788 a French flotilla was offshore hampered by internal politics back home. Not to mention the undocumented countless visitors and traders from our near neighbours in India and South East Asia. Interestingly although the English may have been first to ‘lay claim’ to this land we are probably now one of the most diverse of all nations on earth. Heavens we don’t even know what our national dish is!

    Liked by 1 person

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