Canterbury Tales: General Prologue

Canterbury Tales: General Prologue

Here bygynneth the Book of the tales of Caunterbury

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, 

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, 

And bathed every veyne in swich licóur 

Of which vertú engendred is the flour; 

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth 

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth 

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne 

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 

And smale foweles maken melodye, 

That slepen al the nyght with open ye, 

So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages, 

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, 

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes, 

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes; 

And specially, from every shires ende 

Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende, 

The hooly blisful martir for to seke, 

That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke., The Schools Collection

dú, The Schools’ Collection, Co. Roscommon

A treasure trove of old school books lovingly scanned and transcribed. The handwriting is superb and the insights fascinating.

One of several entries about Fairy Forts written circa 1937

“There are two fairy forts situated in my district. One is about a quarter of a mile from my house in a village known as Cloonarrow while the other is about three hundred yards east of my house.
The fairy fort situated about a quarter of a mile is of circular shape and is surrounded by trees. Fairies are supposed to abide in it and are said to appear after twelve o’clock a.m. In front of this fort a house was situated but now the owner of the house and of
the land in which the fort is situated is dead and the house has collapsed. There is no entrance hole to it.
The other fort situated a very short distance from my house is a circular little hill surrounded by trees. Neither is there an entrance hole to this fort. It is said that a woman dressed in white appeared to a man at this fort and accompanied him to a place known as the “Crooked Bush” where she disappeared.
Nobody ever dreams of tilling the land in which the forts are, neither do they cut the trees as it is said that anybody who touches those trees is sure to be unlucky.”

Using freely available online resources and my local knowledge I’m pretty sure this is the location of the Fairy Fort 300 yards East of the author’s home:

Fairy Forts are typically, but not exclusively circular archaeological sites. Often tumuli or hill forts, there are over 30,000 of them in Ireland.

See also:

The Battle of Britain – Home Page

Battle of Britain Day – September 15th

From the (original) page:
Even though it appeared that Fighter Command was getting the upper hand, the experience of flying in battle was playing on the minds of they young pilots as one father stated:

He (son) wondered just how much longer he could take it. Each day someone fails to return, often another empty seat at the table. He was relieved when often they would turn up, apparently they had safely baled out, or injured in a crash landing. But many died horrific deaths, slowly burnt alive being trapped in their cockpits. He thought that he would rather have died instantly, or went in nose first into the ground rather than being burned alive.
He was a changed lad, time took care of that taking him from a young man with a bright future before the war to a man that seemed full of hatred, he said that he felt as if he was a human killing machine and said that if he ever dies, then put on his headstone “Here Lies Another Human Killing Machine”.
On leave he could not sleep, or he would scream out in the night. How he died we will never know, he went out on a mission, and never came back, and that’s the sad part, we do not even have a grave where we know that he is at last resting in peace.

Edited: January 2018 to reflect changes at the RAF site


Archives Normandie

Archives Normandie 1939-45 was a good French language website with free resources about Normandy in WW2. It seems to have stopped being active sometime in 2012.

Now available with very limited functionality using the ‘Wayback Machine’:

“sur le premier site au monde

Downfall Der Untergang

Downfall (2004) – Der Untergang

Downfall (2004) follows the dying days of the third Reich mostly from the viewpoint of Traudl Junge, Hitler’s personal secretary. I watched this last night on Channel 4, definitely not for the faint hearted, the scene where Magda Goebels kills her children is harrowing in the extreme.

Update: the original site I linked is now some kind of clickbait slimming website and the wayback machine doesn’t work properly for embedded videos. So good old Youtube has the trailer here:

Trailer in HD but no subtitles

Since my original post the film has generated a kind of momentum of its own. It has spawned many memes in the form of parodies normally based around the scene in the bunker where Hitler is flies into a rage.

Edward Tufte: Posters and Graph Paper

From the page:
“Probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn, this map by Charles Joseph Minard portrays the losses suffered by Napoleon’s army in the Russian campaign of 1812.

Beginning at the Polish-Russian border, the thick band shows the size of the army at each position. The path of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in the bitterly cold winter is depicted by the dark lower band, which is tied to temperature and time scales.”

Update: 2022 – this site has stayed online and intact – which is great. For more info on Tufte check out his wikipedia page. This is just one of the many interesting links I recorded via stumbleupon.

The Year London Blew Up

The Year London Blew Up: 1974 – Channel 4 Thursday 1 September 9pm, Channel 4 (British TV)

From the page:
“What happens when a city faces a cell of fanatics with a single goal: to bring the maximum terror to the civilian population?

Militant Islamists may be the current threat, but in 1974/5, the enemy was the Provisional IRA.

Four men hiding out in London bedsits carried out over 40 separate incidents across the capital.

The city and its people reeled under the impact of this sustained attack, but finally found the resolve to face the onslaught and defeat it.”

I remember it well.

“According to reports from Reuters, the IRA killed almost 1,800 people… 600 civilians also died at the hands of the IRA, mostly Catholics. Many of the civilians were deliberately killed,…”

and what were our American allies doing during this? They were complicit by allowing Noraid to solicit funds using the catchphrase:

“Give a dollar, buy a bullet, kill a British soldier”

Sept 2nd – Excellent production BTW

‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?’ – Answer

‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?’

Answer: King Henry II of England (March 5, 1133 – July 6, 1189)

The Priest in question was Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thomas Becket clashed with King Henry II because Thomas sustained that the Pope and English Bishops could not accept the jurisdiction of the King over them. This refusal to submit to the crown provoked Henry to the full force of his Plantagenet anger.

Four of Henry’s knights murdered Becket in order to court favour with him and in doing so turned Becket into a saint. Henry lost popularity and had to become a penitent. He was publicly whipped by monks and made himself wear a horsehair shirt.

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913


Old Bailey Online – The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913 – Central Criminal Court


A fully searchable online edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of ordinary people ever published, containing accounts of over 100,000 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court from 1674 to 183

Searchable by: Keyword


William HaleTheftshoplifting

8th July 1719

William Hale of St. Clements Danes was indicted for feloniously stealing 15 pair of Worsted Hose, value 40 s. out of the Shop of  Thomas Rock the 23d of May last.

The Prosecutor deposed he lost a Board of Hose out of his Shop Window; and his Neighbour who lives right against him deposed, that he saw the Prisoner get up and look three times through the Grate, and when he saw the Shop clear, he reach’d over the Grate and took the Goods, whereupon he secur’d him. The Prisoner pleaded that he was Drunk, and lay down there; that he did not take the Goods; but that the Evidence took him and carry’d him into the Shop with the Goods. But that poor Defence did not avail him the Evidence being positive, the Jury found him Guilty .

Sentence: Death .

Death sentence for shoplifting… a tad harsh methinks.

Halifax Gibbet Capital Punishment in Yorkshire

The Halifax Gibbet in Yorkshire

What is the Halifax Gibbet?
The Halifax Gibbet was a machine like a guillotine that was used for public execution between the 13th and 17th centuries. It is in Yorkshire, England. The earliest recorded execution was in 1286. It is suggested that the Gibbet was built to punish thieves who stole cloth, especially from tenters (a wooden frame that cloth was stretched and dried on).

Escaping the Halifax Gibbet
Convicted criminals did have one of escape. A law stated that if a condemned person could withdraw his or her head before the blade was released and hit the bottom, they could escape to the next town – Hebble Brook – and then they would be free. The one condition: that person could never return. The only lucky and quick guy to do this was John Lacy. On January 29, 1623, John managed to scape and run to freedom. But after seven years, Running Man, as he was nicknamed, foolishly believed that because he had done the impossible he would be allowed back. He was as wrong as he was dumb. As soon as he came back he was immediately put back under the blade again and this time he didn’t stand a chance.

Finding the Halifax Gibbet
Almost 60 people, both men and woman, were executed by the Halifax Gibbet. The town finally stopped using it in 1650. The Gibbet originally stood at Cow Green but it was later moved to a marked site on Gibbet Street. The actual site of the Gibbet was lost after the 17th century until it was rediscovered in 1839 when workmen discovered the skeletons and skulls of two bodies. Possibly the last two men executed. The original blade (the head of an axe) was returned to Halifax in 1970. It can be seen at the Calderdale Industrial Museum. A replica of the Gibbet was reconstructed in 1974.

Burke’s Peerage, genealogy and heraldry 

the definitive guide to the genealogy and heraldry of historical families worldwide

Update: Website has moved URL. The above doesn’t work but Burkes Peerage can be found here

The original post linked to some notable dates in Scottish history from 560 to 2000 AD. Alas I couldn’t find it.

However, there is still a lot of interesting stuff on the Burke’s Peerage, genealogy and heraldry website.

The Halifax Gibbet

In memory of:

1286 John of Dalton
15th January 1539 Charles Haworth
20th March 1541 Richard Beverley of Sowerby
1st January 1542 Unidentified stranger
16th September 1544 John Brigg of Heptonstall
31st March 1545 John Ecoppe of Elland
5th December 1545 Thomas Waite of Northowram
6th March 1568 Richard Sharpe of Northowram
ditto John Learoyd of Northowram
9th October 1572 Will Cockere
9th January 1572 John Atkinson
ditto Nicholas Frear
ditto Richard Garnet
19th May 1574 Richard Stopforth
12th February 1574 James Smith of Sowerby
3rd November 1576 Henry Hunt
6th February 1576 Robert Bairstow alias Fearnside
6th January 1578 John Dickenson of Bradford
16th March 1578 John Waters
15th October 1580 Bryan Casson
19th February 1581 John Appleyard of Halifax
7th February 1582 John Sladen
17th January 1585 Arthur Firth
4th October 1586 John Duckworth
27th May 1587 Nicholas Hewitt of Northowram
ditto Thomas Mason (Vagrant)
13th July 1588 The wife of Thomas Roberts of Halifax
5th April 1589 Robert Wilson of Halifax
21st December 1591 Peter Crabtree of Sowerby
6th January 1591 Bernard Sutcliffe of Northowram
23rd September 1602 Abraham Stancliffe of Halifax
22nd February 1602 The wife of Peter Harrison of Bradford
29th December 1610 Christopher Cosin
10th April 1611 Thomas Brigg
19th July 1623 [?] Sutcliffe
23rd December 1623 George Fairbank
ditto Anna Fairbank, daughter of George Fairbank
29th January 1623 John Lacy of Halifax (He escaped from the execution, but returned 7 years later where he was caught and executed immediately)
8th April 1624 Edmund Ogden of Lancashire
13th April 1624 Richard Midgley of Midgley
5th July 1627 The wife of John Wilson of Northowram
8th December 1627 Sarah Lum of Halifax
14th May 1629 John Sutcliffe of Skircote
20th October 1629 Richard Hoyle of Heptonstall
28th August 1630 Henry Hudson
ditto The wife of Samuel Ettall
14th April 1632 Jeremy Bowcock of Warley
22nd September 1632 John Crabtree of Sowerby
21st May 1636 Abraham Clegg of Norland
7th October 1641 Isaac Illingworthof Ogden
7th June 1645 Jer. Kaye Taylor of Lancashire
30th December 1648 (sic) – should read April 1650 Jo. Wilkinson of Sowerby
ditto Anthony Mitchell

The Corner of the World – Home – History & ICT

Update: on the waybackmachine:

Informative articles about History from 1789 – 1960

Update: quite a lot on 19th and 20th century Chinese History too. The sections on ICT and History education and History resources are out of date.

The site went offline sometime in 2015.

The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1642 – 1658

Cromwell at Marston Moor, by Victorian artist Ernest Crofts

Update: Original no longer accessible so here’s an alternative full of material about The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1642 – 1658, particularly the English Civil War.

English Heritage give plenty of links to primary source material

Criticize Lin Biao and Confucius (1974)


Criticize Lin Biao and Confucius (1974)

The girl is holding a paper which says ‘Criticize Lin Biao and Confucius most vigorously.’
The title says ‘ Criticizing Lin Biao and Confucius is the most important issue for the Party, the People’s Liberation Army and the whole Chinese people.’

Lin Biao’s death should be the subject of conspiracy sites, I mean, what really happened to him? Unless it happened in the west or concerns secret societies with ‘arcane knowledge’ hardly anybody is interested.

Apart from
Which is well worth reading.

I wonder where he’s going to stick that pen?

Stonehenge – Guide for visitors

“Stonehenge is the UK’s Unmissable Wonder”

Nice commercial site about Stonehenge, complete with a timeline and some good photos.

From the site:

“There is no documented purpose for this monument but it has been referred to as a burial place, a calendar, and a place of worship and sacrifice. While new research has ruled out some earlier theories, there is still no solid confirmation on the original purpose of this monument. One thing is for sure, knowing the time period that this monument was built and the lack of technology puzzles the mind and creates a worldwide fascination. If you have plans to visit England, no visit is complete without a visit to Stonehenge. The construction and purpose of this monument are still unsure by researchers, but when you walk onto this ground, you will experience a step back in the past. Some visitors find the experience majestic, celestial, or spiritual when they first encounter Stonehenge.”

NOVA Online | Nazi Prison Escape | Escaping Colditz

If you are interested about the History of Colditz as a World War II POW camp then this is a well crafted site with views from both the Allied POWs and the German chief of security Reinhold Eggers.

From the site:

“Colditz Castle, a forbidding medieval edifice near Leipzig, Germany, was supposed to be the Nazis’ most escape-proof prison. Incorrigible Allied officers who had repeatedly escaped from other camps were sent to Colditz, the only German POW camp with more guards than prisoners. Yet English, French, Polish, Dutch, and other inmates managed to sneak out in surprising numbers. “

Stefan Landsbergers Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages

Yu Zhenli, We must grasp revolution and increase production, increase work, increase preparation for struggle, to do an even better job, May 1976

Site still exists but is no longer updated. There is a new (and improved) site though:


The East is red, the sun has risen,
China has made Mao Zedong.
He creates fortune for the people,
Hu er hai yue, he’s the savior of them all!

Tangshan – The Deadliest Earthquake

Earthquake memorial Tangshan, Hebei, China

Update: Has moved to but the above links still works which is kinda nice.

When the media tell you that the Asian Tsunami is the dealiest earthquake in living memory they are wrong – my girlfriend nearly died in 1976 when her home was destroyed and over 240,000 people died (some reports put the figure as high as 665,000) in the Tangshan earthquake. Luckily her father snatched her out of her bed just seconds before it was crushed beneath several tonnes of rubble.

The Black Watch – Royal Highland Regiment

‘Watch and Pray’ – The motto of the Black Watch Regiment has never been more appropriate.
Whatever your views about the conflict in Iraq I hope you will join with me and wish these brave British soldiers the best as they fight Bush and Blair’s war.

As their Commanding Officer said on the BBC recently that they had beaten Napoleon and Hitler and their reputation was built on sucess so they are more than equal to the task.

NCM – The National Coal Mining Museum for England

well worth a visit:online or in person

The National Coal Mining Museum is inbetween Wakefield and Huddersfield in Yorkshire, it’s great and it’s free. I’ve visited it several times and can recommend.

Very good museum for school children to visit.

For those of you not lucky enough to live in Yorkshire check out the virtual tours.

Bill Cheall – 6th Green Howards

Like so much of this old content it’s no longer available – but this:

has some of the content and is worth a look.

Bill Cheall’s war memoire is also available on Amazon:

First hand account of what it was like to be a British soldier in the Second World War, including descriptions of the Dunkirk evacuation and D-Day.