Times Past


Hen: descendant of that which laid golden eggs?

With the free press currently under threat from Leveson and Hacked Off, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the proud history of British newspapers in fearlessly bringing us the important stories of the day…

My friend Peter was browsing through the papers the other day and felt compelled to bring some of the headlines to my attention. It so happened that the papers he was poring over were copies of The Times from 1789 and 1790. (Incidentally, Peter is the author of The Curious Cookbook, which every single one of you ought to buy, immediately – it’s a hoot!) Here, then, are the top stories from this side of the Channel at a time when the French were engaged in that kerfuffle of theirs:

Epping stag hunt ends in mangling of goat – 14th April 1789

Elopements : Dublin mechanic’s daughter elopes with nimble lamp lighter – 30th July 1789

Ink : Land-surveyor faints after mistaking red ink for blood – 26th December 1789

Irish people not yet refined enough for opera – 19th June 1789

Death and Burial : Peruke maker shouts for another drink just before coffin is nailed up – 27th June 1789

Poultry : Hen supposed to be descendant of that which laid golden eggs – 1st December 1789

Man traps joker who knocks on doors and rings bells by attaching electrical shock to bell – 29th June 1789 : Report of trap set for bell ringer contradicted – 6th July 1789: Report confirmed and clarified : incident leads to challenge to duel – 6th July 1789

Funerals : Clergyman criticised for eating filberts while reading burial service – 13th October 1789

Man drops down and expires while waiter collects coat – 5th January 1789

Warning given against sending girls to boarding schools which scientifically educate young to vice – 20th October 1789

Philosophical fireworks defended – 25th June 1789

Captain’s attempted adultery with farmer’s wife revealed after bear is let into chamber in wife’s place. – 12th January 1790

Norfolk Island Settlement : Lack of candles forces islanders to go to bed as soon as it is dark – 16th January 1790

Shipbuilder digging ground for dock discovers number of large trees and hazelnut hedge 12-14 ft below the surface. – 20th March 1790

Careers : Voracious bricklayer of St. Bride’s parish undertakes profession of stay maker. – 19th February 1790

Over-hurried blind bullock enters artists’ colour shop on Holborn Bridge after missing way; does considerable damage before returning to the street through the window; then goads windows at watchmaker’s shop, catches string of watches on its horns and disperses them among mob in street. – 13th October 1790

Poor man kills himself with drinking in a northern borough; vestry clerk suggests that master of the workhouse should let rest of poor out to kill themselves and ease parish of them. – 6th July 1790

Gentleman who offered twopence as reward for saving lady from drowning defends seeming want of generosity by declaring lady is wife. – 23rd August 1790

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

3 thoughts on “Times Past

  1. andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
    October 25, 2013 at 13:02

    I only buy The Times for the Elopement section.

  2. Gaw
    October 26, 2013 at 08:24

    You could occupy a rainy Saturday afternoon by turning these into Sun headlines. I’ve made a start:

    ‘Man traps joker who knocks on doors and rings bells by attaching electrical shock to bell’ = Joker’s Knocker Shocker

  3. Worm
    October 27, 2013 at 08:04

    Philosophical fireworks displays are both spectacular and cheap to put on

Comments are closed.