Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …
In 1957 Ghana achieved independence from Britain. The country’s subsequent heroes have included Ferdie Ato Adoboe, who holds the world record for the fastest time to run 100 metres backwards (13.6 seconds). He has also held the world record for speed juggling a football, recording 141 touches in 30 seconds.
Robert Harris (born 1957). The author prides himself on being able to put the cork back into an opened bottle of champagne. ‘The trick is to pinch the cork quickly before it’s had a chance to swell too much.’
In 1971 Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier contested ‘the Fight of the Century’ at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Frazier inflicted Ali’s first ever defeat. Demand for tickets was so great that even Frank Sinatra couldn’t get one – so he gained admittance by acting as Life magazine’s official photographer.
In 1959 Barbie made her first ever appearance, launching her career at the American International Toy Fair in New York. Until 1961 she had nipples, but parents complained and the offending body parts were removed.
Violet Brown (born 1900). The Jamaican lived to the age of 117. Because her island had still been part of the British Empire when she was born, Brown became the last surviving subject of Queen Victoria.
In 1983 Bob Hawke was appointed Prime Minister of Australia. During the 1950s, while a student at Oxford University, he visited the city’s Turf Tavern and set a new world record for downing a yard of ale. He drank the 2.5 pints in 11 seconds. (The Turf was also the venue, it’s said, for Bill Clinton’s famous encounter with a spliff, the one where he claimed not to have inhaled.)
Charles Boycott (born 1832). The land agent was ostracised by his local community in County Mayo, over accusations that he treated his tenants unfairly. Workers withdrew their labour, and shops refused to serve him. This was the origin of the verb ‘to boycott’.