Posted in cars, sport

Jackie Stewart

Scottish former racing driver Sir John Young ‘Jackie’ Stewart, OBE was born 11th June 1939. Nicknamed the ‘Flying Scot’, he competed in Formula One between 1965 and 1973, winning three World Drivers’ Championships. He also competed in Can-Am. He is well known in the United States as a color commentator (pundit) of racing television broadcasts, and as a spokesman for Ford, where his Scottish accent has made him a distinctive presence. Between 1997 and 1999, in partnership with his son, Paul, he was team principal of the Stewart Grand Prix Formula One racing team. In 2009 he was ranked fifth of the fifty greatest Formula One drivers of all time and is considered one of the greatest figures of motor racing.”

His racing career began In 1964 when he drove in Formula Three for Tyrrell. His debut, in the wet at Snetterton on 15 March, was dominant, taking an astounding 25 second lead in just two laps before coasting home to a win on a 44 second cushion. Within days, he was offered a Formula One ride with Cooper, but declined, preferring to gain experience under Tyrrell; he failed to win just two races and became F3 champion. After running John Coombs’ E-type and practising in a Ferrari at Le Mans, he took a trial in an F1 Lotus 33-Climax, in which he impressed Colin Chapman and Jim Clark. Stewart went to the Lotus Formula Two team and In his F2 debut, he was second at the difficult Clermont-Ferrand circuit in a Lotus 32-Cosworth. While he signed with BRM alongside Graham Hill in 1965 his first race in an F1 car was for Lotus, as stand-in for an injured Clark, in December 1964; the Lotus broke during the first race, but won the second. On his F1 debut in South Africa, he scored his first Championship point, finishing sixth. His first major competition victory came in the BRDC International Trophy in the late spring, and before the end of the year he won his first World Championship race at Monza, fighting wheel-to-wheel with teammate Hill’s P261. Stewart finished his rookie season with three seconds, a third, a fifth, and a sixth, and third place in the World Drivers’ Championship.

He also piloted Tyrrell’s unsuccessful F2 Cooper T75-BRM, and ran the Rover Company’s revolutionary turbine car at Le Mans. 1966 saw him almost win the Indianapolis 500 on his first attempt, in John Mecom’s Lola T90-Ford, only to be denied by a broken scavenge pump while leading by over a lap with eight laps to go; however, Stewart’s performance, having had the race fully in hand and sidelined only by mechanical failure, won him Rookie of the Year honours despite the winner, Graham Hill, also being an Indianapolis rookie. Also, in 1966, a crash triggered his fight for improved safety in racing. On lap one of the 1966 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, when sudden rain caused many crashes, he found himself trapped in his overturned BRM, getting soaked by leaking fuel. The marshals had no tools to help him. Since then, a main switch for electrics and a removable steering wheel have become standard. Also, noticing the long and slow transport to a hospital, he brought his own doctor to future races, while the BRM supplied a medical truck for the benefit of all. It was a poor year all around; the BRMs were notoriously unreliable, although Stewart did win the Monaco Grand Prix. Stewart had some success in other forms of racing during the year, winning the 1966 Tasman Series and the 1966 Rothmans 12 Hour International Sports Car Race. BRM’s fortunes did not improve in 1967, during which Stewart came no higher than second at Spa, though he won F2 events for Tyrrell at Karlskoga, Enna, Oulton Park, and Albi. He also placed 2nd driving a works-entered Ferrari driving with Chris Amon at the BOAC 6 Hours at Brands Hatch, the 10th round of World Sportscar Championship at the time.

In Formula One, he switched to Tyrrell’s Matra International team for the 1968 and 1969 seasons. Skill (and improving tyres from Dunlop) brought a win in heavy rain at Zandvoort. Another win in rain and fog at the Nürburgring, where he won by a margin of four minutes. He also won at Watkins Glen, but missed Jarama and Monaco due to an F2 injury at Jarama. His car failed at Mexico City, and so lost the driving title to Hill. In 1969, Stewart had a number of races where he completely dominated the opposition, such as winning by over 2 laps at Montjuïc, a whole minute at Clemont-Ferrand and more than a lap at Silverstone. With additional wins at Kyalami, Zandvoort, and Monza, Stewart became world champion in 1969 in a Matra MS80-Cosworth. Until September 2005, when Fernando Alonso in a Renault became champion, he was the only driver to have won the championship driving for a French marque and, as Alonso’s Renault was built in the UK, Stewart remains the only driver to win the world championship in a French-built car. For 1970, Matra (since taken over by Chrysler) insisted on using their own V12 engines, while Tyrrell and Stewart wanted to keep the Cosworths as well as the good connection to Ford. As a consequence, the Tyrrell team bought a chassis from March Engineering; Stewart took the March 701-Cosworth to wins at the Daily Mail Race of Champions and Jarama, but was soon overcome by Lotus’ new 72.

The new Tyrrell 001-Cosworth initially had a few problems, but things improved during 1971, so Stewart stayed on. Tyrrell continued to be sponsored by French fuel company Elf, and Stewart raced in a car painted French Racing Blue for many years. Stewart also continued to race sporadically in Formula Two, winning at the Crystal Palace and placing at Thruxton.A projected Le Mans appearance, to co-drive the 4.5 litre Porsche 917K with Steve McQueen, did not come off, for McQueen’s inability to get insurance. He also raced Can-Am, in the revolutionary Chaparral 2J. Stewart achieved pole position in 2 events, ahead of the dominant McLarens, but the chronic unreliability of the 2J prevented Stewart from finishing any races. Stewart went on to win the Formula One world championship in 1971 using the excellent Tyrrell 003-Cosworth, winning Spain, Monaco, France, Britain, Germany, and Canada. He also did a full season in Can-Am, driving a Carl Haas sponsored Lola T260-Chevrolet. and again in 1973. During the 1971 Can-Am series, Stewart was the only driver able to challenge the McLarens driven by Dennis Hulme and Peter Revson. Stewart won 2 races; at Mont Treblant and Mid Ohio. Stewart finished 3rd in the 1971 Can-Am Drivers Championship.

Unfortunately The stress of racing year round, and on several continents eventually caused medical problems for Stewart. During the 1972 Grand Prix season he missed Spa, due to gastritis, and had to cancel plans to drive a Can-Am McLaren, but won the Argentine, French, U.S., and Canadian Grands Prix, to come second to Emerson Fittipaldi in the drivers’ standings. Stewart also competed in a Ford Capri RS2600 in the European Touring Car Championship, with F1 teammate François Cevert and other F1 pilots, at a time where the competition between Ford and BMW was at a height. Stewart shared a Capri with F1 Tyrrell teammate François Cevert in the 1972 6 hours of Paul Ricard, finishing second. He also received an OBE. Entering the 1973 season, Stewart had decided to retire. He nevertheless won at South Africa, Belgium, Monaco, Holland, and Austria. His last (and then record-setting) 27th victory came at the Nürburgring with a convincing 1-2 for Tyrrell. “Nothing gave me more satisfaction than to win at the Nürburgring and yet, I was always afraid.” Stewart later said. “When I left home for the German Grand Prix I always used to pause at the end of the driveway and take a long look back. I was never sure I’d come home again.” After the fatal crash of his teammate François Cevert in practice for the 1973 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, Stewart retired one race earlier than intended and missed what would have been his 100th GP. Stewart held the record for most wins by a Formula One driver (27) for 14 years (broken by Alain Prost in 1987) and the record for most wins by a British Formula One driver for 19 years (broken by Nigel Mansell in 1992).

Posted in cars, sport

Jean Alesi

French former Racing driver Jean Alesi (born Giovanni Alesi; was born June 11, 1964. He is of Italian origin and his Formula One career included spells at Tyrrell, Benetton, Sauber, Prost, Jordan and most notably Ferrari where he proved very popular among the tifosi. In 2006 Alesi was awarded Chevalier de la Legion d’honneurAlesi debuted in the 1989 French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard in a Tyrrell-Cosworth, replacing Michele Alboreto, finishing fourth. He drove most of the rest of the season for Tyrrell while continuing his successful Formula 0300 campaign, (occasionally giving the car up in favour of Johnny Herbert when Formula 3000 clashed), scoring points again at the Italian and Spanish Grands Prix. 1990 was his first full year in Grand Prix racing, with the underfunded Tyrrell team. At the first event, the United States Grand Prix at Phoenix, he was a sensation, leading for 25 laps in front of Ayrton Senna with a car considered as inferior, and also re-passing Senna after the Brazilian had first overtaken for the lead. Second place in the Monaco Grand Prix followed the second place gained in Phoenix, and by mid-season, top teams were clamouring for his services in 1991. A very confused situation erupted, with Tyrrell, Williams, and Ferrari all claiming to have signed the driver within a very short period.Ferrari were championship contenders at the time, and there he would be driving with fellow countryman Alain Prost, at that time the most successful driver in Formula One history.

Alesi signed with Ferrari, making the choice that not only appeared to maximize his chances for winning the championship and for learning from an experienced and successful teammate, but that fulfilled his childhood dream of driving for the Italian team.Ferrari, however, experienced a disastrous downturn in form in 1991, while the Williams team experienced a resurgence which would lead them to win five constructor’s titles between 1992 and 1997, thus becoming the most successful team of the 1990s. Alesi’s choice of Ferrari over Williams seemed the most logical at the time, but turned out to be very unfortunate. One of the reasons for this failure was because Ferrari’s famous V12 engine was no longer competitive against the smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient V10s of their competitors. Having a dismal 1991 season, Prost left the team describing the car as a “truck” and took a sabbatical. Alesi was partnered by Ivan Capelli the following year, before being joined by Austrian Gerhard Berger in 1993. Alesi injured his back after the first race of the 1994 season (Brazil) and was replaced in the Pacific Grand Prix and the infamous San Marino Grand Prix (round 3) by Nicola Larini.

In five years at the Italian marque Alesi gained little, except the passionate devotion of the tifosi, who loved his aggressive style. That style, and his use of the number 27 on his car, led many to associate him with Gilles Villeneuve, a beloved and still-popular Ferrari driver from 1977–1982. Alesi and Berger won only one race each during this period at Ferrari. Following Alesi’s first and only GP win in the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix (on his 31st birthday), his Ferrari ran out of fuel as he waved to fans on the backstraight and he was given a lift back to the pits by Michael Schumacher. When Benetton’s Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari in 1996, Alesi and team mate Gerhard Berger swapped places with him. Though Benetton was the defending constructors’ champions, they were about to experience a lull in form like Ferrari in 1991. Schumacher went on to rejuvenate Ferrari, while Alesi and Berger spent two seasons at a declining Benetton riddled with bad luck and internal politics. While Berger had a reasonable run at Benetton, winning the 1997 German Grand Prix after having come two laps from victory at the same race the previous year when his engine blew while he was leading within sight of the flag, Alesi’s Benetton career proved more turbulent, not helped by an embarrassing retirement in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in 1997 when he ignored several radio messages from the pit mechanics to come in for his pit stop, and continued for five laps until running out of fuel.

His form became increasingly erratic that season, including incidents at the French Grand Prix when he needlessly pushed David Coulthard off the track, and the Austrian Grand Prix, where his attempt to outbrake Eddie Irvine from nearly eight lengths behind caused a spectacular collision that saw Alesi placed under investigation for dangerous driving after the race. A pole position and eventual second place at the Italian Grand Prix were not enough to salvage his drive at Benetton, and the team released Alesi at the end of the 1997 season.Alesi moved on, initially to Sauber and later Prost, the latter which was owned by his former Ferrari teammate Alain Prost. With Prost, Alesi was consistent, finishing every race, occasionally in points scoring positions, his best finish being at Canada.A fallout after the British Grand Prix, however saw Alesi walk out after the German Grand Prix, where he scored a point. The reason was because of the German driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen was suddenly sacked by Jordan after the British Grand Prix and he needed a drive, he was interested in joining the Prost team. Alesi finally decided to leave Prost after the German Grand Prix in order give way to Frentzen. Then, Alesi joined Jordan and eventually swapped teams. Alesi ended his open-wheel career in 2001 with Jordan, bookending his career nicely: Alesi had driven for Jordan in Formula 3000 when he won the championship in 1989.

Alesi was often regarded as flamboyant, emotional and aggressive, but after his spectacular performance at Phoenix in 1990, his career was notable more for its “bad luck” and longevity than for its final results. In 2001, he became only the fifth driver to start 200 Grand Prix races, and he achieved thirty-two podiums, yet he only gained one victory. It could be suggested that Alesi’s potential was unfulfilled – some say he spent his peak years during the uncompetitive period at Ferrari – retiring while in the lead or in 2nd place in no less than 9 races but somehow he was unlucky when driving for Benetton too, losing the lead of the Italian GP both in 1996 and 1997 after relatively slow pitstops and Monaco 1996 retiring with suspension failure. His sole win was an emotional triumph at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on his 31st birthday.

Alesi’s win at Montreal was voted the most popular race victory of the season by many, as it was the scarlet red number 27 Ferrari – once belonging to the famous Gilles Villeneuve at his much loved home Grand Prix. Memorably, Schumacher gave Alesi a lift back to the pits after Alesi’s car ran out of fuel just before the Pits Hairpin. Alesi would never win another Formula One Grand Prix, although later in 1995 at Monza his right-rear wheel bearing failed while he was leading with 9 laps to go, then at the Nürburgring severely worn tyres broke his defence of the lead with two laps remaining and he was passed by Michael Schumacher. In 1996 suspension failure with ten laps left prevented him from taking victory at Monaco (although he had led this race only after Damon Hill, who had held a commanding lead for the first half of the race, was forced to retire on lap 40 when his Renault engine blew up in the Tunnel) while in 1997 he led the Italian Grand Prix from pole before relinquishing the lead to David Coulthard courtesy of a slow pit stop during the race.

Posted in books

Book Shots by James Patterson

I am currently reading Book Shots by James Patterson. These are a series of short novels which feature exciting fast-paced stories by thriller author James Patterson. The stories feature Detective Alex Cross, Private London Detective Agency, Detective Harriet Blue and Lynsey Boxer & the Women’s Murder Club among many others.

James Patterson – Book Shots – The Hostage
The Hostage sees VIPs gathering in London to attend the grand opening of an exclusive 40 storey luxury hotel. Unfortunately an uninvited guest has also arrived and they plan to make it an event nobody will forget (for all the wrong reasons). So it is up to Global Head of Security Jon Roscoe to find the perpetrator before it is too late.

James Patterson – book shots – Black and Blue
After a beautiful young woman is found brutally murdered on a Sydney River bank, Detective Harriet Blue is tasked with apprehending the murderer. However the murder is not as it seems and Harriet soon becomes convinced that she may be tangled up in the case somehow and could become the Murderers next victim.

James Patterson – Book Shots – Break Point
While playing in the French Open Tennis Star Kirsten Keller begins getting death threats if she wins so she breaks down and flees the court in tears. Terrified and desperate, she assigns Metropolitan Police Officer Chris Foster to protect her at the next tennis tournament at Wimbledon. However As the championship progresses Keller’s tormentor gets closer and the threats become terrifyingly real.

James Patterson with Max DiLallo – Book Shots – Zoo 2
Following on from the events in Zoo, the planet is still under siege from ferocious animals. Nowhere is safe and many major cities now look like war zones. This may have been caused by increased Electro Magnetic activity caused by Electronic devices or the release of Pheromones which have triggered an aggressive response in many animals. The condition has been dubbed Human Animal Conflict and now no human is safe. Scientist Oz Jackson, his wife Chloe and their son Eli are hiding at an Arctic Research station trying to stay safe while working on a cure for the disease.

However some areas start reporting fewer animal attacks than others and there are also reports that some humans have also started evolving and mutating into a savage new species which is as cunning and intelligent as it is vicious. So Oz is asked to join a team who journey to Bali and then Tokyo on perilous expeditions to investigate why there are fewer attacks, and It is not long before Oz and the team find themselves in deadly peril. Meanwhile Chloe and Eli go to live with her parents in Paris where they are also attacked and encounter a Mysterious cult and they too find themselves in deadly peril.

James Patterson – Book Shots – Private Royals
While attending a cocktail party the night before the Trooping of the Colour parade for HM Queen Elizabeth II official 90th Birthday celebrations, Jack Morgan from the Private Detective Agency gets caught up in another kidnapping while visiting Peter Knight and the team, at the London branch of the Private Detective Agency. They receive a phone call from the Duke of Aldershot saying that his daughter Abbie, has been kidnapped and one word to the Police and his daughter will be killed. So Jack, Peter and the team at Private London have until 11:00 am the next day to find Abbie before she is killed by her abductors. Jack And the Private London team face a race against time to find Abbie before it’s too late.

James Patterson – Book Shots – Cross Kill
Alex Cross and his partner Sampson are detectives for the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department. Ten years ago, during the events of the novel Along Came a Spider, Alex Cross apparently shot dead an escaped killer, bomber and kidnapper named Gary Soneji in Grand Central Station, New York, after Soneji detonated home made bombs around New York causing carnage, before embarking on a kidnapping and murder spree. However ten years later Cross’s partner Sampson is tragically gunned down in the cafeteria of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School in Washington DC, by someone who looks exactly like Gary Soneji. Could Gary have an unknown identical twin brother vowing revenge perhaps? Alex Cross investigates and as he digs deeper he finds himself unprepared for the truth.

James Patterson- Book Shots – The heist
Exciting short story in which Three thieves plan the perfect diamond heist. They’ve monitored the Hatton Garden jeweller for months and are ready to make the hit and steal Millions of pounds worth of diamonds. However  a rival crew shows up at exactly the same time also intending to steal the diamonds. After a bloody fight, the three thieves come away with the diamonds and set off to meet their buyer in Amsterdam. But now it’s not only the police who are chasing them, and not only the diamonds that are at stake. This leads to a thrilling high speed chase across Europe.

James Patterson – Book Shots – The Hunted
A Former SAS captain named David Shelley goes looking for an old friend who has mysteriously gone missing. However He soon finds himself in deadly peril when he discovers the same danger that may have got his friend killed.

James Patterson – Book Shots – The Trial
An accused murderer named Kingfisher is about to go on trial after apparently being caught. However the city is suddenly paralyzed by a new reign of terror and unexpected violence which is aimed at the city’s Police and members of the legal profession. It is not long before Detective Lynsey Boxer and the Women’s Murder Club also find themselves caught up in the case trying to find the perpetrators and end the reign of terror.

 

Posted in books

Iain M. Banks

imageProlific Scottish author Iain Banks sadly died 9 June 2013 . He was born 16 February 1954 in Dunfermline, Fife, to a mother who was a professional ice skater and a father who was an officer in the Admiralty. An only child, Banks lived in North Queensferry until the age of nine, near the naval dockyards in Rosyth where his father was based. his family then moved to Gourock due to the requirements of his father’s work.After attending Gourock and Greenock High Schools, Banks studied English, philosophy and psychology at the University of Stirling (1972–1975). he wrote his second novel TTR during his first year at university.Following graduation Banks chose a succession of jobs that left him free to write in the evenings. These posts supported his writing throughout his twenties and allowed him to take long breaks between contracts, during which time he travelled through Europe, Scandinavia and North America. He was an expediter analyser for IBM, a technician (for British Steel) and a costing clerk for a Chancery Lane, London law firm during this period of his life.

imageBanks decided to become a writer at the age of 11 and completed his first novel The Hungarian Lift-Jet at 16. Following the publication and success of The Wasp Factory (1984), Banks began to write full-time. His editor at Macmillan, James Hale, advised him to write one book a year and Banks agreed to this schedule. Banks’s first science fiction book Consider Phlebaswas released in 1987. The Crow Road (1992) was adapted as a BBC television series and Espedair Street (1987) was broadcast on BBC Radio 4.Banks cited Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Brian Aldiss, M. John Harrison and Dan Simmons as literary influences. Banks published work under two names. His parents had intended to name him “Iain Menzies Banks”, but his father made a mistake when registering the birth and “Iain Banks” became the officially registered name. Despite this error, Banks continued to use his middle name and submitted The Wasp Factory for publication as “Iain M. Banks”. Banks’ editor enquired about the possibility of omitting the ‘M’ as it appeared “too fussy” and the potential existed for confusion with Rosie M. Banks, a romantic novelist in the Jeeves novels by P.G. Wodehouse; Banks agreed to the omission. Following three mainstream novels, Banks’s publishers agreed to publish his first science fiction (SF) novel Consider Phlebas. To create a distinction between the mainstream and SF novels, Banks suggested the return of the ‘M’ to his name and the author’s second title was consequently confirmed.

imageHe wrote mainstream fiction under the name Iain Banks, and science fiction as Iain M. Banks. his first successful novel was The Wasp Factory and following the publication and success of The Wasp Factory (1984), Banks began to write on a full-time basis. His first science fiction book, Consider Phlebas, was released in 1987, marking the start of the popular The Culture series. His books have been adapted for theatre, radio and television. In 2008, The Times named Banks in their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″.in April 2013. By his death in June 2013 Banks had published 26 novels. His twenty-seventh novel The Quarry was published posthumously.

Banks was also the subject of The Strange Worlds of Iain Banks South Bank Show (1997), a television documentary that examined his mainstream writing, and was also an in-studio guest for the final episode of Marc Riley’s Rocket Science radio show, broadcast on BBC Radio 6 Music. aradio adaptation of Banks’s The State of the Art was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2009; the adaptation was written by Paul Cornell and the production was directed/produced by Nadia Molinari. in 1998 Espedair Street was dramatised as a serial for Radio 4, presented by Paul Gambaccini in the style of a Radio 1 documentary. In 2011 Banks was featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme Saturday Live. Banks reaffirmed his atheism during his Saturday Live appearance, whereby he explained that death is an important “part of the totality of life” and should be treated realistically, instead of feared.

Banks appeared on the BBC television programme Question Time, a show that features political discussion. In 2006 Banks captained a team of writers to victory in a special series ofBBC Two’s University Challenge. Banks also won a 2006 edition of BBC One’s Celebrity Mastermind; the author selected “Malt whisky and the distilleries of Scotland” as his specialist subject. His final interview with Kirsty Wark was broadcast as Iain Banks: Raw Spirit on BBC2 Scotland on Wednesday 12 June 2013. Banks was involved in the theatre production The Curse of Iain Banks that was written by Maxton Walker and performed at theEdinburgh Fringe festival in 1999. Banks wrote the music for some of the songs that were featured in the production and collaborated with the play’s soundtrack composer Gary Lloyd, who also composed the score for a musical production of the Banks novel The Bridge. lloyd explained his collaboration with Banks in a Guardian article prior to the opening of the The Curse of Iain Banks.

Posted in music

Smashing Pumpkins/ Pixies

SP-mc-isJimmy Chamberlain, the former drummer with alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins was born 10th Jine 1965. The Smashing Pumpkins were formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1988 with Billy Corgan on lead vocals, lead guitar and James Iha playing rhythm guitar, the band has also included Jimmy Chamberlin (drums), D’arcy Wretzky (bass), and currently includes Jeff Schroeder (rhythm guitar, backing vocals) Mike Byrne (drums), and Nicole Fiorentino (bass guitar, backing vocals) amongst its membership.Frontman Billy Corgan is the group’s primary songwriter—his grand musical ambitions and cathartic lyrics have shaped the band’s albums and songs, which all have a diverse, densely layered and guitar-heavy sound, containing elements of gothic rock, grunge, heavy metal, dream pop, psychedelic rock, progressive rock and shoegazer-style production, as well as full string arrangements and radiant orchestral chimes.

The Smashing Pumpkins broke into the musical mainstream with their second album, SIAMESE DREAM in 1993, which is Considered by many to be the best album in the Smashing Pumpkins catalogue of Alternative Rock, and was Produced by Butch Vig (who also produced Garbage, Sonic Youth and Nirvana’s Nevermind). It is full of Billy Corgan’s angsty lyrics , which have been variously described as “anguished, bruised reports from Billy Corgan’s nightmare-land” which are delivered in his signature breathy whine. while James Iha’s & Darcy Wretsky’s provide a suitably awesome guitar sound, which was reinforced by Jimmy Chamberlin’s power drumming.(Until he left), although current drummer Mike Byrne is pretty cool too.

Unfortunately in 2000, internal fighting, drug use, and diminishing record sales led to a break-up of the band. However In 2006, Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin reconvened to record a new Smashing Pumpkins album, the splendidly noisy “Zeitgeist” (One of the songs “Doomsday Clock” is also used in the first Transformers Movie).The band toured with a rotating lineup of between five and nine musicians through much of 2007 and 2008 before Chamberlin left the band in early 2009. New drummer Mike Byrne and bassist/vocalist Nicole Fiorentino solidified a new lineup with Corgan and Schroeder, toured through much of 2010, I also think Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, and Oceania are rather good too.The Smashing Pumpkins also released their latest album Monuments to an Elegy in 2014 although Billy Corgan is the only original member left of the Original Smashing Pumpkins.

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imageKim Deal from American Alternative Rock Band the Pixies was born on June 10th 1961 and lead guitarist Joey Santiago was born June 10th 1965. The Pixies were formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986 and The group consists of Black Francis (vocals, rhythm guitar), Joey Santiago (lead guitar), Kim Deal (bass, vocals), and David Lovering (drums). While the Pixies found only modest commercial success in their home country, they were significantly more successful in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe. The group disbanded in 1993 under acrimonious circumstances but reunited in 2004.The band’s style of music contains elements of indie rock and surf rock. Black Francis is the Pixies’ primary songwriter and singer who is noted for his yowling delivery. He has typically written about offbeat subjects, such as extraterrestrials, surrealism and biblical violence.

The group has been described as a big influence on the alternative rock boom of the 1990s, though they disbanded before reaping any of the benefits this might have brought them. Avowed fan Kurt Cobain’s acknowledgment of the debt his band Nirvana owed to the Pixies, along with similar tributes by other alternative bands, helped the Pixies’ legacy and popularity grow in the years following their break-up, leading to sold-out tours following their reunion in 2004. Lead singer Black Francis a.k.a Frank Black has also released many solo albums since The Pixies split. However the Pixies reformed and their last album Indie Cindy was released in 2014.

Posted in Events

His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born 10th June in 1921. He is the husband of Queen Elizabeth II and is the United Kingdom’s longest-serving consort and also the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch. to mark the occasion , The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery fires a salute in London’s Hyde Park, which is fired every year to herald the occasion and the event will be open to the public but is not customarily attended by members of the royal famil

Prince Philip is a member of the Danish-German House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, And was born in Greece into the Greek royal family, but his family was exiled from Greece when he was a child. After being educated in Germany, England and Scotland, he joined the British Royal Navy at the age of 18 in 1939. From July 1939, he began corresponding with the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth, his third cousin and the eldest daughter and heiress presumptive of King George VI, whom he had first met in 1934. During World War II he served with the Mediterranean and Pacific fleets. After the war, Philip was granted permission by George VI to marry Elizabeth. Prior to the official engagement announcement, he abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles, converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and became a naturalised British subject, adopting the surname Mountbatten from his British maternal grandparents.

After an official engagement of five months, as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten he married Elizabeth on 20 November 1947. On his marriage, he was granted the style of His Royal Highness and the title of Duke of Edinburgh by the King, his father-in-law. Philip left active service, having reached the rank of Commander, when Elizabeth became Queen in 1952. The Queen, his wife, made him a Prince of the United Kingdom in 1957 and Lord High Admiral in 2011.Philip has four children with Elizabeth: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Through an Order in Council issued in 1960, descendants of Philip and Elizabeth not bearing royal styles and titles can use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, which has also been used by some members who do hold titles, such as Charles and Anne. A keen sportsman, Philip helped develop the equestrian event of carriage driving. He is a patron of over 800 organisations, and chairman of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for people aged 14 to 24 years

Posted in music

Ray Charles

imageAmerican musical legend Ray Charles sadly died 10 June 2004 as a result of liver failure/hepatitis C at his home at the age of 73 years old. Born September 23, 1930. His musical curiosity was first sparked when he heard boogie woogie played on an old upright piano. Charles started to lose his sight at the age of five & went completely blind by the age of seven, apparently due to glaucoma. He attended school at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine from 1937 to 1945,where he developed his musical talent. During this time he performed on WFOY radio in St. Augustine. In school, Charles was taught only classical music, but wanted to play the jazz and blues. While at school, he became the school’s premier musician.Charles was 15 When his mother died. He didn’t return to school, preferring instead, to play the piano for bands at the Ritz Theatre in LaVilla, earning $4 a night. He also played with a southern band called The Florida Playboys. This is where he began his habit of always wearing sunglasses, made by designer Billy Stickles. Charles had always played for other people, but he wanted his own band, so He decided to leave Florida and moved to Seattle in 1947 (where he first met and befriended a 14-year-old Quincy Jones, and soon started recording, first for the Down Beat label as the Maxin Trio with guitarist G.D. McKee and bassist Milton Garrett.

By fusing elements of rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into his early recordings he became a pioneer in the genre of soul music and achieved his first hit with “Confession Blues” in 1949 and joined Swing Time Records where he recorded two more R&B hits, “Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand” in 1951 and “Kissa Me Baby”in 1952. In early 1953 . Charles began recording jump blues and boogie-woogie style recordings as well as slower blues ballads where he continued to show the vocal influences of Nat “King” Cole and Charles Brown. “Mess Around” became Charles’ first Atlantic hit in 1953 and he later had hits the following year with “It Should Have Been Me” and “Don’t You Know”. He also recorded the songs, “Midnight Hour” and “Sinner’s Prayer”. Late in 1954, Charles recorded his own composition, “I Got a Woman”, and the song became Charles’ first number-one R&B hit in 1955 and brought him to national prominence. The elements of “I Got a Woman” included a mixture of gospel, jazz and blues elements that would later prove to be seminal in the development of rock ‘n’ roll and soul music. He repeated this pattern throughout 1955 continuing through 1958 with records such as “This Little Girl of Mine”, “Drown in My Own Tears”, “Lonely Avenue”, “A Fool For You” and “The Night Time (Is the Right Time)”.Charles also recorded instrumental jazz albums such as 1957′s The Great Ray Charles. During this time, Charles also worked with jazz vibraphonist Milt Jackson, releasing Soul Brothers in 1958 and Soul Meeting in 1961 and reached the pinnacle of his success at Atlantic with the release of “What’d I Say”. Later in 1959, and released his first country song, a cover of Hank Snow’s “Movin’ On”, and had recorded three more albums for the label including a jazz record (later released in 1961 as The Genius After Hours), a blues record (released in 1961 as The Genius Sings the Blues) and a traditional pop/big band record (The Genius of Ray Charles).

In 1960 Charles received national acclaim and a Grammy Award for the Sid Feller- produced “Georgia on My Mind”, and also earned another Grammy for the follow-up “Hit the Road Jack”, and became one of the few black artists to crossover into mainstream pop. The 1962 album, Modern Sounds in Country and western Music and its sequel Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2, also helped to bring country into the mainstream of music. He also had major pop hits in 1963 with “Busted” (US No. 4) and Take These Chains From My Heart. In 1965, Charles’ was arrested for a third time for heroin and After spending a year on parole, Charles reemerged on the charts in 1966 with a series of hits including “I Don’t Need No Doctor” , “Let’s Go Get Stoned”, “Crying Time” and “Here We Go Again”. However, Charles’ renewed chart success, proved to be short lived and by the late 1960s his music was rarely played on radio stations, although Charles’ 1972 album, Message from the People, was a hit and included his unique gospel- influenced version of “America the Beautiful” and His 1975 recording of Stevie Wonder’s hit, “Living for the City” later helped Charles win another Grammy.In 1977, he recorded the album, True to Life and In April 1979, Charles’ version of “Georgia On My Mind” was proclaimed the state song of Georgia and An emotional Charles performed the song on the floor of the state legislature. During the 1980′s Charles recorded a string of country albums and began having a string of country hits often with duet singers such as George Jones, Chet Atkins, B.J. Thomas, Mickey Gilley, Hank Williams, Jr. and lifelong friend Willie Nelson, for which he recorded the No. 1 country duet, “Seven Spanish Angels”.

He also made a return on the R&B charts with a cover of The Brothers Johnson’s “I’ll Be Good to You”, in collaboration with his lifelong buddy Quincy Jones and singer Chaka Khan, which hit number-one on the R&B charts in 1990 and won Charles and Khan a Grammy. Charles returned on the pop charts in another duet, with singer Billy Joel on the song, “Baby Grand” and in 1989, recorded a cover of the Southern All Stars’ “Itoshi no Ellie”, releasing it as “Ellie My Love”. Charles’ 1993 album, My World also became his first album in some time to reach the Billboard 200 and his cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You” gave him a charted hit on the adult contemporary chart as well as his twelfth and final Grammy he would receive in his lifetime. In 1980, he also made a cameo on the film, The Blues Brothers.Charles’ version of “Night Time is the Right Time” was also played during the popular “Cosby Show” episode, “Happy Anniversary” and In 1985, he appeared among a slew of other popular musicians in the USA for Africa charity recording, “We Are the World”. Charles also appeared at two Presidential inaugurations in his lifetime. In 1985, he performed for Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration, and in 1993 for Bill Clinton’s first. In 2003, Ray Charles also headlined the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C. where the President, First Lady, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice attended. In 2003 Charles performed “Georgia On My Mind” and “America the Beautiful” at a televised annual electronic media journalist banquet held in Washington, D.C. His final public appearance came on April 30, 2004, at the dedication of his music studio in Los Angeles.

His final album, Genius Loves Company, released two months after his death, consists of duets with various admirers and contemporaries: B.B. King, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Gladys Knight, Michael McDonald, Natalie Cole, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, and Johnny Mathis. The album won eight Grammy Awards, including five for Ray Charles for Best Pop Vocal Album, Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for “Here We Go Again” with Norah Jones, and Best Gospel Performance for “Heaven Help Us All” with Gladys Knight; he also received nods for his duets with Elton John and B.B. King. The album included a version of Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow”, sung as a duet by Charles and Johnny Mathis; this record was played at his memorial serviceTwo more posthumous albums, Genius & Friends and Ray Sings, Basie Swings, were released. Genius & Friends consisted of duets recorded from 1997 to 2005 with his choice of artists. Ray Sings, Basie Swings consists of archived vocals of Ray Charles from live mid-1970s performances added to new instrumental tracks specially recorded by the contemporary Count Basie Orchestra and other musicians. Charles’s vocals recorded from the concert mixing board were added to new accompaniments to create a “fantasy concert” recording. The late great Frank Sinatra called Charles “the only true genius in show business” and Rolling Stone ranked Charles number ten on their list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” in 2004, and number two on their November 2008 list of “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”.

Posted in books

Patricia Cornwell

CornwellProlific Crime novelist Patricia Cornwell was born 9 June 1956 in Miami, Florida. Her father was one of the leading appellate lawyers in the United States and served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. In 1961, Cornwell’s family moved to Montreat, North Carolina, where her mother was hospitalized for depression. Cornwell and her brothers, Jim and John, were placed in the foster care system. Cornwell attended King College in Bristol, Tennessee, before transferring to Davidson College, where she graduated with a B.A. in English. In 1979, Cornwell started working as a reporter for The Charlotte Observer and soon began covering crime. Her biography of family friend Ruth Bell Graham, A Time for Remembering (renamed Ruth, A Portrait: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham in subsequent editions), was published in 1983. In 1984, she took a job at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia. She worked there for six years, first as a technical writer and then as a computer analyst. She also volunteered to work with the Richmond Police Department. Cornwell wrote three novels that she says were rejected before the publication, in 1990, of the first installment of her Scarpetta series, Postmortem, was published, which features Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner Kay Sarpetta.

2013-11-29-11-07-53--2043000597One of the latest Patricia Cornwell crime thrillers I have read is Dust in which Scarpetta investigates the murder of a missing computer engineer named Gail Shipton, who appears to have been been murdered, shortly before the trial of her $100 million lawsuit against her former financial managers, and Scarpetta also fears the case may have a connection with her computer genius niece, Lucy. Scarpetta suspects that the person responsible is the Capital Murderer, whose most recent sexual homicides have terrorized Washington, D.C. Scarpetta begins to suspect that certain people in the government, including her boss, don’t want the killer caught and discover a force far more sinister than a sexual predator who fits the criminal classification of a “spectacle killer.”. Scarpetta soon finds herself involved in the dark world of designer drugs, drone technology, organized crime, and shocking corruption at the highest levels.

Another Gripping and suspenseful Patricia Cornwell novel Which I have read is Red Mist, which again features chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta, who is on a quest to find out exactly what happened to her former deputy chief, Jack Fielding, who was murdered six months before , so against the advice of her FBI criminal intelligence agent husband, Benton Wesley, Scarpetta meets a convicted sex offender and the mother of a vicious and diabolically brilliant killer, who may have information not only on Fielding, but also on a string of grisly killings. Then when more inexplicable deaths begin to occur. Scarpetta, discovers that what she thought ended with Fielding’s death and an attempt on her own life is only the beginning and discovers conspiracies and terrorism on an international scale.

In addition to the Scarpetta novels, Cornwell has written three pseudo-police fictions, known as the Trooper Andy Brazil/Superintendent Judy Hammer series, which are set in North Carolina, Virginia, and off the mid-Atlantic coast. Besides the older-woman/younger-man premise, the books include discomforting themes of scatology and sepsis. Cornwell has also been involved in a continuing, self-financed search for evidence to support her theory that painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper. She wrote Portrait of a Killer—Jack the Ripper: Case Closed, which was published in 2002 to much controversy, especially within the British art world. She believed Sickert to be responsible for the string of murders and had purchased over thirty of his paintings and argued that they closely resembled the Ripper crime scenes, and also discovered a letter written by someone purporting to be the killer.

Posted in films & DVD, Humour, Television

Rik Mayall (Young Ones, Bottom)

English comedian, writer and Actor Richard Michael “Rik” Mayall sadly died on 9 June 2014. He was described as a truly brilliant comedian with a unique stage presence whose “Fireball Comedy” and comic approach to sitcom had inspired a generation. born 7 March 1958 Mayall attended The King’s School, Worcester, After which went to the University of Manchester in 1976 to study drama, where he befriended his future comedy partner Ade Edmondson. There he also met Ben Elton, a fellow student, and Lise Mayer, with whom he later co-wrote The Young Ones. His comedy partnership with Adrian Edmondson, and over-the-top, energetic “post-punk” portrayal of characters, made him a pioneer of alternative comedy in the early 1980s. He appeared in numerous cult classic sitcoms, including The Young Ones, Blackadder, The New Statesman and Bottom, and on the big screen in the comedy films Drop Dead Fred and Guest House Paradiso.

Edmondson and Mayall gained their reputation at the Comedy Store, from 1980. Apart from performing in their double act, 20th Century Coyote, Mayall developed solo routines, using characters such as Kevin Turvey and a pompous anarchist poet named Rick. This led to Edmondson and Mayall, along with Comedy Store compere Alexei Sayle and other upcoming comedians, including Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson, French and Saunders, Arnold Brown and Pete Richens, setting up their own comedy club called “The Comic Strip”. Mayall’s Kevin Turvey character gained a regular slot in A Kick Up the Eighties, first broadcast in 1981. He appeared as “Rest Home” Ricky in Richard O’Brien’s Shock Treatment, a sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He played Dentonvale’s resident attendant as the love interest to Nell Campbell’s Nurse Ansalong. There was also a mockumentary based on the character entitled Kevin Turvey – The Man Behind The Green Door, broadcast in 1982. He also appeared in a bit role in An American Werewolf in London. His stage partnership with Edmondson continued in”The Dangerous Brothers”, hapless daredevils whose hyper-violent antics foreshadowed their characters in Bottom. Channel 4 offered the Comic Strip group six short films, which became The Comic Strip Presents…, which became known for its anti-establishment humour and parodies suchas Bad News on Tour, a spoof “rockumentary” starring Mayall, Richardson, Edmondson and Planer as a heavy metal band.

The Young Ones, was a sitcom written by Mayall and then-girlfriend Lise Mayer, in the same anarchic vein as Comic Strip. Ben Elton joined the writers. In it Mayall played Rik, a pompous sociology student and Cliff Richard devotee. Despite the sitcom format, Mayall maintained his double-act with Edmondson, who starred as violent punk Vyvyan. Nigel Planer (as hippie Neil) and Christopher Ryan (as “Mike the cool person”) with additional material written and performed by Alexei Sayle. The show owed a comic debt to Spike Milligan. In 1986 Rik Mayall played the Detective in the video of “Peter Gunn” by Art Of Noise featuring Duane Eddy.

Mayall returned to stand-up comedy, performing on Saturday Live—a British version of the American Saturday Night Live—first broadcast in 1985. He and Edmondson had a regular section as “The Dangerous Brothers”, and in 1985, Mayall debuted another comic creation -Lord Flashheart in the Blackadder II episode entitled “Bells”. A descendant of this character, Squadron Commander Flashheart, was also in the Blackadder Goes Forth episode “Private Plane” in which he was reunited with Edmondson, who played German flying ace Baron von Richthofen the “Red Baron”, Mayall also appeared in Blackadder: Back & Forth as Robin Hood. In 1986, Mayall joined Planer, Edmondson and Elton to star as Richie Rich in Filthy Rich & Catflap, which highlighted the “has been” status of light entertainment. 1987 saw Mayall co-star with Edmondson in the ITV sitcom Hardwicke House and score a number one hit when he and his co-stars from The Young Ones teamed with Cliff Richard to record “Living Doll” for the inaugural Comic Relief campaign. Mayall played Rick one last time in the stage-show and supported the Comic Relief and also gave a memorably crazed portrayal in Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine.

In 1987, Mayall played fictional Conservative MP Alan Beresford B’Stard in the sitcom The New Statesman and, in 1989 Mayall starred in a series of bit shows for ITV called Grim Tales, in which he narrated Grimm Brothers fairy tales while puppets acted the stories. In 1991, Edmondson and Mayall co-starred in the West End production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, with Mayall playing Vladimir, Edmondson as Estragon and Christopher Ryan as Lucky. This inspired Bottom, which they said was a cruder cousin to Waiting for Godot and featured slapstick violence taken to new extremes. In 1993, following the second series, Mayall and Edmondson decided to take a stage-show version of the series on a national tour, Bottom: Live.

In 1991 Mayall starred alongside Phoebe Cates in Drop Dead Fred as a troublesome imaginary friend who reappears from a woman’s childhood. He also appeared in Carry On Columbus (1992) with other alternative comedians and provided the voice of the character Froglip, the leader of the goblins, in the 1992 animated film adaption of the 1872 children’s tale The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. In 1993, he appeared in Rik Mayall Presents, for which he won a Best Comedy Performer award at that year’s British Comedy Awards, He also provided the voice for Little Sod in Simon Brett’s How to Be a Little Sod. In the early 1990s, he auditioned for the roles of Banzai, Zazu and Timon in The Lion King (1994); but the role of Zazu finally went to Rowan Atkinson.

In 1995, Mayall featured in a production of the play Cell Mates alongside Stephen Fry. Not long into the run, Fry had a nervous breakdown and fled to Belgium, Edmondson later poked fun at the event during the stage tours. Bottom Live: The Big Number Two Tour, And Bottom Live 2003: Weapons Grade Y-Fronts Tour. From 1999, Mayall was the voice of the black-headed seagull Kehaar, in the first and second series of the animated television programme, Watership Down.In 2000, Mayall lent his voice to the PlayStation and Windows PC video game Hogs of War and appeared in the video production of Jesus Christ Superstar as King Herod. In 2001 Mayall gave an excellent dramatic performance as Lt Daniel Blaney in the episode “The White Knight Stratagem” from the series “Murder Rooms: The Mysteries of the Real Sherlock Holmes.” In 2002, Mayall starred as Professor Adonis Cnut in the ITV sitcom, Believe Nothing. Following 2003’s Bottom: Live tour, Bottom 5: Weapons Grade Y-Fronts, Edmondson told the Daily Mail that he no longer wished to work on Bottom claiming they were “too old” to continue portraying the characters. Edmondson added that since Mayall had recovered from his coma, he was slower on the uptake and it had become more difficult to work with him, citing as well that due to taking medication Mayall had been advised to stop drinking alcohol. However, Edmondson said that the pair remained very close friends.

Mayall voiced Edwin in the BBC show Shoebox Zoo. In September 2005, he starred in a new series for ITV, All About George. In 2006, Mayall reprised the role of Alan B’Stard in the play The New Statesman 2006: Blair B’stard Project, In which B’Stard leaves the floundering Conservatives and become a Labour MP. In 2007, following a successful two-month run in London’s West End at the Trafalgar Studios, a heavily re-written version toured theatres nationwide, However, Mayall succumbed to chronic fatigue and flu in May 2007 and withdrew from the show. Alan B’Stard was played by his understudy, Mike Sherman during his hiatus.

Mayall was cast as the poltergeist Peeves in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone And Played Winston the Butler in the film Evil Calls: The Raven (2008). Mayall also provided the voice of the Andrex puppy in the UK Andrex TV commercials and narrated the UK Domestos adverts. He performed the voice of King Arthur in the children’s television cartoon series, King Arthur’s Disasters, alongside Matt Lucas from Little Britain who plays Merlin. In September 2009, Mayall played a supporting role in the British television programme Midsomer Murders, In April 2010, Motivation Records released Mayall’s England Football anthem “Noble England” for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which features an adapted speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. In September 2010 he narrated an audio book, Cutey and the Sofaguard written by Christ Wade and In November 2010, Mayall provided narrative for five different characters for CDs accompanying children’s books published by Clickety Books. Then On 5 March 2011, Mayall appeared with Ade Edmonson on Let’s Dance For Comic Relief then In April 2011, Mayall again revived the character of Alan B’Stard to make an appearance in a satirical television advertisement for the No2AV campaign prior to the 2011 voting reform referendum in the UK. On 23 August 2012 the BBC announced that Edmondson and Mayall’s characters of Richie and Eddie returned in 2013 in Hooligan’s Island. In September 2012 Mayall starred in The Last Hurrah, and In November 2012, Mayall narrated several children’s books on the Me Books app, such as The Getaway and Banana! by children’s illustrator and author Ed Vere. In October 2013 he also appeared in Channel 4 sitcom Man Down,

Posted in locomotives, Science-tech, steam locomotives, Trains

George Stephenson

English civil engineer and mechanical engineer George Stephenson was born on 9 June 1781. He is credited with building the first public railway line in the world to use steam locomotives. Renowned as being the “Father of Railways”, the Victorians considered him a great example of diligent application and thirst for improvement, with self-help advocate Samuel Smiles particularly praising his achievements. His rail gauge of 4 feet 81⁄2 inches (1,435 mm), sometimes called “Stephenson gauge”, is the world’s standard gauge. George Stephenson was born in Wylam, Northumberland, 9.3 miles (15.0 km) west of Newcastle upon Tyne.At 17, Stephenson became an engineman at Water Row Pit, Newburn. George realised the value of education and paid to study at night school to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. In 1801 he began work at Black Callerton colliery as a brakesman’, controlling the winding gear of the pit. In 1811 the pumping engine at High Pit, Killingworth was not working properly and Stephenson offered to fix it. He did so with such success that he was soon promoted to enginewright for the neighbouring collieries at Killingworth, responsible for maintaining and repairing all of thec olliery engines. He soon became an expert in steam-driven machinery.

In 1815, aware of the explosions often caused in mines by naked flames, Stephenson began to experiment with a safety lamp that would burn without causing an explosion. At the same time, Cornishman Sir Humphry Davy, the eminent scientist was also looking at the problem. Despite his lack of any scientific knowledge, Stephenson, by trial and error, devised a lamp in which the air entered via tiny holes. Stephenson demonstrated the lamp himself to two witnesses by taking it down Killingworth colliery and holding it directly in front of a fissure from which fire damp was issuing. This was a month before Davy presented his design to the Royal Society. The two designs differed in that, the Davy’s lamp was surrounded by a screen of gauze, whereas Stephenson’s lamp was contained in a glass cylinder. For his invention Davy was awarded £2,000, whilst Stephenson was accused of stealing the idea from Davy. A local committee of enquiry exonerated Stephenson, proved that he had been working separately and awarded him £1,000 but Davy and his supporters refused to accept this. They could not see how an uneducated man such as Stephenson could come up with the solution that he had. In 1833 a House of Commons committee found that Stephenson had equal claim to having invented the safety lamp. Davy went to his grave believing that Stephenson had stolen his idea. The Stephenson lamp was used exclusively in the North East, whereas the Davy lamp was used everywhere else. The experience with Davy gave Stephenson a life-long distrust of London-based, theoretical, scientific experts. There is a theory that it was Stephenson who indirectly gave the name of Geordies to the people of Tyneside. By this theory, the name of the Geordie lamp attached to the pit men themselves. By 1866 any native of Tyneside could be called a Geordie.

Cornishman Richard Trevithick is credited with the first realistic design of the steam locomotive in 1802. Later, he visited Tyneside and built an engine there for a mine-owner. Several local men were inspired by this, and designed engines of their own. Stephenson designed his first locomotive in 1814, a travelling engine designed for hauling coal on the Killingworth wagonway, and named Blücher after the Prussian general Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. This locomotive could haul 30 tons of coal up a hill at 4 mph (6.4 km/h), and was the first successful flanged-wheel adhesion locomotive: its traction depended only on the contact between its flanged wheels and the rail. The new engines were too heavy to be run on wooden rails, and iron rails were in their infancy, with cast iron exhibiting excessive brittleness. Together with William Losh, Stephenson improved the design of cast ironrails to reduce breakage; these were briefly made by Losh, Wilson and Bell at their Walker ironworks. According toRolt, he also managed to solve the problem caused by the weight of the engine upon these primitive rails.He experimented with a ‘steam spring’ (to ‘cushion’ the weight using steam pressure), but soon followed the new practice of ‘distributing’ weight by utilising a number of wheels. For the Stockton and Darlington Railway, however, Stephenson would use only wrought iron rails.

Stephenson was hired to build an 8-mile (13-km) railway from Hetton colliery to Sunderland in 1820. The finished result used a combination of gravity on downward inclines and locomotives for level and upward stretches. It was the first railway using no animal power. In 1821, a parliamentary bill was passed to allow the building of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR). This 25-mile (40 km) railway was intended to connect various collieries situated near Bishop Auckland to the River Tees at Stockton, passing through Darlington on the way. The original plan was to use horses to draw coal carts on metal rails, but after company director Edward Pease met Stephenson he agreed to change the plans. Stephenson surveyed the line in 1821, assisted by his eighteen-year-old son Robert. That same year construction of the line began. A company was set up to manufacture locomotives for the railway, It was named Robert Stephenson and Company, and George’s son Robert was the managing director. In September 1825 the works at Forth Street, Newcastle completed the first locomotive for the new railway: originally named Active, it was soon renamed Locomotion. It was followed by “Hope”, “Diligence” and “Black Diamond”.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway opened on 27 September 1825. Driven by Stephenson, Locomotion hauled an 80-ton load of coal and flour nine miles (15 km) in two hours, reaching a speed of 24 miles per hour (39 km/h) on one stretch. The first purpose-built passenger car, dubbed Experiment,was attached, and carried dignitaries on the opening journey. It was the first time passenger traffic had been run on a steam locomotive railway. Although Richard Trevithick had demonstrated the idea back in 1808 using catch-me-who-can on a circular track which was situated near the present day Euston Station.The rails used for the new line were wrought-iron rails which could be produced in much longer lengths than the cast-iron ones and were much less liable to crack under the weight of heavy locomotives and The gauge that Stephenson chose for the line was 4 feet 81⁄2 inches (1,435 mm), and this subsequently came to be adopted as the standard gauge for railways, not only in Britain, but also throughout the world. Stephenson had also ascertained by experiments at Killingworth that half of the power of the locomotive was consumed by a gradient as little as 1 in 260 & came to the conclusion that railways should be kept as level as possible. He used this knowledge while working on the Bolton and Leigh Railway, and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR), executing a series ofdifficult cuts, embankments and stone viaducts to smooth the route the railways took.

As the L&MR approached completion in 1829, its directors arranged for a competition to decide who would build its locomotives, and the Rainhill Trials were run in October 1829. Entries could weigh no more than six tons and had to travel along the track for a total distance of 60 miles (97 km). Stephenson’s entry was Rocket, and its performance in winning the contest made it famous. The opening ceremony of the L&MR, on 15 September 1830, was a considerable event, drawing luminaries from the government and industry, including the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington. The day started with a procession of eight trains setting out from Liverpool. The parade was led by “Northumbrian” and included “Phoenix”, “North Star” and “Rocket”. The railway was a resounding success and Stephenson became famous, and was offered the position of chief engineer for a wide variety of other railways.1830 also saw the grand opening of the skew bridge in Rainhill as part of the grand opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The bridge was the first to cross any railway at an angle. This required the structure to be constructed as two flat planes (overlapping in this case by 6′) between which the stonework forms a parallelogram shape when viewed from above. This has the effect of flattening the arch and the solution is to lay the bricks forming the arch at an angle to the abutments (the piers on which the arches rest). This technique, which results in a spiral effect in the arch masonry, provides extra strength in the arch to compensate for the angled abutments.

Britain led the world in the development of railways and this acted as a stimulus for the industrial revolution, by facilitating the transport of raw materials and manufactured goods. George Stephenson cannot claim to have invented the locomotive. Richard Trevithick deserves that credit. George Stephenson, with his work on the Stockton and Darlington Railway and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, paved the way for the railway engineers who were to follow, such as his son Robert, his assistant Joseph Locke who went on to carry out much work on his own account and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. These men were following in his footsteps. Stephenson was also farsighted inrealising that the individual lines being built would eventually join together, and would need to have the same gauge. The standard gauge used throughout much of the world is due to him.