And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

23 April

1789
George Washington,
president

‘The display of boats which attended and joined us on this occasion, some with vocal and some with instrumental music on board; the decorations of the ships, the roar of cannon, and the loud acclamations of the people which rent the skies, as I passed along the wharves, filled my mind with sensations as painful (considering the reverse of this scene, which may be the case after all my labors to do good) as they are pleasing.’

Washington’s domestic felicity

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1834
Edmund Franklin Ely,
priest

‘Two Indians, who arrived from their hunt last night - made it [the traverse] this P. M. in a very Small Canoe. These men brought in 3 or $400 worth of furs, the result of the Spring Hunt.’

Not counting hedge hogs

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1838
Henry Cockburn,
lawyer

‘We reached Aberdeen on the 18th, through clouds of snow and bitter blasts. There were three wreaths between Huntly and Pitmachie, which really alarmed me.

I know no part of Scotland so much, and so visibly, improved within thirty years as Aberdeenshire. At the beginning of that time, the country between Keith and Stonehaven was little else than a hopeless region of stones and moss. There were places of many miles where literally there was nothing but large white stones of from half a ton to ten tons weight, to be seen. A stranger to the character of the people would have supposed that despair would have held back their hands from even at- tempting to remove them. However, they began, and year after year have been going on making dikes and drains, and filling up holes with these materials, till at last they have created a country which, when the rain happens to cease, and the sun to shine, is really very endurable.

Moncreiff joined me at Aberdeen, and we were three days in Court there, from morning till past midnight. There was nothing curious in any of the cases. The weather was so bad that we had no public procession, but went to Court privately and respectably. The dignity of justice would be increased if it always rained. Yet there are some of us who like the procession, though it can never be anything but mean and ludicrous, and who fancy that a line of soldiers, or the more civic array of paltry police-officers, or of doited special constables, protecting a couple of judges who flounder in awkward gowns and wigs, through the ill-paved streets, followed by a few sneering advocates, and preceded by two or three sheriffs, or their substitutes, with white swords, which trip them, and a provost and some bailie-bodies trying to look grand, the whole defended by a poor iron mace, and advancing each with a different step, to the sound of two cracked trumpets, ill-blown by a couple of drunken royal trumpeters, the spectators all laughing, who fancy that all this ludicrous pretence of greatness and reality of littleness, contributes to the dignity of justice. Judges should never expose themselves unnecessarily - their dignity is on the bench.

We have had some good specimens of the condition of jails. One man was tried at Inverness for jail-breaking, and his defence was that he was ill-fed, and that the prison was so weak that he had sent a message to the jailor that if he did not get more meat he would not stay in another hour, and he was as good as his word. The Sheriff of Elgin was proceeding to hold a court to try some people, when he was saved the trouble by being told that they had all walked out. Some of them being caught, a second court was held, since I was at Inverness, to dispose of them; when the proceedings were again stopped from the very opposite cause. The jailor had gone to the country taking the key of the prison with him, and the prisoners not being willing to come forth voluntarily, could not be got out. Lord Moncreiff (who joined me at Aberdeen) tells me that when he was Sheriff of Kinross-shire, there was an Alloa culprit who was thought to be too powerful for the jail of that place. So they hired a chaise and sent officers with him to the jail of Kinross, where he was lodged. But before the horses were fed for their return, he broke out, and wishing to be with his friends a little before finally decamping, he waited till the officers set off, and then returned to Alloa, without their knowing it, on the back of the chaise that had brought him to Kinross, with them in it.

Aberdeen is improving in its buildings and harbour. The old town is striking and interesting, with its venerable college, its detached position, its extensive links, and glorious beach. But the new and larger city is cold, hard, and treeless. The grey granite does well for public works where durability is obviously the principal object, but for common dwelling-houses it is not, to my taste, nearly so attractive as the purity of the white freestone, or the richness of the cream-coloured. Polishing and fine jointing improve it much, but this is dear, and hence the ugly lines of mortar between the seams of the stones.’

Of murder and raptus

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1912
Clifford Crease,
mechanic

‘Weather fine picked up one hundred and twenty eight bodies one hundred and twenty seven men and one woman. Stopped Allan Liner Sardinian for canvas etc to wrap up bodies. Did not bury any to day.’

Recovering Titanic bodies

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1915
Aubrey Herbert,
diplomat

‘I have just seen the most wonderful procession of ships I shall ever see. In the afternoon we left for the outer harbour. The wind was blowing; there was foam upon the sea and the air of the island was sparkling. With the band playing and flags flying, we steamed past the rest of the fleet. Cheers went from one end of the harbour to the other. Spring and summer met. Everybody felt it more than anything that had gone before.

After we had passed the fleet, the pageant of the fleet passed us. First the Queen Elizabeth, immense, beautiful lines, long, like a snake, straight as an arrow. This time there was silence. It was grim and very beautiful. We would rather have had the music and the cheers . . . This morning instructions were given to the officers and landing arrangements made. We leave at 1.30 to-night. The Australians are to land first. This they should do to-night. Then we land. . . Naval guns will have to cover our advance, and the men are to warned that the naval fire is very accurate. They will need some reassuring if the fire is just over their heads. The 29th land at Helles, the French in Asia near Troy. This is curious, as they can't support us or we them. the Naval Division goes north and makes a demonstration . . . The general opinion is that very many boats must be sunk from the shore. Having got ashore, we go on to a rendezvous. We have no native guides. . . The politicians are very unpopular.’

Herbert goes to war

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1945
Olave Baden-Powell,
volunteer and philanthropist

‘St. George's Day., Attended Scout and Guide celebrations of freedom in Paris. Toured through Normandy with General Lafont, Chief Scout of France. Continued through Alsace and Lorraine, and on VE Day crossed into Switzerland, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, England, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland.’

World Chief Guide

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1995
Alastair Campbell
, journalist and political aide

‘I had a perfectly nice chat with Cherie, in which we both lamented how much of our time we spent having to talk to TB in his underwear.’

Call me Cherie

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1990
David Lodge,
writer

‘This week I have agreed to stay away from rehearsals, as the actors will be mainly concerned with trying to learn their lines. I called the Rep this morning to arrange for a taxi to collect the rewrites that I’d done over the weekend, and Wiff told me that Timothy West has agreed to do the voice of Henry. That’s good news.’

Lodge’s diary playback

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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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