And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

27 April

1521
Ferdinand Magellan,
explorer

‘On Friday, April twenty-six, Zula, a chief of the island of Matan [Mactan, and island in the Philippines] sent one of his sons to present two goats to the captain-general, and to say that he would send him all that he had promised, but that he had not been able to send it to him because of the other chief Cilapulapu, who refused to obey the king of Spagnia. He requested the captain to send him only one boatload of men on the next night, so that they might help him and fight against the other chief. The captain-general decided to go thither with three boatloads. We begged him repeatedly not to go, but he, like a good shepherd, refused to abandon his flock. At midnight, sixty men of us set out armed with corselets and helmets, together with the Christian king, the prince, some of the chief men, and twenty or thirty balanguais. We reached Matan three hours before dawn. The captain did not wish to fight then, but sent a message to the natives by the Moro to the effect that if they would obey the king of Spagnia, recognize the Christian king as their sovereign, and pay us our tribute, he would be their friend; but that if they wished otherwise, they should wait to see how our lances wounded. They replied that if we had lances they had lances of bamboo and stakes hardened with fire. [They asked us] not to proceed to attack them at once, but to wait until morning, so that they might have more men. They said that in order to induce us to go in search of them; for they had dug certain pitholes between the houses in order that we might fall into them. When morning came forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our thighs, and walked through water for more than two crossbow flights before we could reach the shore. The boats could not approach nearer because of certain rocks in the water. The other eleven men remained behind to guard the boats. When we reached land, those men had formed in three divisions to the number of more than one thousand five hundred persons. When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries, two divisions on our flanks and the other on our front. When the captain saw that, he formed us into two divisions, and thus did we begin to fight. The musketeers and crossbowmen shot from a distance for about a half-hour, but uselessly; for the shots only passed through the shields which were made of thin wood and the arms [of the bearers]. The captain cried to them, “Cease firing! cease firing!” but his order was not at all heeded. When the natives saw that we were shooting our muskets to no purpose, crying out they determined to stand firm, but they redoubled their shouts. When our muskets were discharged, the natives would never stand still, but leaped hither and thither, covering themselves with their shields. They shot so many arrows at us and hurled so many bamboo spears (some of them tipped with iron) at the captain-general, besides pointed stakes hardened with fire, stones, and mud, that we could scarcely defend ourselves. Seeing that, the captain-general sent some men to burn their houses in order to terrify them. When they saw their houses burning, they were roused to greater fury. Two of our men were killed near the houses, while we burned twenty or thirty houses. So many of them charged down upon us that they shot the captain through the right leg with a poisoned arrow. On that account, he ordered us to retire slowly, but the men took to flight, except six or eight of us who remained with the captain. The natives shot only at our legs, for the latter were bare; and so many were the spears and stones that they hurled at us, that we could offer no resistance. The mortars in the boats could not aid us as they were too far away. So we continued to retire for more than a good crossbow flight from the shore always fighting up to our knees in the water. The natives continued to pursue us, and picking up the same spear four or six times, hurled it at us again and again. Recognizing the captain, so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice, but he always stood firmly like a good knight, together with some others. Thus did we fight for more than one hour, refusing to retire farther. An Indian hurled a bamboo spear into the captain’s face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the Indian’s body. Then, trying to lay hand on sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because he had been wounded in the arm with a bamboo spear. When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide. When they wounded him, he turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Thereupon, beholding him dead, we, wounded, retreated, as best we could, to the boats, which were already pulling off. The Christian king would have aided us, but the captain charged him before we landed, not to leave his balanghai, but to stay to see how we fought. When the king learned that the captain was dead, he wept. Had it not been for that unfortunate captain, not a single one of us would have been saved in the boats, for while he was fighting the others retired to the boats. I hope through [the efforts of] your most illustrious Lordship that the fame of so noble a captain will not become effaced in our times. Among the other virtues which he possessed, he was more constant than ever any one else in the greatest of adversity. He endured hunger better than all the others, and more accurately than any man in the world did he understand sea charts and navigation. And that this was the truth was seen openly, for no other had had so much natural talent nor the boldness to learn how to circumnavigate the world, as he had almost done. That battle was fought on Saturday, April twenty-seven, 1521. The captain desired to fight on Saturday, because it was the day especially holy to him. Eight of our men were killed with him in that battle, and four Indians, who had become Christians and who had come afterward to aid us were killed by the mortars of the boats. Of the enemy, only fifteen were killed, while many of us were wounded.

In the afternoon the Christian king sent a message with our consent to the people of Matan, to the effect that if they would give us the captain and the other men who had been killed, we would give them as much merchandise as they wished. They answered that they would not give up such a man, as we imagined [they would do], and that they would not give him for all the riches in the world, but that they intended to keep him as a memorial.’

First circumnavigation of the globe

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1597
James Melville,
teacher

‘The 27 of Apryll, anno 1597, Mr Robert Pont, Moderator of the last lawfull Generall Assemblie, cam to St Androis of purpose to keipe the dyat apointed for the Generall Assemblie; bot finding nan convenit ther bot the Province of Fyff, cam to the New Collage Scholl, the place apointed for the said Assemblie, and ther, efter incalling of the nam of God, and humble confessioun of sine, that haid procured that brak and desolatioun, cravit mercie, and fensit the Assemblie ther ordourlie in the name of God, taking notes and documents of protestatioun for the libertie of the Kirk. But, alas! even then that libertie began to be almost lost! For thairefter, to utter it in a word, whar Chryst gydit befor, the Court began then to govern all; whar pretching befor prevalit, then polecie tuk the place; and, finalie, whar devotioun and halie behaviour honoured the Minister, then began pranking at the chare, and pratling in the ear of the Prince, to mak the Minister to think him selff a man of estimatioun!’

Libertie of the kirk

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1810
Mirza Abul Hassan Khan,
diplomat

‘Early in the morning Sir Gore Ouseley and I went to Somerset House, a large and magnificent mansion built of stone, like a small castle, overlooking the river. In one part of the building about 1,000 naval officers and clerks administer the affairs of the Royal Navy.

In another part of the building famous artists show their paintings to the general public, who pay two shillings to look at what they call an ‘exhibition’. The money collected is given to poor painters and their children. By showing their paintings here, artists may gain in reputation and attract sitters to have their portraits painted. The work is well paid.

My portrait by Sir William Beechey was among those in the exhibition.’

I was utterly amazed!

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1821
Francis Edward Witts,
priest

‘The overseer of Halling brought up two gipsies, casual poor in their parish in order to their being examined to their settlement. Merach Lock the husband swore that he was born under an oak on Halling down as he had heard from his mother, being an illegitimate child and knowing nothing of his father; also that he was recently married to his wife Mary which whom he had cohabited twenty years, having by her six children. It seems that the Parish of Halling has little or no chance of proving him settled elsewhere. On examining the woman, she swore all the children to be Merach Lock’s - Lucas and Adam being born like their father in the Paris of Halling - Eve at Cold Ashton - Sarah at Brimpsfield - Temperance at Hawkesbury - Joanna at Cranham. The law was strictly interpreted and removal orders were made in respect of the last four children, sending them to their respective birth places.’

Upper Slaughter’s squire

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1872
Louisa Alcott,
writer

‘Mr Emerson died at 9 P.M. suddenly. Our best and greatest American gone. The nearest and dearest friend Father has ever had, and the man who has helped me most by his life, his books, his society. I can never tell all he has been to me, from the time I sang Mignon’s song under his window (a little girl) and wrote letters a la Bettine to him, my Goethe, at fifteen, up through my hard years, when his essays on Self-Reliance, Character, Compensation, Love, and Friendship helped me to understand myself and life, and God and Nature. Illustrious and beloved friend, good-by!’

I flied the highest

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1888
Elizabeth Lee,
young woman

‘Tonight Mr. Bragg took me to a ball at the City Hall, Liverpool. Mr. Rimmington took Miss Homes. Of course we all went together. Enjoyed myself immensely. We caught the 4.a.m. boat and came home (all the lot of us) in a hansom (which is only made for two).’

A jolly double tricycle ride

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1910
Robert Earl Henri,
painter

‘The exhibition was a great success as far as general notice and attendance - the crush at the opening and continued full attendance to the last day. Financially nothing happened.’

Make the draperies move

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1910
Jean Sibelius,
composer

‘Light, expectant, hopeful thoughts. Worked in my own way. Try to concentrate. ‘A must.’ Now or never.’

An inner confession

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1915
Edith Cavell,
nurse

‘Yesterday a letter from Monsieur Capiau who has gone to Germany voluntarily to inquire at Essen! with some other Belgian engineers. The letter came thro a young Frenchman who with 7 others had come from N. France to escape and hopes to get over the Dutch frontier in a day or two. The frontier has been absolutely impassable the last few days. Germany and Holland have been on the verge of war over the sinking of the Catwyk. The Dutch refused to allow anyone to cross and had massed their troops & laid mines all along from Maastricht to Antwerp. A sentinel on the Dutch side was posted very 15 metres & all the young men who had left to try & cross were stuck or came back - 5 of ours were heard of at Herrenthall yesterday & the guide left to bring them back.’

[Cavell gives a description of one of her guides and carriers of information - a boy, as she called him, of 23, Charles Vanderlinden, one of a family of nine brothers, ‘all strong and fighters’.] ‘This fellow is a fine type - about 5ft 6 or 7, slightly made but very strong and muscular. He amused himself when small with boxing a great sack of sand or corn which swung forward and butted him in the face if he failed to hit in the right place. He afterwards got some lessons in boxing & obliged me with a description of the right way to catch a man’s head under the arm & ‘crack’ his neck or to give him a back-handed blow and destroy the trachea or larynx. He is also a poacher in time of peace & sets lassoes in rows so that hares racing to their feeding grounds are bound to be caught in one of them. [. . .] He will be caught one day & if so will be shot but he will make a first class bid for freedom.’

The brave Edith Cavell

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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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