And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

17 January

1685
Jacob Bee,
tradesman

‘John Borrow departed this life, and ‘twas reported, that he see a coach drawn by six swine, all black, and a black man satt upon the cotch box. He fell sick upon’t and dyed, and of his death severall apparations appeared after.’

Very fiery comets

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1815
Francis Rawdon-Hastings,
politician

‘Although we were told that all the country parallel to the march we had to make this day, was so devoid of cover as to afford no prospect of meeting a lion, the knowledge that we were after this day to enter a country so highly cultivated as to preclude the possibility of finding them, made us resolve not to throw away even the poor chance which we still had. At about seven miles wide of our road, two curious hills, apparently composed of loose blocks of stone, arose from the plain. We thought there might be cover about their bases, but there was not any on the side which we approached. [. . .] About six miles ahead of us, there appeared trees which we supposed to be a thicket. We resolved to push for it. In our way we fell in with some large herds of cattle. The men attending them, of the tribe of Jhaats, informed us that the trees to which we were steering only surrounded a village, but that they could show us, at about two miles from where we then were, a place where there was great probability of our finding a lion. They told us that they had of late often seen two, which had carried off many of their cows.

It is extraordinary how little apprehension these people have of the lion. They say it never wantonly attacks a man; so that if it gets enough of other food, and they do not provoke it, they are not terrified at seeing it prowling about. Then they always say to you, if it be my destiny to be eaten by a lion, no care of mine will prevent it; he will come and take me out of my bed. Leaving the cattle under the charge of some boys, three or four men went to show the place where they thought it likely our game should be found.

There never was a more promising spot. It was a dell, which ran from the back of the first hill, and it was full of long grass and thorns. We beat it with the utmost care, refraining from firing at other animals, which continually started up before us, but found no lion. We then returned to the herds. I this day remarked what I had indeed observed on many former occasions, what a fine lace of men, the Sikhs and Jhaats are. They are not bulky, but they are tall and energetic. Their step is firm and elastic; their countenances frank, confident, and manly; and their address has much natural politeness. I had noticed the same appearance in the Rohillas and Patans, but with less of cheerful air than what I observe in the Sikhs. More active, brave, and sturdy follows can nowhere be found than these tribes present. [. . .]

More from the principle of leaving nothing untried than from the supposition that there was any chance of finding a lion there, we directed our course through the thorns. When we had got nearly to the further end, two lionesses started up before us. Some ineffectual shots were fired, and both the animals took to the plain. One, at which both my rifles missed fire, gained a little ravine at some distance, which we took for granted must yield her a secure escape. The other afforded us a curious spectacle.

There was so little expectation of our finding a lion there, that one of Skinner’s Irregular horsemen (a party of whom attended us at a distance) was riding up to the thorns to deliver a letter which had been sent after me. The lioness made a dash at him, though her distance from him was considerable. He made off with all the speed to which his spurs could rouse the horse. The lioness coursed him fairly in the open plain, and gained so much upon him as to give us extreme uneasiness. At length, by the time he had reached a little rising ground, his horse got into his rate, and the lioness found she could not overtake him. She then turned round the point of the hill over which he had gone straight. Just at that moment, all the herdsmen who had followed us called to us, and said that the first lioness had come back into the thorns. We had no difficulty in finding her. The gentleman who first stumbled on her wounded her. Though she was much crippled by the shots, when I met her, on turning round a bush, she made a gallant run at my elephant. I, luckily, hit her in the head, and she fell immediately. At that moment the screams of the herdsmen made us turn round, and we beheld the other lioness galloping through the midst of them to regain the cover. Though she passed close to three or four she did not attempt to strike at any of them, but hastened to take refuge in the longest and best covered bush that the place afforded. [. . .]

Just as I got round, the lioness darted out, and springing at the elephant on which Mr. Shakespear was riding, fixed her talons in each of its ears while she vigorously assailed its forehead with her teeth. The violent exertions of the elephant to get rid of this troublesome appendage put into confusion all the elephants that were near, and prevented help being given. But it had a still worse effect; for in one of its ungovernable efforts, the elephant threw Mr. Shakespear out of the howdah. Luckily, he fell on a bush, so that he was not hurt, yet he rolled to the ground, and there lay exposed. Two of Skinner’s horsemen seeing his situation most gallantly drew their sabres and galloped forward to protect him. At the same instant the lioness was thrown off, but happily on the side opposite to that where Mr. Shakespear lay. On recovering herself, her attention was attracted by the haunches of an elephant which had wheeled round through fear close to her. She seized it, and tore the inside of both its thighs dreadfully. There was now, however, an opportunity of firing at her, and she received three or four wounds. Checked by these, she retired into the bush. [. . .] My elephant soon reached the place; and I saw her lying exhausted. She roused herself and attempted to come towards me; but I believe the effort would have been vain had I not given her another shot, which was instantly decisive. It was with great difficulty that we brought to our camp, at Great Bhowannee, the elephant whose thighs had been so lacerated.’

Meeting lionesses

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1837
William Tayler,
servant

‘I took a short walk today, saw a new machine for scrapeing the roads and streets. It’s a very long kind of how, very much like an ell rake. One man draws it from one side of the street to the other, taking a whole sweep of mud with him at once, cleaning a piece a yard and a half at a time. There are two wheels, so, by pressing on the handles, he can wheel the thing back everytime he goes across the street for a hoefull. It’s considered to do as much as seven men.’

A wretched bad writer

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1848
Sanford Fleming,
engineer

‘Today is Handsel Monday, if all is well there will be great merry makings at Haugh Mills. Reed from Scobie & Balfour £2/10 paid Father £2/5. Last Wednesday I got from David 7 dollars to help pay the rent which with the other two makes 9 dollars I gave my Father that time & owe David $7. Engaged at Scobies just now making a title to the Newcastle & Colborne map. There is a vast deal of work at it, but shall try to make a good job.’

Adieu to my youth

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1912
Robert Falcon Scott,
explorer

‘Camp 69. T. -22° at start. Night - 21°. The POLE. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected. We have had a horrible day - add to our disappointment a head wind 4 to 5, with a temperature -22°, and companions labouring on with cold feet and hands.

We started at 7.30, none of us having slept much after the shock of our discovery. We followed the Norwegian sledge tracks for some way; as far as we make out there are only two men. In about three miles we passed two small cairns. Then the weather overcast, and the tracks being increasingly drifted up and obviously going too far to the west, we decided to make straight for the Pole according to our calculations. At 12.30 Evans had such cold hands we camped for lunch - an excellent ‘week-end one.’ We had marched 7.4 miles. Lat. sight gave 89° S3’ 37”. We started out and did 6 1/2 miles due south. To-night little Bowers is laying himself out to get sights in terrible difficult circumstances; the wind is blowing hard, T. -21°, and there is that curious damp, cold feeling in the air which chills one to the bone in no time. We have been descending again, I think, but there looks to be a rise ahead; otherwise there is very little that is different from the awful monotony of past days. Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. Well, it is something to have got here, and the wind may be our friend to-morrow. We have had a fat Polar hoosh in spite of our chagrin, and feel comfortable inside - added a small stick of chocolate and the queer taste of a cigarette brought by Wilson. Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it.’

Race to the South Pole

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1937
Zorina Gray,
actress

‘Rehearsal also today (Sunday) and buttermilkday. Love rehearsing the ballet. I very much hope Donahue will be good. Afterward went through the whole play - it’s beginning to get some shape.’

My knees felt like macaroni

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1943
Thomas Dooley,
soldier

‘Been here 5 months today. Today is memorable in that we had tripe for supper (in the soup). B.P. went down and made the arrangements at the slaughter house where they are killing beef for the Japanese army. He got for us the heart, liver, and stomach of the beef. We had tripe at supper and promise of heart, liver, + kidney for breakfast. “Edible awful” is the term some applied to our meal. Other than that the day was uneventful with inspection and church in a.m. and bridge in p.m. A cold day.’

To Bataan and Back

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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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