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Titanic Thompson, He Sinks Everybody.
In the spring of 1912, a few weeks after the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic had gone down in the Atlantic, a tall and rangy teenager from the wilds of Arkansas turned up at a pool hall in Joplin, Missouri, and demanded to know who was the best player in town.
Directed to the pool hall’s owner, Snow Clark, the kid offered to play him for the then astronomical sum of 500 dollars.
Intrigued, Clark stumped up the cash and was promptly thrashed.
On his way out, the teenager offered Clark the chance to get his money back, betting him that he could leap clean over his brand-new pool table without touching it, a jump that would have made an Olympic athlete think twice.
Clark agreed and soon found himself shelling out another 500 dollars.
As the kid turned to go, someone asked Clark if he knew his name.
“I don’t rightly know, but it ought to be Titanic”, Clark replied. “He sinks everybody”.
The kids real name was Alvin Thomas, but the nickname stuck, and later, when reporters misspelt his surname, the transformation from Arkansas Alvin to Titanic Thompson was complete.
Snow Clark was one of his earliest victims, but there were plenty more where he came from.
Over the next half century or so, Titanic fleeced, gulled, conned and hustled his way to a fortune estimated at more than ten million dollars.
Not bad for a dirt-poor country boy who hadn’t even stayed in school long enough to learn to read.

Octavia Hill, A Forgotten Heroine.
A forgotten heroine in some ways, Octavia Hill (1838 – 1912) was a housing reformer – and co-founder of the National Trust in 1895.
The granddaughter of a public health reformer, she managed slum properties owned by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and thanks to the careful selection of tenants, managed to do so profitably but humanely.
She also campaigned for the preservation of open spaces, and the National Trust arose out of her passionate belief that as a species we need space to breathe.
One of the things that woman are good at is thinking about things in the long term – and like other women, she had a vision.
She was also ahead of her time in her ‘eco’ thinking.
If it wasn’t for Octavia Hill, it’s unlikely that millions of people today would be able to visit historic, beautifully preserved stately homes and similar such properties for a token fee, making history accessible to all.

Marianne Faithfull And The Rolling Stones.
Chrissie Shrimpton was the wild younger sister of model Jean Shrimpton.
She became the subject of several Rolling Stones hits both during and after her three-year relationship with Mick Jagger.
‘Under My Thumb’ seemed to suggest that Jagger had finally tamed her.
But their relationship ended abruptly just before Christmas in 1966.
On December 15 they were due to fly to Jamaica but, instead, Mick spent the day shopping at Harrods with Marianne Faithfull.
It was the last straw.

Three days later, after one final screaming match, Chrissie tried to take her life with an overdose of sleeping pills.
Medics saved her and pumped her stomach, but Jagger got the bill and refused to pay it.
Instead, he issued a statement announcing that his relationship with Chrissie was over, and had all her possessions boxed and taken away from his London flat – it was Christmas Eve.

Two weeks later, to add insult to injury, ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ became a massive hit – it was written after Jagger’s first night with Marianne Faithfull.

Marianne Faithfull And The Hollies.
Marianne Faithfull was 17 and not long out of convent school when she attended a party in London’s West End.
She made quite an impact on Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham and he persuaded Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to write a song for her – ‘As Tears Go By’.
It was a hit, and in the summer of 1964 she was sent on a promotional tour featuring a diverse roster of acts including The Hollies.

Although she struck up a friendship with singer-guitarist Graham Nash, it was lead singer Allan Clarke with whom she had a brief fling.
Clarke was married.

In May 1967 The Hollies released ‘Carrie Anne’ – one of their best-loved singles.
It was not until 1995 that Nash revealed he had written the song for Marianne Faithfull but was ‘too shy’ to use her real name.

Pete Postlethwaite, Brassed Off With The Tories.
Pete Postlethwaite was among a dying breed of public figures still proud to call themselves a socialist.
His finest acting moment came in Brassed Off, when instead of picking up the trophy his band had one, he chose to attack the Tory policies devastating the North.
“Over the last 10 years this bloody government has systematically destroyed an entire industry and our communities and our lives, all in the name of progress and a few lousy bob. If this lot were seals or whales you’d be up in arms but they’re not are they? They’re just ordinary, honest human beings and not one of them with an ounce of bloody hope left”. Postlethwaite said it with genuine tears in his eyes.

You sense, as he neared his death, he looked at the policies heading towards those same Northern communities, remembered his Brassed Off speech, and wept again.
With good reason.

Steve Thoburn Fought In Vain.
It is ten years since poor, brave Steve Thoburn was ordered before an English court for an action that could not possibly be a crime.
A market trader who cared nothing for politics, he had sold bananas to a customer in pounds and ounces, rather than in kilograms.
And he had grown angry when official busybodies had sought to interfere with this honest transaction.

Steve – who died in 2004, perhaps partly because of the strain of this case – was made to stand like a common criminal in the dock of Sunderland Magistrates’ Court.
He was in the end found guilty of an offence against the law of England.
Yet he fought, completely in vain.
Those who should have rallied to his cause, of the free man against the great grey lump of arbitrary authority, let the chance go by and gave in.

The Prophet Of A Generation.
In January 1961, a 19 year-old folksinger from the American Midwest turned up in New York in search of his musical heroes.
The folk scene at that time was a close-knit world, and it didn’t take long for him to find them.
But his hopes of being taken seriously as a performer in his own right proved harder to realise.
Club managers were not impressed by his musicianship, nor his peculiar rasping voice, and they were reluctant to let him sing, even for free.
Yet within a few years, Bob Dylan was hailed globally as a singer-songwriter of genius and the prophet of a generation.
His real name was Robert Zimmerman.
He chose the name by which he was to become famous out of homage to the poet Dylan Thomas.
Dylan’s vast catalogue of songs and albums presents an unparalleled panorama of America during the last half century.

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