On this day: Edinburgh’s Great Fire

Events, birthdays and anniversaries for 15 November

On this day in 1931 the Greenham Common womens group began their first protest outside the US air base in Berkshire. Picture: Getty

15 November

1492: Christopher Columbus noted in his journal the use of tobacco among Indians – the first recorded reference to tobacco, which was brought to Europe by a French ambassador, Jacques Nicot, hence nicotine.

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1577: Francis Drake left on his voyage round the world. He returned on 30 November, 1580.

1824: Edinburgh’s Great Fire began, lasting for two days. It destroyed the High Street, Parliament Square and the Tron Kirk. Between 300 and 400 families lost their homes.

1875: London flooded when River Thames rose by more than 28 feet.

1899: The steamship St Paul became the first ship to receive radio messages, transmitted from the Needles wireless station off the Isle of Wight.

1908: The last of the Manchu emperors, Pu Yi, came to power aged 2. After the takeover of Mao Tsetung and the Communist Party, he ended up as an odd-job man at the botanical gardens in Peking.

1923: A loaf of bread in Berlin cost more than 200 billion marks and building construction workers were paid three trillion marks a day. The Reichbank issued a new mark worth a trillion existing marks and pegged at the 1914 level of 4.2 to the dollar.

1928: Seventeen members of the crew of the lifeboat Mary Stanford of Rye died when the boat capsized during an SOS call in a hurricane.

1968: ATV (Midland) screened the first colour television commercial in Britain, for Birds-Eye peas. It cost £23 for the off-peak 30-second slot.

1968: The liner Queen Elizabeth ended her last passenger voyage.

1972: Kidney donor card scheme started in Britain.

1976: Syrian army took full control of Beirut, in effect ending 18-month civil war in Lebanon.

1983: Northern Cyprus was unilaterally declared independent.

1983: The Greenham Common women’s group mounted their first protest as Cruise missiles arrived at the American air base in Berkshire.

1996: A 25-mile long column of Hutu refugees began leaving Zaire for their homes in neighbouring Rwanda.

2005: Boeing formally launched the stretched Boeing 747-8 variant.

2010: More than 40 people were killed when a fire engulfed a high-rise building under renovation in a Shanghai business centre.


Johnny Lee Miller, actor, 41; Gemma Atkinson, actress, 29; Daniel Barenboim KBE, pianist and conductor, 71; Petula Clark CBE, singer, 81; Beverly D’Angelo, actress, 62; Tibor Fischer, author, 54; Frida Lyngstad, singer (Abba), 68; Alexander O’Neal, R&B and soul singer, 60; Tim Pears, writer, 57; Peter Phillips, son of Princess Royal and Captain Mark Phillips, 36; Kenneth Rose, biographer, 89; Sam Waterston, actor, 73.


Births: 1708 William Pitt the Elder, statesman and orator; 1738 Sir William Herschel, astronomer, discoverer of planet Uranus; 1794 John Witherspoon, Gifford-born signatory of the American Declaration of Independence; 1891 Erwin Rommel, German field marshal; 1897 Aneurin Bevan, Labour Party leader; 1930 JG Ballard, novelist.

Deaths: 1922 Marcel Proust, novelist; 1958 Tyrone Power, actor; 1976 Jean Gabin, actor; 1978 Dr Margaret Mead, anthropologist; 1981 Enid Markey, Tarzan’s screen Jane; 1983 John Le Mesurier, actor; 2002 Myra Hindley, moors murderer.