On this day: Funeral of Labour leader John Smith

Events, birthdays and anniversaries for 20 May

The coffin of Labour leader John Smith is carried into Cluny Parish Church, Edinburgh, for his funeral on this day in 1994

1498: Vasco da Gama arrived at Calicut, southern India, after discovering a route via the tip of southern Africa.

1588: The Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon on a mission to invade England. It comprised 129 ships sent by Phillip II of Spain.

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1835: Otto is named the first modern king of Greece.

1840: York Minster was badly damaged by fire.

1862: Abraham Lincoln, the United States president, signs the Homestead Act into law.

1873: Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received a United States patent for blue jeans with copper rivets.

1883: Krakatoa begins to erupt. The volcano’s final and most notable explosion occurred on 26 August.

1902: Cuba gains independence from the United States. Tomás Estrada Palma became the first president of Cuba.

1932: Amelia Earhart became the first woman to make a solo air crossing of the Atlantic.

1940: The first prisoners arrived at a new concentration camp at Auschwitz.

1941: Germany began an aerial invasion of Crete.

1956: The Americans dropped their first hydrogen bomb over Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific.

1965: PIA Flight 705, a Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 720-040 B, crashed while descending to land at Cairo International Airport, killing 119 of the 125 passengers and crew.

1969: The Battle of Hamburger Hill in Vietnam ended.

1983: First publications of the discovery of the HIV virus that causes Aids in the journal Science by Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo individually.

1990: An Israeli gunman killed seven Arab workers, setting off serious riots in the occupied territories in which seven more Arabs died as Israeli troops were called in.

1991: The USSR passed a law allowing Soviet citizens to leave the country of their own free will.

1993: The House of Commons gave the Maastricht Treaty bill its third reading. Forty-one Conservative MPs voted against the agreement.

1994: Cluny Parish Church in Edinburgh was packed and 2,000 people stood in the streets outside for the funeral service of the Labour leader, John Smith.

2002: The independence of East Timor was recognised by Portugal, formally ending 23 years of Indonesian rule and three years of provisional United Nations administration.

2009: An Indonesian military transport plane carrying troops and their families crashed on the island of Java, killing more than 100 people.

2010: The first annual Everybody Draw Muhammad Day was celebrated. The event caused Pakistan to shut down the social networking site Facebook in the country in protest.

2013: A tornado, which reached speeds of 210mph, swept through Moore, Oklahoma, in the United States, killing 24 people – including ten children – and injuring more than 350 others.


Cher (Cherilyn Sarkasian), actress and singer, 68; Colin John MacLean Sutherland, Lord Carloway, Senator of the College of Justice in Scotland, 60; Joe Cocker OBE, singer, 70; Lynn Davies CBE, Olympic gold medallist long-jumper, 72; Greg Dyke, director-general, BBC 2000-4, 67; Keith Fletcher, English cricketer and coach, 70; Annabel Giles, television presenter, 55; Nigel Griffiths, former Labour MP (1987-2010), 59; Martin Honeysett, cartoonist and illustrator, 71; Michèle Roberts, novelist, 65; Earl Spencer, 50; Douglas Wyllie, rugby player, 51; Iker Casillas, Spanish World Cup-winning goalkeeper, 33; Petr Cech, Czech footballer, 32; Mary Pope Osborne, author of children’s books, 65.


Births: 1799 Honoré de Balzac, French novelist; 1806 John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist; 1818 William George Fargo, founder of Wells-Fargo Express Company; 1895 Reginald Joseph Mitchell, aircraft designer, including Second World War fighter Spitfire; 1898 Kathleen Hale, writer and illustrator (Orlando the Marmalade Cat); 1904 Margery Allingham, crime writer, creator of Albert Campion; 1908 James Stewart, actor; 1920 Betty Driver MBE, singer and actress (Coronation Street).

Deaths: 1506 Christopher Columbus, navigator and discoverer of the New World; 1864 John Clare, peasant poet (died in lunatic asylum); 1956 Sir Max Beerbohm, writer and caricaturist; 1975 Dame Barbara Hepworth, sculptor; 1994 Jacqueline Onassis, former wife of president John F Kennedy; 1998 Wolf Mankowitz, author, playwright and scriptwriter; 2010 Lord Wolfson of Marylebone, chairman, Wolfson Foundation; 2012 Robin Gibb CBE, singer (Bee Gees); 2013 Ray Manzarek, keyboard player (The Doors).