On this day: National Gallery of Scotland opened

Events, birthdays and anniversaries for 21 March

On this day in 1939 German troops landed at the port of Memel in Lithuania after the territory was annexed. Picture: Getty

1801: French forces were defeated at Alexandria, Egypt, by British under Ralph Abercromby.

1803: French Civil Code – the Code Napoleon – was completed.

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1829: Earthquake in Spain killed 6,000.

1859: The National Gallery of Scotland opened.

1884: France legalised trade unions.

1898: Lever’s toilet soap first went on sale.

1919: Soviet Republic proclaimed.

1919: A rise of two shillings a day was recommended for British coal miners.

1921: Austen Chamberlain chosen as Conservative leader.

1922: Queen Mary opened Waterloo Station, London.

1923: French scientists announced that smoking was good for you as nicotine fought bacteria.

1939: Germany annexed Memel from Lithuania.

1952: Doctor Kwame Nkrumah became first black African prime minister south of the Sahara when he was elected premier of the Gold Coast, now Ghana.

1960: Police killed 57 when they fired on demonstrators against pass laws at Sharpeville in Transvaal, South Africa.

1961: Boxer Henry Cooper won his first Lonsdale Belt when he defeated Joe Erskine.

1963: Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay was closed.

1988: Jordan’s King Hussein called on Muslim world to support Palestinian unrest in Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

1990: Sterling, shares and gilts fell sharply in reaction to “saver’s” Budget produced by John Major the previous day.

1991: Michael Heseltine, environment secretary, unveiled plan to replace poll tax with council tax.

1996: Britain’s beef industry in crisis following disclosure of a likely link between BSE and CJD.

1999: Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones became the first to circumnavigate the Earth in a hot air balloon.

2002: Alain Baxter, the winner of Britain’s first Olympic ski medal, was stripped of the bronze he won at Salt Lake City after testing positive for methamphetamine, a drug he said was in a Vicks inhaler bought in a US supermarket.

2011: Royal Mail revealed plans to axe 1,700 jobs and close two mail centres in London.

2013: Alex Salmond, announced that Scotland’s independence referendum would be held on 18 September, 2014.


Timothy Dalton, actor, 70; Matthew Broderick, actor, 52; Peter Brook CBE, theatre director, 89; Adrian Chiles, television and radio presenter, 47; Caroline Harker, actress, 48; Lord Heseltine, MP 1966-2001, deputy prime minister 1995-7, 81; Antony Hopkins CBE, composer, conductor and broadcaster, 93; Sir Jonathan Mills, director, Edinburgh International Festival, 51; Rosie O’Donnell, actress, 52; Gary Oldman, actor, 56.


Births: 1685 Johann Sebastian Bach, composer; 1835 Modest Mussorgsky, composer; 1862 Albert Chevalier, composer and singer; 1869 Florenz Ziegfeld, impresario and creator of Follies; 1893 Geoffrey Dearmer, war poet.

Deaths: 1729 John Law, Scottish economist and monetary reformer; 1843 Robert Southey, Poet Laureate; 1982 Harry H Corbett, actor; 1985 Sir Michael Redgrave, actor; 1991 Leo Fender, pioneer of electric guitar; 1997 Rev W Awdry, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine; 1998 Galina Ulanova, prima ballerina; 1999 Ernie Wise, comedian; 2001 12th Duke of Argyll.