On this day: John Gummer eats a beefburger

Agriculture minister John Gummer and his daughter Cordelia eat beefburgers in 1990 to allay fears about 'mad cow disease'. Picture: PA
Agriculture minister John Gummer and his daughter Cordelia eat beefburgers in 1990 to allay fears about 'mad cow disease'. Picture: PA
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Events, birthdays and anniversaries for 19 May

1585: English shipping in Spanish ports was confiscated, which served as declaration of war on England.

1802: The French Legion of Honour, an order of distinction for civil or military service, was created by Napoleon.

1849: An attempt to assassinate Queen Victoria was made by William Hamilton, an unemployed bricklayer, who fired a pistol at her. Hamilton pleaded guilty at his trial and received the maximum sentence of seven years of penal transportation.

1897: Armistice was signed in Greece-Turkey War.

1900: Britain annexed Tonga, the Friendly Islands, in south Pacific.

1906: The 20-kilometre Simplon rail tunnel, between Switzerland and Italy, was officially opened.

1912: Aeroplane international registration numbers were introduced.

1930: White women were enfranchised in South Africa.

1939: Sandy Macpherson presented the first British radio request programme, From My Post-bag.

1945: More than 40 United States Superfortress bombers attacked Tokyo, Japan.

1971: Canada’s prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, and Soviet premier, Alexei Kosygin, signed agreement in Moscow to establish regular high-level contacts.

1973: Soviet Union and West Germany signed ten-year agreement calling for economic, industrial and technical co-operation.

1973: Royal Navy frigates entered the Icelandic 50-mile limit after friction between British trawlers and Icelandic gunboats.

1981: Five soldiers were killed in IRA ambush in Newry, Northern Ireland.

1989: A frame with locks of Mozart’s and Beethoven’s hair was sold at Sotheby’s for £11,000.

1990: In an attempt to calm fears about “mad cow disease”, the agriculture minister, John Gummer, bought a £1.60 beefburger and fed it to his four-year-old daughter, after first eating one himself and declaring it “delicious”.

1992: It was announced that more than 200 police officers investigated over allegations of malpractice in the West Midlands force would not face prosecution.

1993: Three former detectives were cleared by an Old Bailey jury of fabricating confessions in the Guildford Four pub bombings case.

1994: Robert Black was given ten life sentences after being found guilty of murdering three girls, Susan Maxwell, Caroline Hogg and Sarah Harper.

1995: Anthony Williams, self-styled Laird of Tomintoul and deputy director of finance at the Metropolitan Police, jailed for seven-and-a-half years for stealing £5.3 million. He spent most of the money on buying and renovating properties in the Banffshire village of Tomintoul.

2009: Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin announced that he was to step down, a decision which effectively made him the first Speaker to be forced out of office for 300 years. Martin had faced criticism over his handling of the MP expenses issue.

2010: Scotland’s finance secretary, John Swinney, vowed to freeze council tax until 2012.


Victoria Wood CBE, comedienne and writer, 61; DrEdward de Bono, Maltese-born lateral-thinking pioneer, 81; Lily Cole, model and actress, 26; James Fox OBE, actor, 75; Grace Jones, singer and actress, 66; Robert Kilroy-Silk, broadcaster and MP 1974-1986, 72; Paul Moriarty, actor, 68; Pete Townshend, guitarist and singer (The Who), 69; Stephen Varcoe, baritone, 65; Sandy Wilson, composer (The Boy Friend), lyric writer and playwright, 90; Andrea Pirlo, Italian footballer, 35; Diego Forlan, Uruguayan footballer, 35; Chris Chittell, English actor (Emmerdale), 66.


Births: 1861 Dame Nellie Melba (Helen Porter Mitchell), operatic singer; 1879 Lady Astor, first woman to sit in House of Commons; 1890 Ho Chi-Minh, Vietnamese leader; 1896 Sir Michael Balcon, film producer;1896 Wallis Warfield, Duchess of Windsor; 1909 Bruce Bennett, actor;1925 Malcolm Little (Malcolm X), civil rights leader; 1926 David Jacobs CBE, broadcaster; 1931 Mark Boxer, cartoonist; 1932 Alma Cogan, singer; 1941 Nora Ephron, journalist, screenwriter and director.

Deaths: AD988 St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury; 1536 Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII (executed for alleged adultery); 1795 James Boswell, diarist and biographer of Dr Johnson;1799 Pierre Beaumarchais, playwright; 1864 Nathaniel Hawthorne, novelist; 1898 William Ewart Gladstone, four times Liberal prime minister; 1935 Thomas Edward Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia (after a motorcycle accident); 1984 Sir John Betjeman, writer and Poet Laureate; 2000 Sir John Gielgud, actor and director; 2009 Nicholas Maw, composer; 2011 Kathy Kirby, singer and television presenter.