On this day: St Valentine | Torvill and Dean

The world's first speaking clock began operating in Paris on this day in 1933. Picture: Getty
The world's first speaking clock began operating in Paris on this day in 1933. Picture: Getty
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Events, birthdays and anniversaries for 14 February

14 February

St Valentine’s Day.

c270: St Valentine was martyred by Roman emperor Claudius II. The tradition of sending love letters on this day is unlikely to be connected with St Valentine, but follows the medieval belief that birds traditionally pair on 14 February.

1797: The naval Battle of Cape St Vincent took place off south-west Portugal. The Spanish fleet was defeated by the British, under Admiral Sir John Jervis, ennobled as Earl St Vincent.

1852: The Children’s Hospital at Great Ormond Street, London, admitted its first patient.

1916: Jimmy Wilde of Wales, known as the “Mighty Atom”, won world flyweight boxing title; he held it for more than seven years.

1922: Marconi began the first regular broadcasting transmissions in Britain.

1929: St Valentine’s Day massacre took place in a Chicago warehouse. Seven members of Bugsy Moran’s gang were killed.

1933: The world’s first speaking clock began to operate in Paris. It was designed for the French telecommunications ministry by Ernest Esclangon of the Paris Observatory, who was fed up with people phoning the observatory to ask for the exact time.

1936: The Post Office introduced special greetings telegrams for St Valentine’s Day. One suitor telegraphed: “And now I’ve asked you to be mine, by gosh — it’s cost me eight and nine.”

1946: The Bank of England was nationalised.

1963: Harold Wilson became leader of the Labour Party.

1984: Britain’s Torvill and Dean skated their way to a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, getting maximum points for artistic expression.

1990: Abbey National increased its mortgage rate to 15.4 per cent — its highest ever.

1993: Two-year-old James Bulger, missing after being abducted from a shopping centre in Bootle, was found dead on a nearby railway embankment.

1998: An oil tanker train collided with a freight train in Yaoundé, Cameroon, spilling fuel oil. One person scavenging the oil dropped a lit cigarette, creating a massive explosion which killed 120.

2000: The spacecraft Near Shoemaker entered orbit around asteroid 433 Eros, the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid.

2006: MPs voted for a complete ban on smoking in all pubs, clubs and work places in England.

2012: Rangers Football Club entered administration.


Births: 1473 Nicolas Copernicus, astronomer; 1602 Francesco Cavalli, operatic composer; 1766 Thomas Malthus, economist; 1819 Christopher Sholes, American inventor of modern typewriter and “qwerty” keyboard layout; 1864 Israel Zangwill, Zionist leader, novelist, playwright.

Deaths: 1400 King Richard II; 1779 Captain Cook; 1891 William Tecumseh Sherman, American Civil War general; 1945 Sir William Rothenstein, artist; 1969 Kenneth Horne, comedian; 1975 Sir Pelham Grenville (PG) Wodehouse, novelist; 2010 Dick Francis CBE, jockey and thriller writer.


Simon Pegg, actor, 43; Carl Bernstein, Watergate journalist, 69; Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of EasyJet, 46; Kevin Keegan OBE, football coach, 62; Countess Mountbatten of Burma CBE, 89; Sir Alan Parker CBE, film director, chairman, Film Council 1999-2004, 69; Sir Jocelyn Stevens, publisher, chairman of English Heritage 1992-2000, 81; Baron Wilson of Tillyorn, Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 78.