1879 – The Land League of Mayo is formed

Michael Davitt and Charles Parnell were the two leadng lights of the Land League of Mayo. Formed in response to the Land Act of 1870, which was actually intended to make life for Irish farmers less harsh. Unfortunately, most of the good it might have donw was wiped away by years of economic depression that followed it – and even had that not been the case, it fell far short of what the Irish wanted. The demands of the Land League were the three F’s: Fair rent, Fixity of tenure and Free sale. It was one of the major resistance movements against British Rule in Ireland, intended as a way to fight for Irish Independence within the system, and to relieve some of the burdens of occupation.

Inevitably, resistance crystallised around it to become something less legal and more overt: the period of prolonged civil unrest and low level rebellion generally known as the Land War, and the Land League of Mayo was suppressed as a revolutionary organisation in 1881, and many of its leaders thrown into prison.

Referenced in:

A Forgotten Hero — Andy Devine

1956 – Béla Lugosi dies

Most famous for his stage and screen portrayals of Dracula, Béla Lugosi was born in Austria-Hungary in the region of Lugoj (in what is now Romania). Born on October 20, 1882, his real name was Béla Ferenc Dezs? Blaskó.

After a successful beginning to his film and stage career in Hungary, he was forced to flee after World War One, and entered the United States via Ellis Island in 1921. He first acted on Broadway in 1922, and made his first American film in 1923. In 1927, he began playing the role of Dracula on Broadway, and later on tour. He played the same role in the 1931 film of Dracula, and became famous the world over for his performance.

But being a foreigner most famous for playing a monster led to typecasting in Hollywood, and this, along with a variety of other factors, including the closure of Universal’s horror films division and also Lugosi’s growing drug habit. He found it harder and harder to get roles, and his appearance as Dracula in “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” was his last role in a major film.

In the final months of life, he became friends with Ed Wood and appeared in several of his films. He also entered treatment for his addiction, which he completed successfully. However, old age and lifetime of drug abuse caught up with him, and he died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956. He was buried in his Dracula costume, but has yet to rise from the grave lusting for the blood of virgins, alas.

Referenced in:
Béla Lugosi’s Dead — Bauhaus

1977 – Elvis Presley dies

One more day, and he would have been touring again. But as it happened, Elvis Presley’s lifestyle caught up with sooner than that. Over the last few years, he had become seriously overweight, and also addicted to drugs.

By the time of his death, Presley was sick enough that he was having difficulty staying upright throughout his concerts. His friends and crew were doing their best to conceal his difficulties, but things had been slipping for some time.

Elvis was buried in Memphis, next to his mother’s grave, two days after his death – although even today, thirty years on, sightings of the King of Rock and Roll continue (he’d be 74 years old today, so it’s just plausible that he might have lived to this point).

Referenced in:

Dead Elvis – Doug Anthony All Stars
Going to Graceland – The Dead Milkmen
Rock And Roll Hall Of Death — Mitch Benn And The Distractions

1969 — The Beckenham Free Festival is held

The Beckenham Free Festival was held at the Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham in August 1969, in parallel with the Woodstock Festival. It was organised by a group of British musicians and artists, the most prominent of whom was David Bowie (quite early in his career).

The festival was a success, with some 3,000 people attending. The atmosphere was generally peaceful, for which Bowie was complimented by Bromley’s mayor and chief of police (who were among the attendees).

Referenced in:
Memory of a Free Festival — David Bowie