February 8

1953: Three hundred people attended the annual Police Division Ball, held at Marlborough Town Hall, when Barry Smith and his broadcasting orchestra played music for dancing. The decorations were an interesting feature including a large, floodlit photograph of the Queen, surrounded with foliage and red, white and blue flowers. Among the guests were the mayor and mayoress Coun and Mrs E J A Free. Hot soup and sausages were served before the dancers went home.

1953: A Swindon dog competed in the two-day competition at Crufts Show, held at Olympia to find the supreme champion of the dog world. The Staffordshire Terrier, owned by Mr W Cutler of Croft Road, Swindon won four classes taking him through to become best of breed, beating off 64 other dogs including five champions. The dog, Gentleman Bruce, was bred by Miss Blundy.

1963: For years the villagers of Leigh, near Cricklade believed a deserted cottage in the village to be haunted by a poltergeist but no-one had experienced any manifestation until a mother and her 13-year-old son moved into one of two caravans, near the village. The cottage was being knocked down when they started experiencing strange happenings. At night their caravan began to shake violently. They searched for a cause but could not find one. Crockery began flying around the caravan after dark, and there was a loud knocking at the door, but when the woman answered there was no-one there. The police could find no reason for it, so the mother applied to the Vicar of Ashton Keynes to exorcise the ghost.

1963: The Honourable Mrs John Betjeman appropriately dressed in jodhpurs and sweater said it was so cosy she could not be bothered to change when she talked to the Swindon Goddard Towns Women's Guild about her 300-mile trip on horse back through Andalusia in 1961. Her talk was illustrated with coloured slides.

1973: County Alderman Miss M Matthews was elected president at the annual meeting of the Swindon Young Conservatives. Vice presidents elected were Ald Sir Geoffrey Tritton, Wing Commander Ald Sir Henry Langton, The Hon Alan Clarke and Mr Graham Young the prospective Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Swindon.

1973: Wootton Bassett Parish Council had written to the EEC Commissioner for Transport to put him straight on their views, as they bitterly opposed the influx of monster lorries from Europe. Wootton Bassett already had its own share of traffic problems, according to Mr Les Pearce, chairman of the residents action committee. He said they were 45 excavations in the town's roads. Many complaints had been made to the council about lorries plastering the area with mud and spraying people using the footbridge on Marlborough Road.

The World

1587: Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire, implicated in a Catholic plot to overthrow Elizabeth I.

1725: Catherine I became Empress of Russia on the death of her husband Peter the Great.

1819: John Ruskin, writer and artist, was born in London.

1886: Rioting and looting followed a protest march by the unemployed in Trafalgar Square.

1904: The Russo-Japanese War broke out, provoked by Russian penetration into Manchuria and Korea.

1915: DW Griffith's epic The Birth Of A Nation was released.

1931: James Dean, cult actor, was born in Marion, Indiana. He made just three films, East Of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause and Giant, before he died in a car smash.

1965: The government announced a ban on cigarette advertising on TV.

1976: Fourteen British mercenaries died by firing squad in Angola.

1990: American pop singer Del Shannon shot himself.

2018: Temperatures fell below zero in many UK regions, thanks to Polar air from beyond Greenland and Iceland.


John Williams, film score composer (Jaws, Star Wars), 87; Nick Nolte, actor, 78; Mary Steenburgen, actress, 66; John Grisham, author, 64; Mohammad Azharuddin, Indian politician and former cricketer, 56; Seth Green, actor, 45; Abi Titmuss, model/TV personality, 43; Dani Harmer, actress, 30.