Drawn picture of Big ben with birds flying round it

Legends, Lies and Lore

We take a look at some of the Facts and Fiction from British History


Time Flies

In 1949 a flock of starlings slowed down the Big Ben clock by 4½ minutes by sitting on the minute hand.

Twitter image

Old Twit
Twitter was invented 600 years ago. The poet Geoffrey Chaucer coined the word in a philosophy book written in the 1380s. Rather than
a 140 terse characters, the book ran to over 100 pages.

A Goat head with a captain hat on

You’ve GOAT to be Kidding
The Well Travelled Goat was an 18th century English celebrity. In 1766 she sailed with HMS Dolphin as it circumnavigated the world, providing milk for the crew. Returning to the UK in 1768, three months later our caprine caperer joined botanist Sir Joseph Banks on Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour for a second circumnavigation. On coming back to England in 1771, The Well Travelled Goat was pensioned to an admiralty home in Mile End and awarded a silver collar with an inscription written by Dr Samuel Johnson.

Sheep beneath a bar code sign

Baa Code 
On hill farms in more remote parts of Britain some farmers still count sheep using the ancient Celtic language. Yan Tan Tethera is a two-millennia-old counting system.

1 Yan
2 Tan
3 Tethera
4 Peddera
5 Pit
6 Tayter
7 Layter
8 Overa
9 Covera
10 Dix

goal keepers net with football

Hair NET

Blonds are better than brunettes when taking penalties. According to a 2014 statistical analysis of penalty taking by the late great cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking, blond footballers are 15 per cent more likely to score in penalty shootouts than dark-haired players.

Image of a coffin with a jaw bone

Jaw Dropping

Richard II is buried in Westminster Abbey. The 14th century king’s tomb was left partly open until a Westminster schoolboy stole his jawbone in 1776. The jaw was returned in 1906.