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Births: St John of the Cross, mystic, 1542; Eleuthere Irenee du Pont de Nemours, gunpowder manufacturer, 1771; Sir John Ross, Arctic explorer, 1777; William Henry (WH) Smith, bookseller and politician, 1825; Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce, writer and satirist, 1842; Horatio Herbert, Earl Kitchener, soldier, 1850; Oswald Veblen, mathematician, 1880; Jack Dempsey, heavyweight boxer, 1895.

Deaths: Ferdinand I (the Great), King of Castile and Leon, 1065; Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara, 1519; Marie Leszczynska, Queen and wife of Louis XV of France, 1768; Stephen Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th US President, 1908; Valentine Dyall, actor, 1985; Rex Ernest Warner, author, 1986.

On this day: Robert the Bruce and his army defeated the forces of Edward II at Bannockburn, 1314; the Mother Grand Lodge of the Order of Freemasonry was inaugurated in London, 1717; the French defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Solferino, 1859; the training of nurses began at St Thomas's Hospital, London, 1860; the blockade of Berlin by the Soviet Union began, 1948; in the US, a 27-year- old soap opera, the Mersey Tunnel was opened, 1971.

Today is the Feast Day of St Bartholomew of Farne, St John the Baptist, St Ralph or Raoul of Bourges and St Simplicius of Autun.