COLOMBIDAE: Noah sent the dove to find land; in 17th-century Modena the homing instinct of doves was exploited for carrying letters; in 1849 Paul Julius Reuter set up a European pigeon-post; Victorian boys leaving home to seek work would take a pigeon and tie a blue or red thread to indicate whether they had found a job; a pigeon called GI Joe (carrier for the US army) received the Dickin medal for bravery in 1946 (30 other pigeons have been awarded bravery medals); pigeons invariably start their journeys by flying North; a Mexican recipe for typhoid involves tying half a pickled pigeon to the stomach and the other half to the back; a female pigeon won't lay eggs unless she sees another pigeon or her own reflection; in a test 80 per cent of pigeons could distinguish between Bach and Hindemith; in 1994 the Swiss army discharged 30,000 pigeons from the Swiss army; 68-year-old Jean Knowlson spent four days in jail last week when she refused to stop feeding local pigeons.

TODAY is the feast day of Saint Abdon, 4th-century Persian barrel maker. Brought to Rome as a prisoner, he refused to acknowledge the Roman gods, spitting on their images and behaving rebelliously. He was thrown to the lions, who refused to eat him, whereupon he was attacked by gladiators who approached the task with more relish. Roman Christians smuggled out his remains and he was buried on the outskirts of Rome. Abdon is the patron saint of coopers.

30 July, 1863: Henry Ford (above), car manufacturer, billionaire, philanthropist, pacifist of sorts, amateur philosopher - "history is more or less bunk" - was born in Wayne County, Michigan, the son of Irish immigrants to the US. Ford left school at 15 but rose to be chief engineer of the Edison Company. In 1903 he launched the Ford Motor Company, pioneering mass production which enabled him to sell more than 15 million of his famous Model T ("any colour as long as it's black") in 19 years. But he was not a man of consistency: he paid his workers above average, but fiercely resisted unionisation; his company produced war materials in both world wars, even though in 1915 he chartered a "Peace Ship" and sailed for Europe to try to end the war. He died in 1947, two years after his grandson, Henry Ford II, had wrested control of the company from him.