TODAY is the feast day of Saint Flannan, 7th-century Irish monk and son of Turlough, the chieftain. Flannan was working in a monastery farm when he decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome on a flat floating stone. He so impressed Pope John IV that he was made first Bishop of Killaloe. Meanwhile his aged father, who had lost three sons, became a monk and asked Saint Colman for a special blessing for his family. Colman took seven strides and told Turlough that from him would spring seven kings, all called Brian. Flannan feared that he might become one so prayed for a physical deformity. Accordingly, he was covered with boils which saved him from this fate.
18 December, 1779: Joseph Grimaldi (above), the father of English clowns, was born in London, the son of an Italian actor. He first appeared at Sadler's Wells aged 18 months. His father died when he was nine years old and from then Grimaldi appeared at both Drury Lane and Sadler's Wells, often on the same evening. His greatest success was as Mother Goose which he first played in 1806 and constantly revived. By his last performance in 1828 he was severely crippled. He died in 1837, dependent on charity. His memoirs, edited by Charles Dickens and illustrated by Cruikshank, were published a year later.
1944: Le Monde was published for the first time.
1969: the death penalty was abolished in Britain.