The List

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The Independent Online
UNLUCKY WINNERS: everything Midas touched turned to gold, including his daughter; the messenger to Marathon in 490BC conveyed the good news but died from the effort; King Pyrrhus won great victories over the Romans in 3BC but lost most of his army ; Shylock won his court case for a pound of flesh from Antonio in The Merchant of Venice but could not collect the winnings without forfeiting his life; Nelson won the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, but did not survive to celebrate; Viv Nicholson, who has decided not to buy a lottery ticket, won the pools 33 years ago but was miserable until she had spent, spent, spent it all; Shergar, the Aga Khan's horse, won the Derby in 1981 but was captured by the IRA and never seen again; Ben Johnson won the fastest 100 metres in history at the 1988 Olympics but was later disqualified for taking drugs; the winner of last week's lottery won £17.9m but his family say it is making their lives a misery.

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.

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