The List

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OLDER MOTHERS: Sarah, mother of Isaac, was 90 when she laughed at three angels in disguise who told her she would have a child; Elizabeth was 'well stricken in years' when the Archangel Gabriel told Zacharias she would give birth to John the Baptist; Mrs Ellen Ellis, of Clwyd, allegedly gave birth in 1776, aged 72; Liliana Cantadori of Modena, Italy, gave birth aged 61 in 1992; Mrs X, aged 59, gave birth to twins on Christmas Day 1993.

NOT SO MOTHERLY: the Mother of all Battles; the Mothers of Invention; Mother Courage; mother-of-pearl; old Mother Hubbard; mothers-of-chapel.

TODAY is the feast day of St Macarius of Alexandria, c 394. At a young age he gave up his trade as sweetmaker to live on a frugal diet of beans and vegetables in the desert. He was once given a bunch of grapes, but passed it to a neighbouring hermit, who passed it to the next, until it finally returned to him uneaten. He enjoyed austerity and if he heard of a new way of being abstemious would immediately try it. Once he walked across the desert carrying two baskets of sand for no particular reason. Another time, having killed a gnat, he punished himself by living by a marsh for six months so that he could be bitten. He is the patron saint of confectioners.

2 January, 17: The Roman poet, Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso, above), died, aged 57. Born at Sulmo, he studied rhetoric to become a lawyer before turning his hand to love poetry, the vulgarity of which offended the Emperor Augustus who banished him to the Black Sea at the height of his fame. The real reason for his exile may have been that he knew of Augustus's incest with his daughter.

1635: Cardinal Richelieu set up the Academie Francaise.

1896: Jameson's raid against the Boers in support of British settlers failed.

1900: Queen Victoria was 'not amused'.

1971: 66 people died at Ibrox Park football ground in Glasgow, when a barrier collapsed.

BIRTHDAYS: David Bailey, 56, photographer and film director; Sir Michael Tippett, 89, composer.

DEATHS: Norman Vincent Peale, aged 95, author of The Power of Positive Thinking; Alexander Mackendrick, aged 87, film director.

(Photograph omitted)

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