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Famous Olympic track and field stars

Carl Lewis (1961 – ) USA, Athletics. Nine-time Olympic gold medallist, Carl Lewis won gold over three Olympics and was the great star of 1980s track and field. Lewis won gold in the 100m, 100m relay and long jump.

Jesse Owens (1913-1980) USA, Athletics. Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He was the star of the Berlin Olympics, much to the chagrin of Hitler. Despite suffering racial discrimination in his own country, he remained a great ambassador for the sport.

Usain Bolt (1986 –) Jamaica, Athletics. Usain Bolt won triple Olympic gold at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Bolt won gold in the events 100m, 200m and 100m relay gold. He set an amazing world record time of 9.58 for the 100m, and 19.19 for the 200m. By 2016, he had also won 11 world championship golds.

Al_oerter Al Oerter (1936 – 2007)  USA, Athletics. Four time Olympic champion in the discus throw. Winning Olympic gold from 1956 to 1968. Oerter was the first to break 200 feet for the discus.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1962-) USA, Athletics. One of the most successful female track and field athletes. Kersee won Olympic medals in four Olympics between 1984 and 1996. Her best year was 1988, where she won Olympic gold in Heptathlon and Long Jump. In 1992, she returned to win gold in the heptathlon. In 1996, she managed bronze in the long jump.

edwin-moses Edwin Moses (1955 – ) USA, Athletics. Moses was a champion 400m hurdler. He won Olympic gold in 1976 and 1984. He set the world record four times in his chosen event. Moses was also instrumental in changing rules on allowing Olympic athletes funding and also promoting drug testing.

Sergei_bubka Sergei Bubka (1963 –) Soviet Union/Ukraine, Athletics. Bubka broke the world record for the pole vault on 35 occasions. His outdoor record was increased from 5.85m in 1984 to 6.14m in 1994. Olympic gold medallist 1988.

Jim_Thorpe Jim Thorpe (1888 – 1953) USA, Athletics, American Football, Baseball and Basketball. One of the greatest all-round sportsmen, Thorpe won Olympic gold in the decathlon and pentathlon (1912). He also had a successful career in the NFL.

Babe_Didrikson_Zaharias Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1911-1956) USA, Athletics, Golf. Ground-breaking female athlete who achieved success in basketball, track and field, and golf. At the 1932 Olympics, she won gold in the 80m hurdles, javelin and achieved silver in the high jump.

Bob_Beamon Bob Beamon (1946 –) USA, Athletics. Olympic gold in Long jump set in 1968, Mexico. Famous for his record breaking jump of 1968 – 8.90m – which broke the existing record by 55cm and stood for 22 years.

Shelly-Ann_Fraser-Pryce Shelley Ann Fraser Pryce (1986 – ) Jamaica, Athletics. Won Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012 in  100m. Also 7 times world champion with golds in 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.

Jessica_Ennis Jessica Ennis (1986 – ) Great Britain, Heptathlon. Olympic gold in heptathlon 2012. Ennis missed the 2008 Olympics due to injury. For the 2012 Olympics, she was featured as the ‘face’ of the games. Despite the pressure of the home games, she was a convincing Olympic champion in the Heptathlon event.

Fanny_Blankers-Koen Fanny Blankers-Koen (1918-2004) Netherlands, Athletics. In the 1948 London Olympics, she won four gold medals at 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4x100m relay. Her performances earned her the nickname ‘The flying housewife’ and helped to change perceptions of female athletics. She won five European Championship gold medals.

Hicham_El_Guerrouj Hicham El Guerrouj (1972 – ) Morocco, Athletics. Double Olympic gold medallist in 2004 in 1500m and 5000m. Set World Record for mile at 3.43.13 and 1500m of 3.26.00.

David_Rudisha David Rudisha (1988 -) Kenya, middle distance running. Rudisha provided one of the greatest performances in the 2012 London Olympics, winning the 800m in a new world record – 1.40.91.  He is also double world champion at the 800m, his favourite

kinenisa-Bekele Kenenisa Bekele (1982 – ) Ethiopia, Athletics. Triple Olympic gold medallist at 5000m and 1000m. Set new World Record for 5000 metres: 12:37.35. 10,000 metres: 26:17.53.

Paavo_Nurmi Paavo Nurmi (1897 – 1973) Finland, Athletics. Dominated middle distance running in 1920s, winning nine Olympic gold medals and setting 22 new world records from 1500m to 20km.

Haile_Gebrselassie Haile Gebreselassie (1973 – ) Ethiopia, Athletics. Two-time  winner of the Olympic gold in 10000m. Held world record for the marathon for 3 years with 2.03.59.

Cathy_Freeman Cathy Freeman (1973 – ) Australia, Athletics. Freeman was the first Aboriginal athlete to win Commonwealth Games. She won Olympic gold in 2000 when Sydney hosted the games.


Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. Famous Olympic Track and Field, Oxford,, 28th July 2016.


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The socialism of George Orwell

A look at the socialist beliefs of George Orwell. Also, a look at his writings on Soviet Communism.

George-Orwell George Orwell was a fascinating figure and brilliant writer. He was an idealist, who is best known for his work in warning of the dangers of totalitarianism (whatever its political form) This can be seen in the two classics 1984, and Animal Farm. Orwell was also a committed socialist who sought to promote a more egalitarian and fairer society.

“Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.”

George Orwell, “Why I write” p. 394

Firstly, George Orwell was definitely a democratic socialist. He stated this consistently throughout his life – from the mid-1920s to his death in 1950. It is true that he wrote a compelling account warning of the dangers of a totalitarian state. But, Orwell always maintained that just because you severely criticised Soviet-style Communism didn’t make you any less a socialist. In fact, socialism as Orwell understood it, stood for all the values – democracy, liberty, equality – that Soviet Communism rejected. Orwell believed that only a truly democratic Socialist regime would support liberty.

“And the only regime which, in the long run, will dare to permit freedom of speech is a socialist regime. If Fascism triumphs I am finished as a writer — that is to say, finished in my only effective capacity. That of itself would be a sufficient reason for joining a socialist party.”

– George Orwell, “Why I Joined the Independent Labour Party

Homage to Catalonia

Orwell detested Soviet-style Communism – a belief strengthened when he ended up fighting Soviet-backed Communists during the Spanish civil war – Orwell went to Spain to fight against Fascism and for the Republican movement. As a member of the ILP, he joined a fraternal Spanish party – POUM – a small Marxist / Anarchist / Socialist grouping who had strong utopian Socialist ideals. Orwell loved their utopian Socialism.

“Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all. And it was here that those few months in the militia were valuable to me. For the Spanish militias, while they lasted, were a sort of microcosm of a classless society. In that community where no one was on the make, where there was a shortage of everything but no privilege and no bootlicking, one got, perhaps, a crude forecast of what the opening stages of socialism might be like. And, after all, instead of disillusioning me it deeply attracted me. The effect was to make my desire to see socialism established much more actual than it had been before.”

George Orwell, ‘Homage to Catalonia’

But, Stalin wanted to crush all left-wing parties who were not the Communist party; this led to a civil war amongst the Republican movement in Spain. Orwell got caught up in this and it made him really disgusted with Stalin and the Communist party.

“the Communists stood not upon the extreme Left, but upon the extreme right. In reality this should come as no surprise, because the tactics of the Communist parties elsewhere.

George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

This experience of fighting alongside socialist idealists and against Stalinist backed Communist party, only strengthened his belief in democratic socialism.

Down and out in Paris and London

Orwell had a privileged upbringing – he studied at Eton College, along with many future members of the British establishment. After school, he got a job in the Burmese civil service. But he came to reject his class privileges and also grew to detest the British Empire. In Down and out in Paris and London and Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell wanted to experience the difficult life that working class people experienced. These experiences in Paris, London and Wigan made Orwell very sympathetic to the cause of the working class, and Orwell believed it was socialism that was the fairest way to help create a more equal society.

“For perhaps ten years past I have had some grasp of the real nature of capitalist society. I have seen British imperialism at work in Burma, and I have seen something of the effects of poverty and unemployment in Britain…. One has got to be actively a Socialist, not merely sympathetic to Socialism, or one plays into the hands of our always active enemies.”

– George Orwell, “Why I Joined the Independent Labour Party

Animal Farm

Animal Farm is an allegory on revolutions which fail their ideals. It is clearly an indictment of the Russian Revolution. Orwell made no secret of the fact that he detested what Stalin was doing in Russia. Orwell was scathing of left-wing intellectuals (like George Bernard Shaw) who thought Soviet Russia was a Socialist paradise. Orwell lamented that Communists in Britain were too liable to excuse Stalin’s crimes and paint a picture of Russia which was not reality.

To Orwell, Soviet Russia was a failing of democratic Socialist ideals. Stalin had merely replaced one dictatorship (old Tsars) with another more murderous dictatorship.

Independent Labour Party

George Orwell was a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP). The ILP was one of the founding forces of the British Socialist and Labour movement. Their roots were strongly influenced by Christian Socialism and the Fabian movement. Key figures in the party included John Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald and James Maxton.

To give a flavour of the ILP 1928, the ILP developed a “Socialism in Our Time” platform, embodied in the programme:

  1. The Living Wage, incompletely applied.
  2. A substantial increase of the Unemployment Allowance
  3. The nationalisation of banking, incompletely applied
  4. The bulk purchase of raw materials
  5. The bulk purchase of foodstuffs
  6. The nationalisation of power
  7. The nationalisation of transport
  8. The nationalisation of land


Unfortunately, many in America equate Socialism with Soviet Communism. They are unaware that Socialist ideals have nothing to do with Stalin’s policies. Orwell saw Stalin and Hitler as pursuing essentially the same aim of creating a totalitarian state. Orwell wrote against totalitarianism and passionately for a democratic and fair Socialist society in Britain.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “The socialism of George Orwell”, Oxford, UK. | 14th July 2014.


Animal Farm and 1984

Book Cover


Animal Farm and 1984  by George Orwell at Amazon

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People of the American Civil War

A list of over 20 famous and influential figures in the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) Includes politicians, generals, soldiers, spies and social activists.


Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) 16th President of the US from 1861-1865. Lincoln’s election caused the south to secede from the US. Lincoln led Union forces to resist the split and preserve the Union. After a long war, Union troops prevailed. The Civil War enabled Abraham Lincoln to promise the end of slavery, and in 1865 a bill to outlaw slavery was passed. Lincoln was assassinated shortly after the end of the war.

President-Jefferson-Davis Jefferson Davis (1808 –  1889) Davis was a senator from Mississippi. During the Civil War, he was the President of the Southern Confederate States who wished to retain slavery and break away from the Union. Davis was considered an ineffective leader, often getting lost in detail and lacking popular appeal. Despite some military successes, the Confederate States slowly lost ground economically, politically and on the battlefield. After the war, he was arrested for treason though he was never tried.

President_Andrew_Johnson Andrew J. Johnson (1808 – 1875) A Senator from Tennessee, Johnson rejected the southern secession and remained with the Union cause. He was a Union military governor of Tennessee, and in 1864, Lincoln chose him as Vice-President. Johnson as a Southern Unionist was an ideal candidate for Lincoln who wanted to unite the country. After Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson became President (1865 – 1869) He opposed the implementation of federal voting rights to Black Americans and enabled southern states to rejoin the Union while denying voting rights to former black slaves.

salmon-chase Salmon P. Chase (1808 – 1873) Chase was a leading opponent of slavery and supported voting rights for black Americans. He also helped to found the modern Republican party as a new party opposed to slavery. After losing the 1860 nomination, he served as US Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War. In his tenure, Chase set up a national banking system to help fund the war effort. After the Civil War, Chase served as Chief Justice of the US.

Read On…

Famous people of the Cold War

The Cold War was a period of military and political tensions between the Soviet Union (and Warsaw Pact members) and the US (and NATO allies). The Cold War lasted roughly from 1947-1991.

After the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, the two wartime allies – the Soviet Union and the US became increasingly split on ideological and political grounds. This led to the division of Europe into the Eastern (Communist) block and Western Europe (democracy)

Berlin wall

Throughout the ‘Cold War,’ the two main protagonists the Soviet Union and the US, avoided direct confrontation, but there was a confrontational build up in nuclear weapons and, during the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ of 1961, the two sides came close to war. Also, throughout the period, minor conflicts, such as the Korean War and the Vietnam War, were played out in proxy between the major powers and their allies.

Key events in the Cold War include

  • Berlin Blockade (1948-49) the Soviet Union trying to gain control of the whole of Berlin
  • Korean War (1950-53) US fighting Communist North Korea.
  • Berlin Crisis (1961) – Building of Berlin Wall to stop people leaving the East
  • Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) – Closest to nuclear war as the Soviet Union moved nuclear missiles towards Cuba.
  • Vietnam War (1955-75) US involved in fighting Vietcong Communist forces
  • 1970s – Strategic Arms limitations talks leading to a period of détente.
  • 1979 – Soviet invasion of Afghanistan restoring tensions.
  • 1980 – Olympic boycott. First by the US in Moscow then by the Soviet Union in US 1984.
  • Mid-1980s – Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduces perestroika (reorganisation) and glasnost (openness).
  • 1989. Gorbachev allows Eastern European countries to break away from Warsaw Pact and overthrow the Communist one-party state.
  • 1991 – Formal dissolution of the USSR.

Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965) After leading Great Britain in the Second World War, he was one of the first leaders to raise the spectre of an ‘Iron Curtain’ descending across Europe.

Dwight Eisenhower (1890 – 1969) Eisenhower was supreme military commander of Allied forces in Western Europe. When President of the US 1953-61, he articulated a domino theory – arguing Communism should be stopped before allowing it to spread.  He ended the Korean War in 1953, but sent the first US troops to Vietnam and prepared to intervene in Cuba. He made some attempts to limit nuclear weapon proliferation, but this was generally unsuccessful, and nuclear stockpiles increased on both sides.

Joseph Stalin (1879 – 1953) Leader and dictator of the Soviet Union. After the end of the Second World War, Stalin was committed to taking ideological and political control of Eastern Europe. He saw this as a buffer zone against the West. This attempt to control Eastern Europe was one of the main factors in the birth of the Cold War.

John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963) US President (1961-63) As President he helped to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis which came perilously close to escalation. He delivered a famous speech in West Berlin arguing the Berlin Wall showed the failure of Communism. In 1961, he ordered the expanse of the Space Race programme.

nikita-krushchev Nikita Khrushchev (1894 – 1971) Successor to Stalin. He led the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964 during the tense years of the Cold War. He cut conventional forces, but built up the number of nuclear missiles and was involved in the stand-off when in 1962 missiles were sent to Cuba – an ally of the Soviet Union.

Leonid_Breznev Leonid Brezhnev (1906-1982) Brezhnev took over from Khrushchev in 1964. He followed a policy of détente with the West – signing treaties to limit the proliferation of nuclear arms. He also ordered the invasion of Czechoslovakia in the Prague Spring of 1968. Brezhnev also ordered Soviet troops into Afghanistan in 1979, rekindling Cold War tensions.

willy-brandtWilly Brandt (1913-1992) German politician and statesman. After WWII he became the Mayor of Berlin – playing a key role during the Cold War tensions, centred around Berlin. Brandt became Chancellor of Germany in 1979. He sought rapprochement with the East and creating a stronger, united Europe.

Charles de Gaulle (1890 – 1970) Under de Gaulle’s presidency, France became a member of the EEC, and de Gaulle encouraged a European federation. However, he sought to lead France on a non-aligned course and withdrew France from NATO in 1969. He criticised the US involvement in the Vietnam War.

Yuri_Andropov Yuri Andropov (1914 – 1984) As Soviet Ambassador to Hungary, he ordered the suppression of the Hungarian revolution of 1954. He was later elected to Chairman of KGB, where he suppressed dissent and encouraged the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. He was the leader of the Soviet Union for 15 months in 1982-84.

U_Thant U Thant (1909 – 1974) was a Burmese diplomat and the third United Nations Secretary-General. U Thant played a crucial role in diffusing the Cuban Missile Crisis and was widely respected for his calmness, detachment and commitment to conflict resolution in his role as UN Secretary-General 1961-1971.

Mikhail Gorbachev (1931 – ) Russian President from 1984-1991. Gorbachev initiated a policy of Glasnost and Perestroika. These policies of reform and openness led to a decline in Cold War tensions, the fall of the Berlin wall and the ending of Communist party rule in the Soviet Union. He negotiated with Reagan to reduce nuclear weapons, and unlike his predecessors, allowed Eastern European countries to leave the Warsaw Pact and become independent democracies.

Lech Walesa. (1943-) Leader of the Polish Solidarity Movement – he helped to bring about the end of one-party Communist rule. Became first non-Communist President in 1991. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005) Pope John Paul met with the main protagonists of the Cold War and led to improved relations between the Soviet Union and the Vatican. Considered a moral force for reducing Cold War tensions.

Neil Armstrong (1930 – 2012) US Pilot and astronaut. In 1969, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to successful land and walk on the moon, giving the memorable quote. Armstrong saw the Space Race as a helpful diversion from Cold War Tensions

Lyndon Johnson (1908 – 1973) – US President 1963-69. Johnson took over from the assassinated JFK. He expanded America’s role in Vietnam and took a hard line against Communism.

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004) – US President (1980 – 1988) Reagan pursued an aggressive anti-Communist foreign policy. But, in his second term was involved in negotiations which led to arms reductions.

samantha-smithSamantha Smith (1972 – 1985) Samantha was an American schoolgirl. In 1982, she wrote a leader to the leader of the Soviet Union, Yuri Andropov, asking why relations between the US and the Soviet Union were so tense. Her letter was published in Pravda, and later Andropov replied. Smith was also invited to visit the Soviet Union, which she did – saying she found Russians to be just like Americans.


writer George Orwell (1903 – 1950) – English author. Famous works include Animal Farm, and 1984. Both stark warnings about the dangers of totalitarian states. Orwell was one of the first to coin the term ‘Cold War’ back in 1945.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous People of the Cold War”, Oxford,, 4th February 2015. Updated 12 January 2018.

The Cold War: A New History

Book CoverThe Cold War: A New History at Amazon


eisenhower People of the Second World War (1939-45) Influential leaders, generals and civilians who caused, influenced and fought during the Second World War. Including; Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt, Truman, Emperor Hirohito, Eisenhower, Rommel and De Gaulle.

Winston_S_Churchill People of the Twentieth Century (1901 to 2000) Famous people of the turbulent century. Includes Winston Churchill, F.D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler and Stalin.


Events that changed the world


Famous people of the Progressive Era

The Progressive Era was a period in American history from 1890 to the 1920s. The Progressive Era saw a mixture of political and social change, which sought to reduce inequality, corruption and introduce reforms to make society fairer.

Key Elements of the Progressive Era

  1. Anti-corruption. In the Nineteenth Century corruption was a major problem in American politics with local bosses controlling key positions of patronage and power. Progressives, such as Theodore Roosevelt, sought to take on corrupt political and voting practices.
  2. Labour market reforms. Progressives sought to reform working conditions. This included health and safety, the right to unionise and higher pay.
  3. Anti-trust. The Gilded Age saw the development of monopolies which were highly profitable. In the Progressive Era, the government tackled many monopolies through anti-trust legislation.
  4. Women’s suffrage. The Progressive Era saw the culmination of efforts to give all women the vote (Nineteenth Amendment)
  5. Modernisation. Progressives generally sought the implementation of new scientific and business methods to overturn outdated customs and improve efficiency. This included Taylorism and the assembly line.
  6. Limited civil rights. Some progressives sought to improve conditions of black Americans, but the Progressive Age failed to end decades of segregation. In fact, the 1890s to 1920s saw the implementation of many ‘Jim Crow laws’ cementing segregation between races.
  7. Prohibition. Many progressives supported the banning of alcohol ‘prohibition’. One of the motivations was that they hoped it would reduce the economic power of salon owners who often exercised great influence.

Read On…

People of principle

Famous men and women of principle.

What does it mean to be a man of principle?

It means that a person feels the importance of sticking to certain values, beliefs and actions – regardless of outer consequences.

For example, if we believe it is wrong to discriminate on the grounds of religious faith, a man of principle will be willing to oppose this discrimination even if it costs his job.

Men and women of Principle

Socrates (469 BC–399 BC) – Greek philosopher. During a time of war, Socrates was critical of his own Athenian government. Socrates said in matters of war and peace principles of justice should trump the view of the majority. For his criticisms and unorthodox views, Socrates was condemned to death – something he willingly undertook.

William Tyndale (1494 – 1536) – Tyndale believed that everyone should be able to read the Bible in their native tongue. At the time, that was strictly prohibited, but clandestinely, Tyndale translated and printed the Bible in English. Tyndale was burnt at the stake for his ‘heresy’, but soon after English Bibles became widely distributed.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) English-American writer and political activist. He was a free thinker – criticising many political and religious orthodoxies of the day. He narrowly avoided execution in Paris, after falling foul of Robespierre. He fled to America, though even in America he became shunned by society for advocating non-Christian ideas. Read On…

Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

Muhammad Ali was a truly great individual. All around the world people have identified with the positive energy, courage, dynamism and principles of Ali. ali

Ali was an Olympic and world champion boxer, but he would also display courage in many fields of life, not just the boxing ring. During the Vietnam war he was  a conscientious objector, seeing the war as unjust. He endured much hate and scorn for his refusal to fight in that war, but Ali was a fighter for social justice and fairness at home. His position on the war was very unpopular at the time, but in retrospect many see it as a principled stand.

Ali was no angel and his response to the racial injustices of society was often strong, especially in his early years. But over the years his stance became more nuanced and understanding. He started out as an activist for Muslims and African Americans, but by the end of his life, it would be fair to say that Ali stood for the rights of all humanity. As Ali himself said:

“A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

Before boxing matches, Ali could express an unmatched self-confidence, a self-confidence that was well founded. But that is only one side of Ali; there is also the spiritual side, the humble side.

“Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams — they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do — they all contain truths”

― Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times

“Truly great people in history never wanted to be great for themselves. All they wanted was the chance to do good for others and be close to God.”

― Muhammad Ali, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections of Life’s Journey

When struggling with Parkinson’s disease, Ali retained his wit and humility, seeing it as an opportunity to make a different kind of progress:

“Maybe my Parkinson’s is God’s way of reminding me what is important. It slowed me down and caused me to listen rather than talk. Actually, people pay more attention to me now because I don’t talk as much.”

“I always liked to chase the girls. Parkinson’s stops all that. Now I might have a chance to go to heaven.”

Asked how he would like to be remembered, Ali said:

“I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times.
Who was humorous and who treated everyone right.
As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him.
And who helped as many people as he could.
As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what.
As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.
And if all that’s too much then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people.
And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”


Categories featuring Muhammad Ali

External links

image credit: Sri Chinmoy Centre

Facts about Scotland


Loch Lomond by Bill Higham

  • Population of Scotland: 5,313,600 (9% of UK population 64m)
  • Area: 33% of UK landmass including 790 islands. (660 uninhabited)
  • Capital: Edinburgh
  • Patron Saint: Saint Andrew

Scotland’s major cities

  • Glasgow – 592,820
  • Edinburgh – 486,120
  • Aberdeen – 217,120
  • Dundee – 144,290
  • Inverness – 56,660
  • Stirling – 89,850

Mountains: Ben Nevis is the highest peak in the UK at 1,346m.

There are 600 square miles of freshwater lakes, including Loch Ness

Loch_Ness_monster Loch Ness Monster is a famous and enduring myth of an ancient sea creature still inhabiting the deep loch of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It became world famous in 1934 after a hoax photograph was widely circulated.

The first recording of the Loch Ness monster was 565 AD where a follower of St. Columba related being attacked by a ‘water beast.’
Scottish dogs.


There are over 2,000 castles recorded being built in Scotland, most of which are still standing. Famous castles include Stirling Castle (above) Balmoral and Edinburgh Castle. Usually, these were built as defensive mechanisms. Read On…

The significance of the moon landings


In 1969, the lunar landings transfixed the whole globe. Previously the idea of landing on the moon had been the stuff of science fiction. But, in a seeming short space of time, man had enabled huge strides in technology which enabled the seemingly impossible to become reality. It is regularly cited as a great moment that changed the world.

But, what was the significance of the lunar landings?

1. Self-Transcendence

Neil Armstrong – the first person to walk on the moon. Also with his colleagues Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the first person to land a craft on the moon. In 1969, Armstrong was asked about the lunar landings. He replied that it was part of man’s expression for self-discovery.

“I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul … we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.”

In the early Twentieth Century, man’s taste for challenge and exploration was found in explorations to the north and south pole – attempts to climb the highest peaks of the world.  By the 1960s, we had reached all corners of the globe, including the highest and farthest. The final frontier was to see life beyond the earth.

2. Cold-War Symbolism

There is no doubt that part of the motivation and funding for the space programme came from national pride. There was a strong rivalry between the Communist Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviet Union seemed to have the upper hand in the space race, when they put the first man in space – Yuri Gagarin, 1961. The race to land on the moon was one that the US wanted to win.

However, Neil Armstrong put an interesting perspective on this ‘space race’

“I’ll not assert that it was a diversion which prevented a war, but nevertheless, it was a diversion.”

  • Apollo 11 40th anniversary celebration (2009)

Like sport, the space race was a global competition, which spurred technological progress. But, the space race was also a rare case where there was a mutual respect between the two countries – or at least between fellow astronauts.

The Apollo 11 mission commemorating the achievements of Yuri Gagarin and fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov – by leaving medals dedicated to them on the surface of the Moon. In 1970, Neil Armstrong visited the Soviet Union and was warmly received.  Russian Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova presented  Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) with a badge in memory of his visit to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Moscow, Russia.

Pride for America

There is no doubt that the moon landing was a proud moment for America. In particular, it was a positive ending for a turbulent decade. A decade that had seen the civil rights protests, the Vietnam War and the assassination of major political leaders – John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

Was the moon landing worth it?


In the 1960s, as now, there was widespread economic and social problems on earth. The US, the richest country in the world, still had wide-scale poverty – and lingering problems from decades of racial segregation and the resultant poverty. During the moon landings, there were civil rights protests, protests who argued that the billions spent on the space programme, could have been better spent dealing with problems closer to home.

Another interesting feature about the moon landings is that although it promised a whole new adventure, the program fizzled out. In 1972, Eugene Cernan, also walked on the moon. But, he is the last person to have done it, and by then interest had waned. Far from leading to moon stations, very little direct benefit has been attained from walking on the moon.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Significance of the Moon Landings”, Oxford,  UK. Published 2 Feb 2015. Last updated 15 February 2018.

Related pages


Events that changed the world

Events that changed the world – Russian Revolution, the Atom Bomb, the Moon Landings.


Neil Armstrong Neil_Armstrong_ biography

Biography of the first man to walk on the moon


The man who said “No” – Ian Paisley Quotes

Ian Paisley Ian Paisley was a hardline Ulster Unionist politician who was famous for opposing any peace settlement or Irish intervention in Ulster (Northern Ireland)

For many years, Ian Paisley’s war cry was “No, No, No”, “Never, never, never! – “NO surrender”

He bitterly opposed the Catholic civil rights movement. The failure of this civil rights movement led to the IRA taking up arms and a campaign of violence in the province. Paisley was guilty of inciting anti-Catholic feeling.

“Catholic homes caught fire because they were loaded with petrol bombs; Catholic churches were attacked and burned because they were arsenals and priests handed out sub-machine guns to parishioners”

– Paisley at a loyalist rally in 1968 following attacks on Catholic homes.

“They breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin”

– Paisley talking about Catholics at a loyalist rally in 1969.

Ian Paisley was highly critical of the Catholic Church. In 1988, he had to be physically removed from the European Parliament after interrupting a speech by Pope John Paul II – Paisely, never a man for mincing his words, denounced the Pope as the Antichrist

“I denounce you, Anti-Christ! I refuse you as Christ’s enemy and Antichrist with all your false doctrine” – addressing Pope John Paul II on a visit to the European Parliament October 1988.

– a cry he repeated many times.

Paisley vociferously opposed the 1985 Anglo-Irish Peace Treaty. He campaigned against the Good Friday Peace Accord of 1988.

“I will never sit down with Gerry Adams… he’d sit with anyone. He’d sit down with the devil. In fact, Adams does sit down with the devil” – on Adams in February 1997.

Yet, in the evening of his life he had made a u-turn and agreed to a power sharing agreement with Sinn Fein – his long-term bitterest enemy. He formed a working relationship with Martin McGuinness (a former IRA Commander) and the two became good friends as they worked in a new Stormont Parliament.

“If anybody had told me a few years ago that I would be doing this, I would have been unbelieving”

– inside Parliament Buildings, Stormont, after agreeing to enter a power-sharing government with former IRA leader Martin McGuinness.

“People have come out of a dark tunnel and they can see there is a path out there for us. I think it has put a lot of faith and hope into people”

– on the eve of being sworn in as first minister of the power-sharing government.

Part of the radical transformation in Paisley was the fact that the IRA had announced a ceasefire and given up its weapons. Sinn Fein also came to accept the Northern Irish police force. With these concessions from the Republicans, Paisley was able to come to a power sharing agreement.

“Today, we can confidently state that we are making progress to ensure that our two countries can develop and grow side by side in a spirit of generous co-operation. Old barriers and threats have been, and are being, removed daily”

– After meeting Irish PM Bertie Ahern 2007

He even told McGuinness on their first day of working together than ‘We don’t need any Englishman coming over to tell us what to do.’ McGuinness paid a moving tribute to his former adversary, shortly after Paisley’s death

“In rising above old enmities, we pointed the way to a better and peaceful future.”

Some argue Paisley’s conversion to power sharing should have come many decades earlier. His vitriolic rhetoric against Catholicism and Republicanism has still left an indelible mark on Northern Ireland creating a sense of sectarian divide that still is deeply entrenched in the culture and politics of the province.

Nevertheless, the fact the man who said “NEVER” came to a power sharing agreement with his ‘enemies’ is still grounds for hope. It is a sign that even with the deepest enmity and bitterness, there is the chance to work together with people of a different tradition.

Northern Ireland still has deep sectarian divides, but the future is more hopeful and more optimistic than for many decades. The fact that the man who said ‘No’, came to say Yes, let’s work together is part of that jigsaw.


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