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148854.  Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:05 am Reply with quote

Alexander Fleming, of penicillin fame, was made a member of the Chelsea Arts Club (where he used to play snooker with the sculptor, E Roland Bevan) because he painted pictures made of bacteria.

<<These were invisible while he painted, but when cultured made bright colours; red for Serratia marcescens, purple for Chromobacterium violaceum and yellow for Micrococcus luteus. >>

<<His mould paintings depicted a range of subjects including a ballerina, the house he lived in and a guardsman. He appears to have been quite proud of his work and put on an exhibition for George V and his wife Queen Mary when they came to open medical school buildings at St Mary’s Hospital in London in 1933. Fleming, who told the story against himself, described how Queen Mary was less than impressed, saying: "I don’t see the point of these." >>

Fleming first made his name by developing a vaccine against acne.


148855.  Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:06 am Reply with quote

WG Grace, the legendary cricketer, was about as eccentric as they come.

Gloucestershire-born Billy Midwinter played for Australia before returning to England. In 1878, Australia persuaded Midwinter to play for them in a tour match against Middlesex. This left Gloucester a man short for their own match at the Oval. Gloucester captain Grace was outraged. He “assembled a snatch squad including ‘Frizzy’ Bush and ‘The Coroner’.” They kidnapped Midwinter - who was padded up ready to bat - and bundled him into a taxi. The Aussies “gave hot pursuit.” Big WG won the ensuing stand off at the Oval - but Midwinter made 4 and 0, and Glos suffered their first defeat for 2 years.

Source: The Wisden Cricketer, Sep 06.

148880.  Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:58 am Reply with quote

Reproduced from post 82130 (not that I'm blowing my own trumpet or anything):

Dr William Price certainly counts as an eccentric.

Born in Pontypridd in 1800, he caused consternation as a youth by his habit of going for long walks in the nude.

He trained as a doctor in Caerphilly and London and was a committed Chartist which lead to his fleeing to Paris after the failure of the Newport rising in 1839.

He returned to Wales and settled as a doctor in Llantrisant, where his eccentric behaviour continued. He proclaimed himself Arch Druid of a lost Celtic faith and took to wearing a fox-skin headress. Regarding most of his medical collegues as quacks, he dispensed his own herbal remedies, combining this with some "druidical" chanting to help the process.

A passionate anti-smoker, he refused to treat anyone who smoked (ooh, topical!). According to wikipedia he also only accepted payment from patients he failed to cure, he washed every coin he received, he was a vegetarian, and he refused to wear socks.

Price did not believe in marriage, regarding it as the enslavement of women. However, in his 80's, he began a relationship with Gwenllian Llewelyn, a woman many decades his junior. As if this, and her bearing him a son out of wedlock, was not enough to scandalise Llantrisant society, he decided to call his son Iesu Grist Price, the welsh for "Jesus Christ Price", seemingly just to piss them off a bit more.

When Jesus died aged only 5 months, Price then managed the seemingly impossible by scandalising people even more. In his most famous act, he decided to cremate his son according to his druidic beliefs. He announced the fact widely and built a pyre of coal on a hill overlooking Llantrisant. Surrounded by a large group of hostile people, he perfomed his druid ceremony but, as he lit the pyre, the body was snatched away by onlookers and Price was arrested for illegal disposal of a body.

Although cremation was widely believed to be illegal at the time, there was, in fact, no law preventing it. The judge who tried the case ruled that something could not be illegal unless specifically proscribed by law, and Price was freed. The case set a precedent which led to the 1902 cremation act which formally legalised the process.

In accordance with his will, when he died in 1893 Price himself was cremated on the same hillside where he'd tried to cremate his sons years before.

Might make a good general ignorance question:

"Where in Wales was Jesus Christ cremated?"

Double points if they pronounce it correctly.

149561.  Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:53 pm Reply with quote

The richest businessman ever to live in Britain was Sir John Ellerman, a tycoon who is almost entirely forgotten today.

In 1929, the Inland Revenue produced a secret list of millionaires, to work out how much could be raised for the nation by putting a 40% estate tax on the extremely wealthy. The list included actuarial tables, predicting how many of these richies were likely to die in the conveniently near future.

Ellerman not only came top of the rich list - he was worth twice as much as the poor sucker in the number two slot.

By today’s prices, he earned £389 million that year, had liquid assets of about £9 billion, and at his peak was probably worth “at least double” that amount.

Nobody’s entirely sure where he got it from, or where it went.

His father was a middle-class immigrant corn merchant in Hull. John used a legacy from his grandfather to start a career buying and turning around ailing businesses. He began by buying shipping lines, then moved into breweries, coalmining, property and newspapers - he was a major shareholder in the Times and the Daily Mail. Quite how he built up such an enormous fortune, though, is unclear.

He only married his wife when their eldest child was 15 - and then only under a Scots law, ‘par verba de praesenti,’ under which a couple who lived together for 21 successive days in Scotland were legally regarded as married.

He was a very private man - so much so that, when he died, even the newspapers he owned “struggled to find photographs of him for their obituaries.”

According to his DNB biographer no-one knows what happened to his unrivalled fortune after his death: “It certainly disappeared from his children’s estates.” Did they manage to piss it away in just one generation? What a party!

Source: Daily Telegraph, 22 May 06.

149587.  Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:54 pm Reply with quote

Zion, Illinois, was founded in 1901 as a one-church Christian community. For some decades it was essentially a dictatorship, run by Wilbur Glenn Voliva. Under his inspired leadership, the Flat Earth theory was taught in the schools (which, come to think of it, isn’t all that eccentric by 21st century American standards), and under his “blue laws” short skirts, oysters, whistling on Sundays, lipstick, alcohol, bacon, tobacco, pharmacies, globes, short trousers and medical facilities were all illegal. There was a 10pm curfew, and the police carried bibles on patrol.

The founder was John Alexander Dowie, a Scottish minister. His church was the Christian Catholic Church (today called the Christ Community Church). The town - in which every aspect of life would be lived according to God’s wishes - was centred on the Shiloh Tabernacle, completed in 1902 with a capacity of 8,000 people.

Everything went fine for a while. Christians relocated to Zion, and the town grew and prospered (praise him). Unfortunately, Satan is everywhere with his filthy blandishments, and “Dr” Dowie (who was a faith healer) lost his taste for the simple life. He moved into a 25-room mansion, and “designed for himself magnificent ecclesiastical robes, modelled after those worn by Aaron, the High Priest, described in Leviticus.” His congregation began to think he was maybe getting above his own self, what with his swanky wife and all, so they booted him out. Lovingly.

The church’s official website explains that “After Dowie's death in 1907, long-standing financial mismanagement overtook the church and swept away the dreams. Voliva was called upon to succeed Dowie. That same year, the church filed for bankruptcy. It was held in Receivership from 1907 until 1922, when under the leadership of Voliva, the church was revitalized and repurchased many of its former assets.”

Another source notes: “A Scottish lace industry and a bakery were established. Zion brand fig bar cookies and White Dove chocolates originated there.”

The early years of Voliva’s reign as General Overseer went well enough. The church (now renamed the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in Zion) began overseas missionary work, and broadcasting. The Tabernacle burned down in 1937, but they built another one - the Zion Auditorium.

Unfortunately, Voliva was as eccentric as a hatter. His main interest was using the radio station to campaign against round earth astronomy, and - of course - evolution (what is it about American Christians?)

The morality laws applied to anyone who set foot inside the city limits, not just residents. “It was unlawful for women to wear short dresses, high heels, bathing suits or lipstick. Ham, bacon, oysters, liquor and tobacco were banned, as were drugstores, medical buildings and movie theaters. A ten o'clock curfew was rigidly enforced. You could be arrested for whistling on Sunday. These laws were enforced by Voliva's police force, called the Praetorian Guard, whose helmets carried the word 'PATIENCE' and whose sleeves bore images of doves. Policemen wore Bibles and clubs on their belts.”

Interviewed in 1932, Voliva said that the Bible was the only scientific work he’d read or needed to read, and explained that the sun was three thousand miles away, and only thirty-two miles in diameter. This was a pretty obvious fact, because - since God had created the sun to light the Earth - he’d hardly have put it too far away to do the job! Makes sense when you think about it. “What would you think of a man who built a house in Zion and put a lamp to light it in Kenosha, Wisconsin?" Fair point.

He had no time for his weaker brethren, "so-called fundamentalists" who would "strain out the gnat of evolution yet swallow the camel of modern astronomy."

Voliva went the way of most dictators; the Depression ruined the town’s industries, and sweet, loving Christians from rival denominations were quick to scent blood: their missionaries moved in, determined to break the religious monopoly.

His political power began to ebb away; Time Magazine in 1934 reported: “So long as the world bought Zion candy bars, Zion cookies, Zion lace, Zion books and Zion cement it could smile as it would at Wilbur Glenn Voliva's dire prophecies and belief that the earth is soup-plate shaped. But it could not dispute the grim, lap-jowled prophet's absolute mastery of his own tight sectarian world of Zion City, Ill., on the lake shore 40 mi. north of Chicago. Owner of its communal industries and General Overseer of its Christian Catholic Church, Prophet Voliva banned tobacco, liquor, cinemas, profanity, immodest dress and chewing gum from his realm and ruled its 6,000 inhabitants body & soul. But ... Prophet Voliva's world cracked under him when Zion's industries, once worth $10,000,000, went into receivership.”

Incredibly, anti-Voliva candidates were elected to local school boards. The reverend dictator responded by closing the schools, and saying he’d only open them if every pupil took an oath of allegiance to Voliva. He also pointed out that “Satan and his imps would try to destroy the world sometime in September, and he needed an organization like Hitler's to combat them.”

He died in 1942. Today, Zion has over a hundred churches, of various denominations, including several “one of a kind” churches.


152274.  Wed Feb 28, 2007 8:14 am Reply with quote

There is a bloke here who is an expert/collector in the field of eccentric gadgets, including:

“The pride of my collection is a teasmaid. To work it you set the alarm. The alarm goes off - it pushes a lever, which pushes a lever, which pushes another lever - causing a match to strike some sandpaper which then lights the heater and then boils the water. When it’s boiled, it pours into the teapot..!”

152634.  Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:40 am Reply with quote

Have we ever done anything on the Air Loom Gang? Very weird, and rather topical:

“Matthews was convinced that outside the grounds of Bedlam, in a basement cellar by London Wall, a gang of villains were controlling and tormenting his mind with diabolical rays. They were using a machine called an 'Air Loom', of which Matthews was able to draw immaculate technical diagrams, and which combined recent developments in gas chemistry with the strange force of animal magnetism, or mesmerism. It incorporated keys, levers, barrels, batteries, sails, brass retorts and magnetic fluid, and worked by directing and modulating magnetically charged air currents, rather as the stops of an organ modulate its tones. It ran on a mixture of foul substances, including 'spermatic-animal-seminal rays', 'effluvia of dogs' and 'putrid human breath', and its discharges of magnetic fluid were focused to deliver thoughts, feelings and sensations directly into Matthews' brain. There were many of these mind-control settings, all classified by vivid names: 'fluid locking', 'stone making', 'thigh talking', 'lobster-cracking', 'bomb-bursting', and the dreaded 'brain-saying', whereby thoughts were forced into his brain against his will. To facilitate this process, the gang had implanted a magnet into his head. As a result of the Air Loom, Matthews was tormented constantly by delusions, physical agonies, fits of laughter and being forced to parrot whatever nonsense they chose to feed into his head. No wonder some people thought he was mad.
The Air Loom was being run by a gang of undercover Jacobin revolutionaries, bent on forcing Britain into a disastrous war with Revolutionary France. These characters, too, Matthews could describe with haunting precision. They were led by a puppet-master named 'Bill the King'; all details were recorded by his second-in-command, 'Jack the Schoolmaster'“


153259.  Sat Mar 03, 2007 8:28 am Reply with quote

I've got lots of info about officially registered peculiar (read eccentric) organisations. Will share it on Monday.

154135.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:50 am Reply with quote

Some peculiar ("eccentric") officially registered organisations:

The Institute of Totally Useless Skills
The International Association of Sandcastle Builders
National Society for Prevention of Cruely Mushrooms
Cookie Cutter Collectors Club
The International Association of Professional Bureaucrats
The American Guild of English Handbell Ringers
Club of Friends of Ancient Smoothing Irons
Committee for Immediate Nuclear War
Flat Earth Research Society International
Flying Funeral Directors of America
Friends of the Tango
The International Connoisseurs of Green and Red Chile
The International Petula Clark Society
The International Society of Animal Licence Collectors
The International Stop Continental Drift Society
Mikes of America
The National Pygmy Goat Association
The Society of Earthboubd Extraterrestrials
Spark Plug Collectors of America
The Witches Anti-Discrimination Lobby

All can be checked on their website

154138.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:53 am Reply with quote


INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENCE OF CORKSCREW ADDICTS (ICCA)was founded in 1974. Limited (corked up?) to 50 members worldwide.

Some info about the organisation:

THE FOUNDATION. This first meeting of the International Correspondence of Corkscrew Addicts (ICCA) was held October 1, 1974. It was organized and hosted by Dr. Bernard Watney and held at the Guinness Brewery, London, England. It was decreed at this meeting that the leader of the group is to be known as "Right." Anyone would rather be Right than President. Brother Timothy was elected as the first Right of the ICCA. It was also decreed that there would be a Chaplain and a Chief Correspondent. Brother Tim was also elected Chaplain and Dr. Watney was elected Chief Correspondent.
MEMBERSHIP. The ICCA membership is fixed at fifty and there is a waiting list. Persons desiring to become members should make application to the Right. Such application should include size and nature of collection, number of years collecting, how addiction was developed, any research done, special interest, names of members personally known and some biographical information. A photograph and detailed description of what applicant regards as his six best corkscrews should be enclosed.
MEMBERSHIP - COUNTRIES. As of December 2003 membership included addicts from Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.
OFFICERS. Right, Chief Correspondent, Chaplain
APPOINTMENTS. Treasurer and Editor of the Bottle Scrue Times
HONORARY MEMBER. This title is sometimes bestowed as decided by the membership.
ASSOCIATE MEMBERS. There are no associate members at the present time.
CORRESPONDENTS' DUTIES. Members are required to send a "Best Six" to all other members each year. A member must attend at least one Annual General Meeting every three years. Ideally, addicts will attend every meeting.
PAST-RIGHTS. After resigning, each Right selects an honorary individual title: Brother Timothy is Just Right, Dr. Bernard Watney is Start Right, the late Dr. Homer Babbidge is All Right, Don Morway is More Right, Bob Nugent is Nu-Right, the late Perry Howland is How Right, Richard Dennis is Spend Right, Dr. David Bradshaw is Try Right, Don Minzenmayer is Hous-Right, Don Bull is Mirth Right, and Ron MacLean is Can(e) Right, Joseph C. Paradi is Pro-Right.
THE BOTTLE SCRUE TIMES. An ICCA publication currently issued on a periodic basis by editor Jack Bandy.
DUES. Annual dues are currently fixed at U.S.$100.00. Dues are payable to the treasurer by December 31 for the following year.
HOMER BABBIDGE AWARD. Awarded annually to an addict for exceptional research in the area of corkscrews.
FRANK MacDONALD AWARD. Presented to individual who publishes the best SIX BEST for the year.
Back to top of page
Rule 1: The Society shall consist of collectors, sellers and users of corkscrews who wish to add to and / or gain from the knowledge of other members.
Rule 2: Meetings shall be cordial affairs; both instructive and entertaining. At least one sound beverage shall be shown on each particular occasion, to be opened by a selected corkscrew.
Rule 3: A minute book shall be kept, and at each meeting the minutes of the last meeting shall be read and approved.
Rule 4: Addicts may propose or second as a member, anyone personally known to them and these candidates may then be considered to be elected provided that the membership does not, at any time, exceed twenty-five*. This number does not include officials of Museums and Auction Houses who, on being elected as associates may send suitable representatives to meetings.
Rule 5: The officers of the Society shall be; - Right, Chaplain,and Chief Correspondent who shall be elected annually at the General Meeting.
Rule 6: New resolutions involving a change of rule can only be adopted after a general referendum in which they obtain a majority of two thirds of those voting. The results of which shall be made known at the General Meeting.
Rule 7: Failure to circulate a "Best Six" or permitted alternative for two consecutive years shall result in forfeiture of membership.
Rule 8: Failure to attend any one of three consecutive Annual General Meetings shall result in forfeiture of membership.
*Increased to fifty as a result of 1976 meeting.

And here are some QI “definitions” from the organisation's website:

CORKSCREW: NOUN - A device for drawing corks from bottles, consisting of a pointed metal spiral attached to a handle. .
CORKSCREW: VERB - To move or proceed on a repeatedly curving course
CORKSCREW: ADJECTIVE - Resembling a corkscrew in shape; spiral.
Cavatappi (Italian)
Dugohuzo (Hungarian)
Hapese e Shishes (Albanian)
Kai Sai Zuan (Chinese)
Kamsciatraukis (Lithuanian)
Korkenzieher (German)
Korketrekker (Norwegian)
Korkkiruuvi (Finnish)
Korkociag (Polish)
Korkskruv (Swedish)
Kurkentrekker (Dutch)
Levatappi (Italian)
Minza us Sida-Da (Arabic)
Otvarac za Botse (Serbian)
Otvirak (Czech)
Pothan (Hebrew)
Probotschnik (Russian)
Proptraekker (Danish)
Sacacorchos (Spanish)
Saca-Rolhas (Portuguese)
Schtopor (Russian)
Sennuki (Japanese)
Sise Acacagi (Turkish)
Tappatogari (Islandic)
Terbuschon (Bulgarian)
Tirbuson (Romanian)
Tirbuson (Turkish)
Tire Bouchon (French)
Tirepouson (Greek)
Vaditschep (Yugoslavian)
Zapfenzieher (Swiss German)
NB: The Russian word is incorrect! It is actually “shtopor”!

Which international organisation is virtually screwed up?

154140.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:56 am Reply with quote

Very nice, Vitali; I wonder if there has ever been an organisation of eccentrics - self-declared as such, I mean? Obviously, no true eccentric would join any club that would have him as a member, but would-be eccentrics are perhaps no less worthy of study ...

154144.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:01 am Reply with quote

What constitutes an organisation? Is it just having a website, or being a couple of like-mided individuals?

The The Institute of Totally Useless Skills appears to be one comedian who has written a book and does after-dinner speaking.

Vitali, you call them "officially registered organisations", I presume that means they're registered somewhere? Are there any qualifying factors before they register or could I open a website for "Elves against Animal Cruelty" and call myself an organisation?

154150.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:09 am Reply with quote

We're still allowed to taunt marmosets, though, aren't we, egg?

154157.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:16 am Reply with quote

A prof who’s done a study of eccentrics reports:

“Through standard statistical analysis applied to the study, Weeks concluded that "classic, full-time eccentrics" number only about one in 10,000 people. But these rare individuals exercise a considerable fascination and can tell us a great deal about how we see ourselves.”


I don’t know ... one in 10,000 people seems rather a lot to me. That means, for instance, that in the town where I live there would be almost three “classic full-time eccentrics”.

I suppose part-time eccentrics have come in more in recent years to make the profession accessible to women with caring responsibilities. I wonder if you can apply for a job-share as an eccentric, in order to improve your work/life balance?

154181.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:03 am Reply with quote

Also, quite a lot of 'eccentrics' appear to me to be just drunks or bores, whilst the rest are people who think it's clever to wear a hat indoors.

Sorry, that was slightly liverish.


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