Saturday, 2 June 2007

The Glorious First of June

I am fortunate to have been born upon the First of June, one of the two dates of the year Britons traditionally hold to be "Glorious" (the second being the "Glorious Twelfth" of August). Yesterday evening, in celebration of my natal anniversary, 12 friends joined me for a private dinner in the historic surroundings of London's Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Rebuilt in 1667, following destruction in the Great Fire of London, the Cheshire Cheese is one of London's most historic taverns/chop houses and was a known haunt of Dr. Johnson, Charles Dickens, and various other literary luminaries. In the atmospheric surroundings of the Johnson Room we gathered, kindred spirits all, to be merry and to indulge in good living.

Given the Cheshire Cheese's Stuart pedigree, its link with Samuel Pepys and the proximity to the date of the Restoration of the Monarchy (May 29th 1660), we thought it fitting to read an excerpt from Pepys' diary entry for June 1st, 1660:

"At night Mr. Cooke comes from London with letters, leaving all things there very gallant and joyful. And brought us word that the Parliament had ordered the 29th of May, the King’s birthday, to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny, and the King’s return to his Government, he entering London that day."

Given the date, of the various toasts proposed at the dinner one offered to the Royal Navy is worthy of note. The Glorious First of June was so named following a naval battle fought in the Atlantic Ocean between the Royal Navy and the navy of Revolutionary France. It was the first major naval battle of the French Revolutionary Wars and following the British victory it was decreed that the First of June would be forever "Glorious". We therefore remembered in particular those brave sons of Britannia who fought in that battle.

One amusing aside: aboard the ship Tremendous, which took part in the battle, Mrs Daniel Mackenzie gave birth to a boy, Daniel "Tremendous" Mackenzie, that baby was deemed to have been a participant in the battle and was consequently awarded the Naval General Service medal, with a rating of "Baby" – surely the youngest person ever honoured for active service!

Following our hearty meal, several of us stumbled on to the Carlton Club for cigars and post-prandials -- there being only four weeks left for cigar afficionados to enjoy their (ever more guilty!) pleasure in elegant surroundings, the English smoking ban taking effect from July 1st) and I finally lapsed into the arms of Morpheous on the morning of a day which had long ceased to be my birthday.

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