• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 5:16am

Six degrees

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 January, 2010, 12:00am

Robert Burns (above) will be toasted by Scots across the globe tomorrow. More widely observed than Scottish National Day, Burns' Night, a celebration of the 18th-century poet's birthday, was used last year as a starting point for Homecoming 09, a series of events aimed at raising ?0 million (HK$508 million) in tourist revenue. Opposition politicians claimed the campaign had been hijacked for political purposes by Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond ...

Salmond is an intriguing figure. A man of ingenuity (the oil index he devised for the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1983 is still in use today), the first minister is married to a woman 17 years his senior. Publicly he takes an anti-intellectual stance, admitting to low-brow interests such as country and western music and reruns of Star Trek ...

The sci-fi franchise began in 1966 and has spawned phrases, hand signals and outfits that have given generations of nerds an outlet for their bedroom-honed social skills. William Shatner, the star of the original series, owes his career to show creator Gene Roddenberry. One of the first group of people to have their ashes 'buried' in space, Roddenberry was a futurist and a freemason ...

From its obscure 16th-century origins in Britain, the fraternal organisation spread around the world and today has a membership estimated at five million. Its ranks have numbered luminaries such as Johannes Bach, Louis Armstrong, Mark Twain and Silvio Berlusconi. Freemasonry has also had some powerful opponents; the group became an obses- sion for one alleged reject, Francisco Franco ...

The Spanish dictator, who ruled with an iron fist for almost 40 years, was a fierce negotiator - Adolf Hitler said would rather have teeth extracted than have further dealings with the general. Today, much of Spain reviles Franco for his crimes against the state. Among his less heinous deeds is his alleged rigging of the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest, stealing the No 1 spot from Briton Cliff Richard ...

Born Harry Rodger Webb, the Indian-born Christian is one of only two acts (the other being Elvis Presley) to make the British singles charts for six consecutive decades. The singer was mocked for his 1999 release Millennium Prayer, an ambitious rendition of The Lord's Prayer set to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, the perennial New Year's Eve anthem written by Scottish bard Robert Burns.

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