Remember A Day

A royal letter delivered 382 years late and a plot to kidnap the Pope: headlines from four decades ago

A journey back through time to look at significant news and events reported by the South China Morning Post from this week in history

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 August, 2018, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 August, 2018, 9:03pm

A letter from the queen of England to the Chinese emperor that took nearly four centuries to reach the Chinese capital and a Brazilian journalist forced to eat a copy of his article made the headlines 40 years ago this week.

August 6, 1978

Real estate giant Hopewell Holdings was poised to engulf and reshape Broadwood Road, a leafy oasis between Happy Valley and Causeway Bay. This raised concerns from residents that redevelopment plans would ruin the entire scenic ridge and deprive thousands of residents of recreational space.

August 7, 1978

West German terrorists planned to kidnap Pope Paul VI in an attempt to secure the release of their jailed compatriots – Red Army faction members – but Palestinian guerilla leader Wadie Haddad vetoed the plot, according to a report in Der Spiegel.

The policy of allowing villagers in the New Territories to build small houses was expected to resume soon, but with safeguards to ensure that residents, and not land speculators, would benefit. The spirit of the “small-house policy” was to allow villagers to build decent homes to improve their living conditions on sites not larger than 700 sq ft, provided that the structures were not more than three storeys high.

The world’s first test-tube baby, 12-day-old Louise Joy Brown, left hospital with her mother, and doctors in the English town of Oldham reported that both were “doing well”.

August 8, 1978

Agricultural scientists in Shanghai had produced new rice strains in test tubes, according to the New China News Agency, which reported that three strains were obtained via pollen culture at the Research Institute of Agricultural Sciences in Qingpu.

A 37-year-old Japanese man paralysed from the waist down braved foul weather, including a typhoon, to become the first person to conquer Mount Fuji in a wheelchair. Yukihiro Isa, accompanied by a team of nurses and technicians, took five days to reach the 12,388-foot summit in a specially-designed wheelchair.

August 9, 1978

A letter from Queen Elizabeth I to the emperor of China to promote trade between the two countries was finally delivered in Beijing, albeit 382 years late. British trade minister Edmund Dell noted that the wording remained appropriate in the 1970s when he handed a copy of the letter to his Chinese counterpart at an embassy dinner. The letter was originally addressed to Emperor Wanli in 1596 to introduce two British merchants. However, the two merchants unfortunately drowned on their voyage to China.

Test-tube trees and a dead pig on the French president’s helicopter: past headlines

Thousands of London commuters arrived late for work because three signalmen in Bethnal Green station took a protest tea break. The stoppage affected Liverpool Street station, where a sign went up on the indicator board that read: “I’m putting the kettle on.”

August 10, 1978

Britain officially planned to help China modernise its railway system and become involved in mining, offshore oil exploration and development, chemical and petrochemical industries, power generation and aerospace, British trade minister Edmund Dell announced during talks in Beijing.

August 11, 1978

British Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher, in a change of holiday plans, decided to visit Devon and Cornwall in southwest England, after French police advised her against a canal cruise in northern France for security reasons. The force said it did not have enough manpower to provide adequate protection in view of a recent wave of terrorist attacks in Paris.

Brazilian opposition party MDB filed a complaint stating that police in the northern city of Teresina had made a journalist eat a copy of an article he wrote criticising local police for arbitrary acts.

A nude beauty pageant and an escaped elephant: past headlines

August 12, 1978

Anglican bishops voted decisively to accept the ordination of women priests by the Episcopal Church in the US and three other churches in Canada, New Zealand and Hong Kong. This could mean the emergence of a woman bishop within 10 years in Washington or New York.

Gulf Air, the national carrier of the Arabian Gulf States, was recruiting local staff in preparation for the opening of its service to Hong Kong later in the year. The airline hoped to launch two flights a week between Bahrain and Hong Kong via Bangkok from late November 1978.

Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history