This day in London’s History
1978: Man executed with brolly.
Unless you live in Chile, the date September 11 will only ever be remembered for the one, obvious historical event. Of course, plenty of other stuff can claim today as its anniversary, including the remarkable story of the man who was assassinated by umbrella.
The writer, BBC broadcaster and Bulgarian defector Georgi Markov was approaching a bus stop on Waterloo Bridge, when he felt a stinging sensation in his right thigh. Turning round, he noticed ‘an unidentified man picking up an umbrella’, who immediately apologised and jumped in a cab. Markov was soon taken ill and admitted to hospital with septicaemia, dieing a couple of days later. Assassination was immediately suspected – Markov had been targeted twice before by the Bulgarian secret services who wanted him silenced. The theory was strengthened when a small platinum sphere was removed from the puncture wound, with tiny bore holes to encapsulate poison (later identified as ricin). The assassin was recently revealed as Francesco Giullino, an Italian-Danish crook who is thought to be still at large.
London fact of the week
Giullino employed a very British weapon for his murder. The modern umbrella, although having existed in various guises since antiquity, found its dream home in the miserable climate of our native shores. The device was first popularised by eccentric London philanthropist Jonas Hanway (1712-1786) and has been an essential accoutrement of the City gent (and Edwardian nannies of magical bent) ever since. He’d have loved James Smith & Sons, of 53 New Oxford Street, who specialise in the collapsable rain guard. The shop dates back to 1830 and to this day offers many trolleys’ worth of brollies.
London person of the week
This week’s award goes to Raffaele Caldarelle, the Mafia don recently exposed as a shoe salesman in Hackney. Or should that be the other way around?
One thing you must do in London this week
Bit of a no-brainer this week, if you‘re in any way interested in architecture, secret London or just a bit of moseying around. Next Saturday and Sunday is Open House weekend, with over 600 buildings for you to snoop around. Next year, Londonist hopes to open our offices to the general public, so you can all see what our bedrooms look like.