Rather than crafting a beguiling paean to love on Valentine’s Day today, I thought I’d share a couple of much more interesting facts for all you non-romantic types out there. Both newsworthy events happened somewhat bizarrely on exactly the same day back in 1929.
The Valentine’s Day Massacre
Yeah, about as far from red roses and heartfelt chocolate sentiments as you can imagine. In 1929, the final big gang battle took place in Chicago between the forces of crime bosses Al Capone and Bugs Moran.
Capone’s team tricked Bugs’ crew into taking part in a bootleg whisky deal. Dressed up as policemen, they tricked them into lining up against a wall without weapons – before gunning all seven down in cold blood. Bugs himself only escaped when he saw the police uniforms entering the garage in front of him and scarpered before it all kicked off.
It was the last big confrontation between the two gangs and shocked the public who started to question whether banning whisky was more important than overturning the Prohibition that gave criminals such as Capone the power to build little empires in the first place….
Sir Alexander Fleming Discovers Penicillin
But whilst the headlines were being written in Chicago, a far more quiet revolution was starting in the UK. On 14th February 1929, Scottish bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming made one of the greatest discoveries of the modern medical age when he discovered penicillin.
It’s hard to overstate just how significant this discovery was. It heralded the dawn of a new antibiotic age. Before then, anyone could end up with a fatal infection from a simple cut or scratch. And all because Fleming returned from holiday to find a blob of mould growing on one of his petri dishes which seemed to have stopped the growth of the bacteria. It’s impossible to estimate just how many lives have been saved so far by penicillin. But that number can only be described as one thing: humungous…. (technical term)
So for all you non-romantic types, resolutely resisting any tugs on your heart strings by your loved one this evening, I hope that’s cheered you up. After all, this is a day that gets its title from the beheading of St. Valentine in 278 A.D. He was a priest in Rome who defied Emperor Claudius’ ban on all marriages and engagements since it was believed that they were making men far too attached to their wives and reluctant to join the army. Valentine was all too happy to perform marriages for young lovers in secret….until the Emperor found out and order him to be beaten to death with clubs and beheaded.
Ah, the romance.