Lord BoothbyHow many readers remember Lord Boothby, a Tory politician for many years who often appeared on TV sporting a bow-tie and talking in a deep, booming voice? According to The Encyclopaedia of London Crime & Vice by Fergus Linnane (Sutton Publishing 2003), Bob Boothby was involved in a scandal with the Kray twins back in the 1960s. He was bisexual and apparently having an affair with a young criminal friend of the Krays.

In 1964, when such things were still illegal, the Sunday Mirror reported that the Metropolitan Police had undertaken an investigation into a homosexual relationship between a well-known peer and a leading London gangster. There were also allegations of blackmail. Boothby issued a statement denying everything and, in any case, Cecil King, boss of the Mirror Group, seemed reluctant to implicate somebody so high in the Tory party. The Mirror Group printed an unqualified apology and Boothby was paid damages of £40,000 - a considerable sum forty years ago. (Ronnie Kray received an apology as well, but no money.)

Oddly, for somebody who was at the centre of Tory politics for many years - I believe he was Churchill’s Parliamentary Private Secretary some time in the 1920s - Boothby never aspired to high office. He once admitted to a journalist that he had never been very ambitious. He died on 16th July 1986.

ROBERT JOHN GRAHAM BOOTHBY: 12th February 1900; Edinburgh (55N57 003W13); 02:00 am GMT Caroline Gerrard from birth certificate.

The recent BBCTV series Eygpt, tracing the history of Egyptology, featured the extraordinary character Giovanni Belzoni. If you watched it, you will undoubtedly want to reread this extract from last January’s Data Corner: Giovanni Belzoni, standing 6 feet 7 inches, came to England in 1803 and earned his living as a circus strong man. In 1815 he went to Eygpt and took to robbing tombs of their antiquities, most notably a huge bust of Rameses II which he later sent to the British Museum in London. Among his many accomplishments were the exploration of the Temple of Edfu, opening the Pyramid of Khefren at Giza and discovering the ruins of Berenice near Benghazi. He returned to England in 1819 and published his discoveries as Narratives of the Operations and Recent Discoveries within the Pyramids, Temples, Tombs and Excavations in Eygpt and Nubia (1820). In 1823, Belzoni died of dysentry in Beni, Africa, while searching for the source of the River Niger.

GIOVANNI BATTISTA BELZONI: 5th November 1778; Padua, Italy (45N25 11E53); "at the 11th hour of the preceding night". Valerie Matthews quotes a biography which refers to the baptismal entry in the records of the Episcopal Court of Padua. She concludes that since the nights were divided into twelve equal parts, he must have been born one hour before sunrise. She has calculated that the date of sunrise on Belzoni’s date of birth was 05:44 am LMT (05:56:28 GMT).