Being an island race the British have a long standing relationship with the sea. In years gone by it was used by intrepid explorers like Sir Walter Raleigh and Captain James Cook to discover new and exotic lands.
Another set of adventurers also set sail from these shores in search of fame and fortune, a strange diaspora of entertainers, thinkers, and artists. They settled so well into their new surroundings that soon they were accepted as one of the natives, and slowly became part of the tribe. But in their chests still beat the lion hearts of Englishmen and Women, if only to be hidden behind transatlantic accents and quite staggering success.
These chameleons are among us now, and here I will reveal their heritage. Actually you probably know it already, but I thought it would be fun to put together a list of England’s most impressive exports.
10) Angela Lansbury
Scoff not ye….scoffers. Not only did the ‘Lans’ manage to spend most of her life sporting the same haircut, she also built an impressive Hollywood film career and secured a role in her older years as a mass murdering novelist who constantly framed innocent people for her heinous crimes. At least that’s how ‘Murder She Wrote’ appeared to me….
9) The Edge
He may well sound Irish and spend a fair amount of his time in America, but back in the summer of 1961 tiny cries could be heard in parts of Barking, London as David Howell Evans made his first attempts to draw an audience. These days he plays in grander arenas, but in our hearts we know he’s one of us.
8) John Harvard
When we hear the name of Harvard University heralded around the world (behind Oxford and Cambridge of course!) it swells an Englishman’s heart to know that the name itself belonged to a resident of these lands. In fact John Harvard only spent about a year in America after emigrating from Southwark, London in 1636. He sadly contracted Tuberculosis and died, but in his will left half of his estate, plus his personal library of over 400 books to a new college in Cambridge, Massachusetts which then renamed itself in honour of their munificent benefactor.
7) Abe Sapperstein
Who? Well, maybe he isn’t exactly a household name, but the organisation he formed certainly is. As Abe, originally from London’s East End, was the creator and coach of the Harlem Globetrotters. This world famous basketball team wowed audiences the world over with their skill, athleticism, and sense of humour since their inception in 1926. Cheers Abe!
6) Bob Hope
Think of Bob Hope and what springs to mind? His open air shows for US soldiers? Glittering Hollywood career? Legendary stand-up routines? I’m guessing one thing that doesn’t leap to the front is ‘Oh, you mean that guy from Eltham in Surrey?’ Yep, you guessed it, his appearance in this list is not a guest slot, because Mr Hope was a Brit… oh yes! His reason for departure from this fair isle was a simple one – at least in his routines – in that he decided to head for the US at the tender age of 4 once he discovered he could never be king. Now, wouldn’t that have been interesting….?
5) Charlie Chaplin
Britain can boast a few legends of the silver screen, but none had the kind of world-wide dominance achieved by a little fella from South London who walked funny, sported a moustache, and went by the name Charles Spencer Chaplin. In the silent film era he became a mega-star thanks to his down-at-heel character ‘The Tramp’ who beguiled audiences with his humour and stunts. Such is his association with Hollywood that many forget that he was born in the impoverished borough of Walworth to a family of entertainers. Safe to day the boy done good.
4) Jonathan Ive
To your normal everyday person Jonathan Ive will be someone they’ve never heard of. But if you say iPod, iPhone, iMac, and now of course iPad then they’ll all know what you’re on about. So what’s that got to do with this chap? Well, he was pretty much responsible for designing them. From the sleepy London suburb of Chingford Ive has changed the design world forever, not to mention given us probably the finest mobile phone on the planet. Three cheers for Jonny! Hip, hip….
3) Archibald Leach
With a name like that what chance did the poor boy have? Thankfully Bristol-born Archie changed it when he went on stage to something far more suitable….Cary Grant, and the rest, as they say, is history. Oddly enough he seemed to spend the majority of his glittering film career with an accent that sounded like an American trying to be English, when it fact it was the other way round. His debonair style, and classic looks led him to share the screen with such legends as Katherine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Ginger Rogers and Audrey Hepburn. He did us proud.
2) The Liberty Bell
It’s an interesting irony to think that the bell that, as legend would have it, rang out on a summers day in Pennsylvania, 1776, calling all to hear the reading of the declaration of Independence from British rule, and which has since gone on to be a symbol of liberty and justice, was in fact a Brit. Ok, it’s an inanimate object, and wouldn’t be granted a passport by even the most lenient of governments, but the truth is that its place of origin was Whitchapel Bell Foundry in London – so we’ll claim it!
1) Saul Hudson
Ok, so there may well be more important political, intellectual, or artistic candidates out there, but this is my blog after all and the top spot goes to a man whose influence over guitar playing in the past 20 years has been absolutely immense. He also keeps snakes, wears a top hat, smokes cigarettes through his hair, and enjoys the odd tipple – all of which make him a classic British eccentric! Most importantly though Saul Hudson, or Slash as he is more infinitely well known, was born in the unsuspecting city of Stoke-On-Trent, before being whisked off to California in search of other amusingly named musicians who would form Guns ‘n’ Roses and set the rock world back on fire. He’s a hero of mine and I’m glad I can also boast that he’s a fellow countryman. Arise, Sir Slash!