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Ten Quirky Cultural Connections

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by Margaret Waters (subscribe)
A former teacher and charity worker from the North East of England, I love people and places and like to try out new experiences wherever possible. Capturing that 'perfect pic' is all part of the pleasure. Access issues are a particular interest.
Published July 14th 2013
Small degrees of separation make mighty concepts
What has a small village on Wearside got to do with U.S. Presidential residence the White House, and why is a cocktail made with tomato juice named after an English Queen? Why is an ancient order of knights synonymous with first aiders at a football match? And why does a well known British bank have its origins in China?

These are just a few quirky connections that might give pause for thought or just simply amuse you.

Bloody Mary Cocktail
1. The 'Bloody Mary' cocktail of vodka and tomato juice was named after English Queen Mary I (Mary Tudor - daughter of Henry VIII) because of her bloody executions of Protestants as she tried to reverse her father's actions in doing away with Roman Catholicism during the Reformation.

Mary Tudor


Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janiero

2. The Statue of 'Christ the Redeemer' with outstretched arms, famously overlooking Rio de Janiero, Brazil's former capital, has its equivalent in Portugal's capital city Lisbon.

Christ the King Lisbon
Statue of Christ the King in Lisbon

The statue of 'Christ the King' is aligned with its outstretched arms facing Brazil, 3000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

Eiffel Tower

3. The Eiffel Tower, iconic landmark in Paris, was copied by an English seaside town as a tourist attraction in the early 20th century. The Blackpool version accommodates a grand ballroom which has hosted dancing competitions over several decades, including the BBC's long-running Saturday night spectacle, Strictly Come Dancing.

knight of st john

St John Ambulance logo
.
4. Saint John Ambulance, which delivers first aid to the public all over the world, was founded in the U.K. in 1877 and is a subsidiary of the Hospitaller Order of the Knights of St John. The Knights of St John have their origins in Jerusalem and Rhodes and are also known as the Knights of Malta, whose Grand Master resides in the Maltese capital city, Valletta.

5. The white rum and coke cocktail 'Cubalibre' was invented when American forces helped the Cubans fight for independence from Spanish rule in the nineteenth century. U.S. troops carried their own supplies of the cola drink while there were plentiful supplies of rum due to the sugar plantations and processing plants on Cuba. It didn't take long for a bunch of soldiers to put two and two together.

Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia

6. Australia's Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Tyne Bridge at Newcastle/Gateshead in the U.K. were built by the same engineering company, Dorman Long and Co, in the 1920-30s. Both bridges are iconic structures, play a key part in the cultural identities and civic pride of their regions, and are instantly recognizable worldwide, despite being on opposite sides of the globe.

Tyne Bridge from the Quayside
Tyne Bridge Quayside View


7. New York's soaring Statue of Liberty, whose inscription welcomes the 'poor and huddled masses' to America, was a gift from the people of France, after the French Enlightenment of the eighteenth century which gave birth to the principles of 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity', and which were adopted by the founding fathers of the United States and instilled in the American Constitution. A smaller version stands along the banks of the River Seine as it runs through the French capital, Paris.

Muhammed Ali Mosque Cairo
8. The Muhammed Ali Mosque in Cairo dates back to the 1830s and is a scaled down replica of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque or Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, which was built more than 200 years earlier. It is said that Muhammed Ali Pasha, the Egyptian leader who commissioned the mosque, paid his architect so well that he never needed to work again, thus ensuring no other similar buildings could pop up anywhere else and securing its creator's place in history.

George Washington Portrait
9. Washington D.C. has its roots in the North East of England. George Washington, first president of the United States of America, had his ancestral home in Washington, on the River Wear. Washington Old Hall was visited by U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1976 on the Bi-centennial Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. From being a small settlement in County Durham, Washington became a 'New Town' in the post-war years as urban sprawl engulfed smaller villages. It's now in the county of Tyne & Wear. And guess what? It has a district called Columbia.

Washington Old Hall

10. That seemingly most British of institutions, the HSBC bank, one of the 'Big Four' high street banks in the U.K., has it's roots in nineteenth Century China when Hong Kong was a British colony. HSBC actually stands for:

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited
香港上海滙豐銀行有限公司
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