April Fools Day – an hysterical perspective

 “April the first stands mark’d by custom’s rules,
A day for being, and for making fools: —
But, pray, what custom, or what rule supplies
A day for making, or for being — wise?”

 – Rev. Samuel Bishop, 1796

Photo:Johnny Hughes https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonny2love/

No-one knows for sure the origins of April Fools Day. Some hold that it dates back to antiquity and the celebration of the arrival of Spring. The long winter over and with life-renewing all around, it is a time for happiness and jollity. It is a time for tomfoolery…. it is a time for love – with softened senses and increased desire! Think the mad March hare….

The predominant theory holds that the origin of the April Fools Day tradition dates from about 1582, the year France adopted the Gregorian Calendar, which switched the beginning of the year from what is now the end of March (around the time of the vernal equinox) to the first of January. According to popular lore, some folks, out of ignorance and/or stubbornness, continued to ring in the New Year on April first and were made the butt of jokes and pranks (“poissons d’avril,” or “April Fish”) on account of their “foolishness.” This became an annual celebration that ultimately spread throughout Europe and other parts of the world.

However…. there are a number of facts which put doubt on this popular theory:

The ancient Romans celebrated a festival on March 25 called Hilaria, marking the occasion with masquerades and “general good cheer.”

Holi, the Hindu “festival of colours” observed in early March with “general merrymaking” and the “loosening of social norms,” is at least as old as Hilaria.

The Jewish festival of Purim has a long, colourful history as well. Coinciding with the advent of spring, it is celebrated annually with costume-wearing, carnivals, and pranks.

In 1508, French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a pioisson d’avril, possibly the first reference to the celebration in France.

Some writers suggest that April Fools’ originated because, in the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25 in most European towns (to coincide with the arrival of Spring one imagines – most likely a hangover from pagan traditions), with a holiday that in some areas of France, specifically, ended on April 1, and those who celebrated New Year’s Eve on January 1 made fun of those who celebrated on other dates by the invention of April Fools’ Day.

The use of January 1 as New Year’s Day became common in France only in the mid-16th century, and the date was not adopted officially until 1564, by the Edict of Rousillion.

So It’s not unreasonable to suppose that the calendrical changes of the 16th and 17th centuries served more as an excuse to codify a general spirit of mirth already associated with springtime, the season of rebirth and renewal, than as the sole inspiration for a pranksters’ holiday.

So what of the traditions?

Convention has it that it is ok to play jokes on unsuspecting victims up ‘till Noon. After that, the fool is the one persisting with the falsity.

Some have expressed the belief that the origins of April Fool’s Day tradition may go back as far as the Genesis Flood narrative.   The London Public Advertiser of March 13, 1769, printed: “The mistake of Noah sending the dove out of the ark before the water had abated, on the first day of April, and to perpetuate the memory of this deliverance it was thought proper, whoever forgot so remarkable a circumstance, to punish them by sending them upon some sleeveless errand similar to that ineffectual message upon which the bird was sent by the patriarch”.

In 1561, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1.

In 1686,  John Aubrey referred to the celebration as “Fooles holy day”, the first British reference. On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”. People would show up only to realize they’d been tricked. No lions, no washing, no nothing….

The street prank worked so well that people kept pulling it year after year, targeting mostly out-of-towners. By the mid-19th century, pranksters had printed up fake tickets.

April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for a fool) and followed by “Tailie Day”, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them. The Scots were always adept at kicking others in the arse….

A number of recent April Fools tricks are worthy of mention – some with connotations to the present….

Running for president

“I never did anything wrong, and I won’t do it again,” said former President Richard Nixon, announcing that he would run for president in 1992 (Nixon had resigned from the presidency on August 9, 1974, in the face of almost certain impeachment and removal from office). But the man speaking wasn’t Nixon, and the news segment that aired the announcement wasn’t real. National Public Radio’s piece on Nixon’s 1992 presidential run is one of its most famous April Fools’ Day pranks. Not only did people believe it, but they were also outraged. “A lot of people’s worst dream was Nixon running again. The idea that he would run again was absurd, but it played on their fears so much that thousands of people believed it.”

Does this make you think of someone else down south?

Lenin’s corpse

On April 1, 1995, the Irish Times announced that the Walt Disney Corporation had entered into an agreement with the Russian government to purchase the embalmed remains of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, to put on display at the Euro Disney Theme Park. The founder of Bolshevism and the driving force behind the creation of the Soviet Union would be given “the full Disney treatment,” the article promised, with strobe lights and T-shirt sales. Make you think of someone in Russia today?

Left handed toilet paper:

Why should right-handers be closer to cleanliness? In 2015, Cottonelle tweeted that it was introducing left-handed toilet paper for all those southpaws out there.

Few people may have been taken in by Cottonelle, but that wasn’t the case in 1973, when Johnny Carson cracked a joke about a toilet paper shortage. Worried Americans immediately stocked up.

Does this make you think of the recent ‘runs’ on toilet paper?

Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity:

April 1, 1976, during an early-morning interview on BBC Radio 2, the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced that at 9:47 AM that day a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur. Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, and this planetary alignment would temporarily counteract and lessen the Earth’s own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment the alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, the station began receiving hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman reported that she and her friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room. Moore had intended his announcement to be a spoof of a pseudoscientific theory that had recently been promoted in a book called The Jupiter Effect, alleging that a rare alignment of the planets was going to cause massive earthquakes and the destruction of Los Angeles in 1982.

Oh, and then there was the spoof of Swiss farmers having a bumper harvest of spaghetti, with a documentary by the BBC in 1957 showing them harvesting it from trees….

Enough about the tomfoolery of others:

The LDHS would like to offer a sumptuous prize to whoever sends in the most hilarious April Fools Day prank that you or your family/friends have been involved with. Entries will be judged by a most prestigious jury… and shared on this site.  Send you entries to info@ladysmithhistoricalsociety.ca

Artwork wanted – children

Hello Parents with Young People Learning at Home

We are seeking your assistance with a new display in the Ladysmith Museum on First Avenue, Ladysmith.

The theme is the Important Role of BC’s Predators (Black Bear, Wolf, Wolverine and Cougar). The goal to understand their importance, to respect and honour them, to explore our relationship with them and discover more about our heritage and culture through this display, newly created games, videos and hands-on activities.

We would like to gain your help with this display by having your young people (Grade 1 to Grade 12) create some art work. It might tie in with some aspect of their Language Arts, Science, Social Studies and Art Curriculum.  If reports, stories, legends and poems also are created due to an interest in this theme we’d be happy to add them to our display. Students may search the Web for ideas and information.

Later when it is safe to do so we will arrange for a drop off location for your young people’s work.  Our volunteers will make an excellent display of the students’ art work in our new Ladysmith Museum exhibit. Families and friends will be welcome to visit the Museum and be awed and enriched by this exhibit. You will be notified by viewing the Ladysmith & District Historical Society Website under Events to find out when  it will be safe to be open for visitors.

We request that students print their name at the bottom right of their art work.  The size and art mediums (watercolors, acrylic paints, graphite pencils, crayons, charcoal and pastels, etc.) will be your choice.

Students’ work will be returned at the end of the exhibit.

Please share with us your interest in participating in this inclusive community exhibit by emailing vimarmot@shaw.ca. Thank you.

Best Regards,

Shirley Blackstaff, LDHS volunteer/director, vimarmot@shaw.ca

Education and Engagement continue despite COVID-19

“While the Ladysmith & District Historical Society (LDHS) has closed the museum and archives and ceased Saturday operations at the waterfront until further notice, that doesn’t mean that our minds have to cease operations,” says President Quentin Goodbody.
LDHS volunteers are working on a few projects designed to entertain and inform you — with a historical perspective.
Some of these projects include a series of walks with points of heritage interest, titled “About Town – Walk Through Time.”
“The idea is to give you the incentive to get out, get some exercise (in a socially isolated manner) and at the same time learn about our communities,” explains Goodbody.
The society is also looking at the best ways to continue presenting their popular “Historically Speaking” series, which will be streamed online at specified times covering a variety of subjects including, but not limited to:
• “Earthquake Ladysmith” details the history of earthquakes on Vancouver Island and the impending “Big One,” examining its likely effects on Ladysmith and what you could/should do to prepare.
• “Ladysmith Fires: Risks and Prevention” looks at local fires through the ages and the story of the Ladysmith Fire Department.
• “Climate Change Examined” puts global warming and its effects into perspective relative to the Earth’s history of climate change prior to man’s industrial activities.
Work is continuing on the new museum exhibit on Vancouver Island predators – wolves, wolverines, bears and cougars. A part of the exhibit is a wildlife photography show, and the society is inviting photographers to submit high-resolution digital photos, as well as prints, that showcase the diverse wildlife in our area.

Wildlife Photography Exhibit

The society is planning a new exhibit at the Ladysmith Museum – its the first of our Natural heritage series. The Predators: Bear, Cougar, Wolf, Wolverine.

As part of the exhibit, our upstairs gallery will feature a Wildlife Photo show featuring images of wildlife – this can include birds, bugs, as well as mammals, with the stipulation being that they can be found on the east coast of Vancouver Island island. (our community is central-south island).

Trumpeter swans in Cedar. Photo: Nick LongoDigital images on a slide show and prints will be displayed. We ask that you submit one of each species (ie: don’t send 10 photos of hummingbirds, just pick one), there’s no limit and no fee.

If you wish to sell any of your images we ask that 25% commission goes to the Ladysmith Historical Society, a non-profit society that operates the Ladysmith Museum, Ladysmith Archives and the Waterfront Heritage Site, and a tax receipt will be issued if requested.

The exhibit will open (when COVID-19 subsides) and will be up throughout the summer.

To submit photos, please send us high-resolution images, with your name and subject.

To submit “hard-copy” for the gallery please let us know as wall space is limited and we will arrange for pick up once things return to normal.

Thanks for supporting natural heritage,

Climate Change Examined POSTPONED

Climate changing. Photo courtesy of NASA Marshall Space Flight

Climate Change Examined. A ‘Historically Speaking” series talk to be presented by Dr. Quentin Goodbody at the Ladysmith Museum, Saturday, April 4, 2020, at 2 pm at the Ladysmith Museum has been postponed until further notice due to the COVID-19 threat. A new date will be announced.

In the words of the great ballplayer Yogi Berra, “The future ain’t what it used to be”.

This talk examines the earth’s history of climate change and its causes in light of current global warming, featuring a focus on the present and future effects on Canada’s historic sites.

“The earth’s atmosphere is warming while the debate as to causes is red hot” comments Goodbody.

He goes on to comment that  while information on Carbon Dioxide concentrations and atmospheric warming is readily and fairly clearly accessible, rhetoric and ‘agenda’ on the internet and the media make it hard to get a straight answer to questions such as “How normal is the current Global Warming trend?”, “Is Global Warming man-induced”, “What is causing it?”; “Is CO2 good or bad?”; “Can we fix it?”

Goodbody says that preparing the talk was prompted by a personal need to better understand the arguments for and against the extent to which man’s activities are inducing global warming. He uses his geological background to put current Global Warming in the context of earth history, reviewing the causes of natural climate change before man’s industrial activities began affecting the environment.

“It is important to realize that Climate Change is a normal process on our dynamic Earth, governed by a number of both extraterrestrial and terrestrial factors,” says Goodbody.

“It is also important to understand that man’s activities are having a significant effect on our environment, and that there evidence that these effects are contributing to climate change. This is an enormous and complex subject, with significant implications for society and the biosphere. We hear about international intent to limit warming through The Paris Accord, but how many of us have a clear idea of what this accord is and how we are performing against our commitments?”

Come listen to how the wisdom of Yogi Berra relates to this important subject.

If you have any questions phone the Ladysmith Museum at 250-245-0423 and leave a message.

The Ladysmith & District Historical Society’s “Historically Speaking” series is grounded in early history. While the presentations often feature archival photos and stories from the past, the topics are relevant to our community today. Our goal is to present information that today’s community will find thought-provoking and useful. These talks are free because there should never be a barrier to education. Donations and volunteers are appreciated.

Gold, Diamonds, & Ladysmith’s Role in the Second Boer War, March 7, 2020

GOLD, DIAMONDS and Ladysmith’s role in the Second Boer War

It was just 120 years ago that our picturesque town of Ladysmith was officially its name. It was named that because James Dunsmuir founder of the Town had just received word that the British Forces, including Canada, had broken the siege of Ladysmith, South Africa.  The siege had lasted 118  days and the citizens and the trapped troops face constant shelling and lack of food and good water. The fate of the Ladysmith was world news as it was a test of Britain’s military resolve.

Come hear why the war started, come hear about the diamond mines and the goldfield and Ladysmith’s role, presented by Rob Johnson.  Saturday, March 7, at 11 am, at the Ladysmith Museum 741 1st Ave.

Admission is free, donations welcomed.

Ladysmith & History of Fires – Risks & Prevention!

Our “Historically Speaking” series continues with Ladysmith & The History of Fires – Risks & Prevention, presented by Alex Stuart and hosted by Ladysmith Fire Chief Ray Delcourt, on Thursday, March 12, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. at the Ladysmith Fire Hall – 810 – Sixth Ave.

A Guardian Fire Shield™ Auto Fire Suppression Unit will be drawn for one successful guest.

Join us for an informative session of the History of Fires in Ladysmith – Related Risks & Prevention. Admission is free, donations are welcomed.

The  Ladysmith & District Historical Society’s “Historically Speaking” series is grounded in early history. While the presentations often feature archival photos and stories from the past, the topics are relevant to our community today. Our goal is to present information that today’s community will find thought-provoking and useful.

New Annual Heritage Award to be presented Feb 20, 2020

The Ladysmith & District Historical Society is pleased to announce that the first Ladysmith Heritage Awards will be presented on Feb 20, 2020, at the Ladysmith Museum in conjunction with the Ladysmith Chamber of commerce’s 90th Anniversary Celebration. Please join us from 5 pm to 7 pm for refreshments and cake. Presentations and awards will be at 6 pm.

Please RSVP to the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce by Feb 18 at 250-245-2112.

The awards are to recognize the businesses, individuals and societies that have played a key role during the year in their actions or initiatives in preserving or promoting local heritage.

The award recipients will be announced during February’s BC Heritage Week.

Anyone can nominate, including nominating themselves, their business or their society. Nominations have been extended to  January 20,  2020. Email: info@ladysmithhistoricalsociety.ca





Website/Social Media

How did this individual, business or non-profit group help to preserve, and/or promote local heritage in Ladysmith and surrounding areas of Saltair and North Oyster?




Nominated by:

Contact info:

BC Family Day & BC Heritage Events

Ladysmith & District Historical Society is partnering with the community to create a memorable Heritage Week.


The activities kick off with B.C. Family Day “A Day to Remember” on Monday, February 17, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ladysmith Museum. See the new Saltair Quilters exhibit, including their Canada 150 quilt. Play vintage board games, pose for a family portrait, watch Buster Keaton in The General, one of the greatest silent movies ever made, and enjoy free popcorn and drinks thanks to financial support from the government of B.C.


Then on Thursday, February 20, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., drop by and say “Happy Anniversary” to the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce, who celebrates 90 years of serving Ladysmith and Area as the “Voice of Business.” Join them for refreshments at the Ladysmith Museum. Speeches and the new Ladysmith Heritage Awards will be presented at 6 p.m. RSVP at admin@ladysmithcofc.com or call 250-245-2112.


Saturday, February 22, is a full day of activities. It kicks off with a free historic downtown Ladysmith walking tour by Rob Johnson. Meet at the Metal Collage at 11 a.m (corner of First Ave. and Gatacre). Tour ends at the Ladysmith Museum at noon. Light refreshments served, courtesy of Ladysmith Downtown Business Association.


Then on Saturday, February 22, head over to the waterfront for a day of fun from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 614 and 616 Oyster Bay Drive. Visit the Locomotive Shop, the First Aid Shed and the Ladysmith Maritime Society’s Heritage Boat Restoration Shop. Check out the SFN Displays. Visit the Heritage Railyard. Ride a rail hand pump car. The Ladysmith Kinsmen will have hot dogs and refreshments available.

One of the highlights of the event is the century-old restored boxcar that is being transformed into a “Discovery Box Car”  with activities and interactive displays.

These events are brought to you thanks to the support of the Town of Ladysmith, Province of B.C., Ladysmith Maritime Society, Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce, Ladysmith Downtown Business Association, TAKE 5 and the Chronicle.

We Have Received A Provincial Family Day Grant

The Ladysmith & District Historical Society has received a B.C. Government grant under the Family Day Program.

Under the Family Day Program, the B.C. Government is providing grants “for free Family Day events in communities through the BC Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) and the BC Museums Association (BCMA).”

Here is a link to more information about the Family Day Grant program.

Ladysmith Museum
Ladysmith Museum