Home Decades 1980s 1981

1981

January

01 – Greece becomes the 10th member of the Common Market.

02 – Fire breaks out at La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy.

05 – 38-year-old long-distance lorry driver Peter Sutcliffe confesses to the Yorkshire Ripper killings. Sutcliffe murdered 13 women over a four-year period.

08 – London postal worker intercepts bomb sent to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by Scottish Socialist Republican League.

13 – Australian Woolworths bomber caught in trap.

14 – President Jimmy Carter delivers his farewell address, saying that the threat of nuclear destruction, the physical resources of the planet, and the “pre-eminence of the basic rights of human beings” should be the most pressing concerns of the nation.

15 – Legislation introduced in the US Senate to make this date, (the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr) a national holiday.

16 – Boxer Leon Spinks is mugged and has his gold teeth stolen.

18 – A fierce fire kills 18 at an all-night West Indian party in Deptford, South London. Foul play is suspected but an official inquest returns an open verdict.

20 – Ronald Reagan, at 69 the oldest man to assume the presidency, is inaugurated. Minutes later, all 52 US hostages are released from the US embassy in Teheran. Their total time in captivity was 444 days.

21 – Sir Norman Stronge, Northern Ireland’s former parliamentary speaker, is assassinated, along with his son, by terrorists.

25 – Jiang Qing, widow of Chairman Mao, and Zhang Chunqiao receive death sentences suspended for two years. The other two members of the “Gang of Four” receive long jail sentences.

25 – Fanny Thomas, oldest living American, dies in San Gabriel, CA.

25 – Oakland Raiders defeat Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl, become first wildcard team to win NFL championship.

27 – Recession gloom deepens in the UK as the unemployment rate breaks the 10% barrier.

28 – Freighter Olympic Glory spills one million gallons of oil into Galveston Bay, TX after ship collision.

29 – Adolfo Suarez resigns as prime minister of Spain.

February

01 – Australian Captain Greg Chappell’s decision to bowl the last ball underarm against New Zealand at the MCG outrages fans and cricket officials in both camps. Critics say Australia’s last-ball victory demeans the game and has done great harm to the country’s sporting image. With NZ tail ender Brian McCechnie needing a six off the last ball to tie the result, Greg Chappell instructs his younger brother Trevor to bowl underarm along the ground. McKechnie blocks the ball and the crowd of 52,990 – a world record for a limited over match – erupts in a deafening roar of disapproval for a team it has supported wholeheartedly. Chappell’s decision obliterates what had been a magnificent day’s cricket with Australia first scoring 4/235 in its 50 overs and NZ making a bold effort for victory in finishing with 8/229.

03 – Gro Harlem Brundtland becomes Norway’s first woman prime minister.

08 – American Jim Morgan dies during international bobsledding race in Italy.

08 – 19 spectators are killed and 50 others injured in a stampede after a football match at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Greece.

08 – New York Islander hockey player Mike Bossy ties record of 50 goals in 50 games.

09 – US 50’s rock singer Bill Haley, dies in his sleep aged 56.

09 – Polish prime minister Josef Pinkowski resigns and is replaced by General Wojciech Jaruzelski.

10 – Fire at Las Vegas Hilton claims eight lives, injures 198.

12 – Hotel busboy admits starting fire in Las Vegas Hilton.

13 – Australian press magnate Rupert Murdoch buys the London Times for £11 million.

14 – Earthquake strikes Naples, Italy.

14 – 49 people die at a St Valentines dance when fire sweeps through a disco in the Dublin suburb of Artane.

17 – In Italy, Red Brigade terrorists murder head of Milan hospital.

19 – The Coroner investigating the disappearance of baby Azaria Chamberlain at Ayers Rock in August 1980 finds that a Dingo took the child and an unknown person helped dispose of the body.

23 – In Spain, Colonel Tejero Monila storms the Cortes with 200 civil guards and attempts a coup.

23 – Shell tanker runs aground in Jamaica, causes oil slick.

24 – Jean Harris is convicted of murdering “Scarsdale Diet” Dr Herman Tarnower.

24 – Engagement of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer announced.

March

01 – IRA prisoner Bobby Sands begins a hunger strike in Northern Ireland.

02 – Four senior British politicians leave the Labour Party and set up a new Social Democratic Party (SDP).

06 – CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite presides over his last newscast. He is replaced by Dan Rather.

10 – Disney Pictures announce the creation of Disney Channel, their own pay-cable television channel.

19 – Technician dies during countdown test of space shuttle Columbia.

20 – Former Argentinean president Isabel Perón is sentenced to jail for 8 years in Argentina.

20 – Jean Harris is sentenced to 15-years-to-life for the murder of “Scarsdale Diet” Dr Herman Tarnower.

24 – Great Train Robber, Ronald Biggs, is arrested in Barbados after having been kidnapped in Brazil by British special forces. Biggs successfully fights extradition.

26 – In Britain, the new Social Democratic Party is launched.

26 – Comedienne Carol Burnett wins her libel suit against The National Enquirer. She donates her $1.6 million to charities.

29 – The London Marathon is run for the first time.

30 – President Reagan is shot in the chest by a 25-year old disc jockey as he leaves the Hilton Hotel in Washington where he had been speaking to a trade union audience. The 70-year-old President is hit three inches from his heart by a bullet which lodges in his left lung. It is successfully removed at George Washington Hospital and Mr Reagan is said to be in a stable condition with an “excellent” chance of recovery. Three other men are wounded – Jim Brady, the President’s press secretary, a Secret Service agent and a Washington policeman. All four were shot by John Hinckley III, the son of a Denver oil executive. He is a former Yale student who dropped out and had been working as a disc jockey.

30 – Hijacking of Indonesian airliner ends in Thailand with commando assault on plane .

30 – DeWitt Wallace, founder of Reader’s Digest, dies at 91.

31 – Military coup in Thailand overthrows government of Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda.

April

04 – Bucks Fizz win Eurovision Song Contest with Making Your Mind Up.

04 – Brixton (London) ablaze as black youths riot.

04 – Bob Champion wins the Grand National on ‘Aldaniti’.

05 – Bob ‘The Bear’ Hite, founder member of US band Canned Heat, dies of a heart attack, aged 36.

09 – 23rd victim of Atlanta child killer discovered.

10 – Cuban refugee killed in attempted hijacking of Eastern Airlines flight from New York to Miami.

10/12 – Many police and civilians are injured during three days of race riots in Brixton, South London.

10 – Imprisoned IRA member Bobby Sands wins seat in British parliament.

11 – President Reagan is released from hospital after assassination attempt.

11 – Actress Valerie Bertinelli marries rocker Eddie Van Halen.

12 – First US Space Shuttle, Columbia, is launched.

12 – Boxer Joe Louis dies.

12 – Prince Charles visits Australia.

13 – Janet Cooke of the Washington Post wins the Pulitzer Prize for her story on a child heroin addict, which later turns out to be a complete fiction.

14 – Space Shuttle Columbia lands successfully at Edwards AFB, California.

19 – Body of another young black male found in Atlanta.

20 – John Phillips of rock group Mamas & Papas begins serving sentence for drug pushing.

21 – Former Yippie Abbie Hoffman begins prison sentence today.

22 – Largest bank robbery in U.S. history ($33 million) takes place in Tucson, Arizona.

22 – Violence follows funerals of two youths killed by British army truck during recent riots in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

23 – Barbados refuses to honour British request for extradition of Great Train Robber Ronald Biggs, who is set free.

24 – Reagan lifts the 15-month embargo on grain shipments to the USSR.

24 – IBM-PC computer is introduced.

27 – Another body of black youth discovered in Atlanta, GA.

27 – Ringo Starr marries Barbara Bach in London.

29 – Peter Sutcliffe admits that he was the Yorkshire Ripper who attacked and killed 13 women during a four-year reign of terror. He denies murdering them but admits to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. But the judge, Mr Justice Boreham, rules that a jury should decide the defendant’s state of mind.

30 – New York City celebrates Empire State Building’s 50th anniversary.

May

02 – ‘Pleasant Colony’ wins Kentucky Derby.

04 – General Motors introduces new J-cars.

05 – The Mets beat the Yankees 4-1 in the 16th and final Mayor’s Trophy Game, New York City.

05 – IRA prisoner Bobby Sands dies in the Maze prison, Belfast, after 65 days on a hunger strike.

06 – USAF plane, a satellite-tracking EC135, explodes and crashes in western Maryland, killing all 21 crew members aboard.

06 – Freighter and ferry collide near Statue of Liberty, NY.

09 – Muhammad Ali donates $400,000 reward for arrest and conviction of Atlanta child killer.

10 – Socialist Francois Mitterand defeats Valery Giscard d’Estaing in French presidential election, ending 23 years of conservative government.

11 – Jamaican reggae star, Bob Marley, dies of cancer in a Miami hospital, aged 36.

11 – Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe claims God chose him to kill prostitutes.

11 – Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats debuts in London.

12 – IRA hunger striker Francis Hughes dies.

13 – Pope John Paul II is shot by a Turkish gunman but after a five-hour operation surgeons say they hope he will make a full recovery. The Pope was driving in his white, open-top Jeep style vehicle through a crowd of 20,000 in St Peter’s Square. It was his weekly audience in which he blesses crowds. He was hit by four bullets, two of which lodged in the lower intestine. Two women standing near him were also hit, and one was seriously injured.

14 – USSR launches Soyuz 40.

14 – Boston Celtics win basketball’s national championship, defeating Houston Rockets.

15 – Zara Anne Elizabeth Phillips is born, daughter of Princess Anne.

21 – Jailed IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh dies.

21 – New York Islanders win hockey’s Stanley Cup.

21 – Francois Mitterand inaugurated as Socialist president of France.

22 – Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe is found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of seven others.

22 – Street violence increases in Northern Ireland following the death of IRA hunger striker Patsy O’Hara.

24 – Dixon of Dock Green actor Jack Warner dies.

25 – Young black man found in Chattahoochee River said to be 28th victim of Atlanta serial killer.

25 – Clad in Spiderman outfit, Dan Goodwin climbs Chicago’s Sears Tower and is arrested at the top.

27 – A US Marine Corp jet, landing on the carrier USS Nimitz during the night, crashes, causing a fire and killing 14. Traces of marijuana are found in the remains of some of the servicemen killed.

29 – Woman seizes Ohio TV station and takes hostage.

30 – Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman assassinated in coup attempt; VP Abdus Sattar takes control of government.

June

07 – Israeli planes bomb Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad.

12 – Pro baseball players begin their first-ever mid-season strike over the issue of compensation to owners when players become free agents. It lasts for 50 days.

13 – Marcus Sargeant, an unemployed youth from Folkestone, fires six blank shots at the Queen as she rides down The Mall for the Trooping of the Colour. Sargeant is charged under the Treason Act 1842 with willfully discharging a gun with intent to harm Her Majesty.

16 – After visiting the People’s Republic of China, Secretary of State Alexander Haig announces that the US will now sell arms to Beijing.

17 – Gunman kills four in a bank before being shot by police in Rochester, NY.

19 – European Space Agency launches two satellites.

19 – George Washington’s false teeth stolen from Smithsonian Institute.

21 – Wayne Williams is charged with the serial murders of 28 black children and young adults.

22 – Supreme Court rules, 4–4, that former president Nixon and three top aides may be required to pay monetary damages for the unconstitutional wiretap of the home telephone of former national security aide.

22 – Mark Chapman pleads guilty to the charge of murdering John Lennon outside the Dakota Building in New York in 1980.

24 – The new Humber suspension bridge is opened to traffic in the UK. It has the longest single-span in the world.

28 – A bomb destroys the headquarters of the Islamic Republican party in Teheran. 72 people are killed, including four cabinet members.

30 – Jerry Lee Lewis is rushed to hospital in Memphis for an operation to patch a hole in his stomach. When doctors announce that The Killer has no more than a 50-50 chance of surviving, Johnny Cash offers a moment of silent prayer at Lewis’ bedside.

July

02 – The pound slumps to $1.88 US – its lowest level in four years.

02 – A Pakistani woman and her three children are killed when their house in Walthamstow is set on fire. The following evening, a concert in Southall is the scene of bitter fighting between skinheads and Asian youths.

03 – A race riot breaks out in Southall, West London, following a concert featuring The 4 Skins, The Last Resort and The Business at the Hambrough Tavern. The fighting between skinheads and Asian youths ends with the tavern being burned to the ground.

04/15 – Riots break out in Toxteth, Liverpool, and other parts of the UK, in the worst scenes of civil disorder ever seen in Britain.

07 – The first flight across the English Channel by a solar-powered machine is made by the American-built Solar Challenger.

08 – Banks and steel industry in France nationalised by Socialist government.

08 – IRA hunger striker Joe McDonnell dies.

11 – France performs nuclear test at Mururoa Island.

13 – IRA hunger striker Martin Hurson dies.

15 – FDA approves artificial sweetener aspartame.

16 – Harry Chapin dies in a car crash aged 38.

17 – More than 150 people are killed in raids by Israeli aircraft bombing Beirut and other Palestinian bases in Lebanon.

18 – More than 110 die in collapse of aerial walkways in the lobby of Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City; 188 injured.

19 – Government refuses to negotiate with IRA hunger strikers in Belfast prison.

22 – Sentence of life imprisonment pronounced on Mehmet Ali Agca for attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II.

25 – Rugby fans clash with anti-apartheid demonstrators in New Zealand during a tour by the South African team.

27 – More rioting erupts in Liverpool.

29 – 700 million TV viewers worldwide watch the Prince of Wales marry Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul’s Cathedral.

30 – Gambian President Sir Dawda, Kairaba Jawara overthrown while out of country to attend royal wedding in London.

31 – Panamanian leader General Omar Torrijos dies in plane crash.

31 – Mother of IRA hunger striker Patrick Quinn gives authorities permission to save his life.

August

01 – MTV, television’s first 24-hour music channel, premieres at 12:01 and changes the music business forever.

01 – IRA hunger striker Kevin Lynch dies in Belfast prison; reaction on streets shows weakening support for strikers.

02 – IRA hunger striker Kieran Doherty dies in Belfast prison.

03 – 13,000 members of PATCO, the air traffic controllers union, go on a nationwide strike. Reagan gives them two days to return to work or else lose their jobs.

03 – Mafia chief Carlos Marcello convicted in FBI ‘Brilab’ sting operation.

04 – Reagan’s plan to reduce income taxes is passed by Congress. The bill reduces income taxes by 5% as of October 1, 10% as of 1 July 1982 and a further 10% from July 1, 1983.

05 – Reagan administration sends termination notices to all air traffic controllers on strike; PATCO union leaders arrested.

07 – Over one million Solidarity members strike in Poland over food shortages.

08 – IRA hunger striker Thomas McElwee dies in Belfast’s Maze Prison.

10 – President Reagan authorises production of the neutron bomb.

12 – East German successfully escapes across Berlin Wall to West Germany.

12 – IBM introduces the PC (Personal Computer) with 64k of RAM and a single floppy disk drive and PC-DOS version 1.0.

15 – Fatalities result when a crane collides with an amusement park ride in Hamburg, West Germany.

15 – Imprisoned IRA hunger striker Patrick Quinn agrees to end strike.

16 – New Zealand’s 13-0 defeat of Fiji sets record for highest score in World Cup soccer.

19 – US aircraft shoot down two Libyan jets over the Gulf of Sidra after the planes open fire on the US Navy. Libya claims the Gulf is Libyan territory, while the US insists that the body of water 60 miles off the coast of Libya is international territory.

20 – Imprisoned IRA hunger striker Michael Devine dies in Belfast, N. Ireland.

21 – Family of jailed IRA hunger striker Patrick McGeown give authorities permission to save his life.

22 – Julian Knott makes the first crossing of the English Channel by solar-powered balloon in 75 minutes.

24 – John Lennon‘s killer, Mark Chapman, is sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison.

24 – Church of England becomes the Anglican church in Australia.

25 – Kings Cross (Sydney) fire kills nine people.

30 – Iranian President and Prime Minister assassinated in bomb blast.

September

04 – Four gunmen assassinate the French ambassador in the Lebanon.

04 – The Agriculture Department classifies ketchup and pickle relish as vegetables in its retooling of the school lunch program.

06 – Civil unrest grows in Poland as the price of bread and cereals trebles. The independent trade union Solidarity calls for free elections.

07 – Floods in the northern Shansi province of China kill 764 people and injure 5,000 others. 200,000 are left homeless.

11 – USSR warns Polish government about its loss of control and concessions to protesters.

18 – France’s President Mitterand abolishes guillotine.

19 – 300 people are drowned when a river boat overturns in the Amazon, Brazil.

19 – Simon and Garfunkel reunite for a concert in New York’s Central Park which attracts half a million fans and is commemorated with an international TV telecast and a live album.

21 – Belize becomes independent. It is the last British colony on the continental mainland of America to do so.

22 – 35 soldiers die during a NATO exercise in Turkey after a jet crashes into infantry.

25 – Sandra Day O’Connor, 51, of Arizona – a proponent of the death penalty and abortion rights – becomes the first woman sworn in to the US Supreme Court.

October

03 – Hunger strike in Belfast’s Maze prison is called off after 10 deaths.

06 – President Anwar Sadat of Egypt is assassinated in Cairo by Muslim fundamentalist soldiers. He is succeeded by Hosni Mubarak on October 10.

16 – Actor William Holden dies in California.

18 – In Greece, the first socialist government is elected under Andreas Papandreou.

24 – Edith Head, Hollywood’s most celebrated costume designer, dies in Hollywood, CA.

25 – Record-breaking demonstrations are held in London, Rome, Paris and Brussels against the deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe.

November

01 – Antigua becomes independent.

05 – Sweden releases a Soviet submarine after capturing it ten days prior when it ran aground in Swedish waters.

14 – The space shuttle Columbia completes its historic second mission, marking the first time a manned vehicle is reused for another space voyage.

18 – In a televised address that is also broadcast in Europe, President Reagan outlines a four-point arms control proposal, saying that the US will cancel its plans to deploy medium range Pershing 2 and cruise missiles in Europe if the USSR agrees to dismantle its own medium-range missiles on the continent.

20 – A new inquest is ordered into the death of Azaria Chamberlain, following a Supreme Court hearing in which Mr Justice Toohey hears evidence from Northern Territory police. Mr Justice Toohey is acting on an application from the Northern Territory Chief Minister, Mr Everingham, for an order quashing the finding of the original inquest. Mr Justice Toohey says new evidence, if accepted, was likely to prove that a Dingo did not take the baby.

29 – Actress Natalie Wood drowns off the coast of California. Many believe her death isn’t an accident.

December

03 – Martial law is imposed in Poland. Solidarity is banned and its leader, Lech Walesa, is placed under arrest.

04 – President Reagan authorises covert domestic intelligence operations by the CIA and other agencies.

04 – Triple murderer Deuel Wilhelm Davies is given a 10,000-year prison sentence in Alabama, USA. The (rather meaningless) sentence is a world record.

05 – Elizabeth Canham, a British theology teacher, is ordained as a priest in the USA. She is the first British woman to become a priest.

14 – Israel annexes the Golan Heights, which it had captured from Syria during the 1967 war. The UN Security Council declares the annexation is illegal.

17 – American NATO commander Brigadier General James Dozier is kidnapped by Red Brigade terrorists in Vienna.

20 – All eight crew members of the Penlee lifeboat die trying to rescue survivors from the shipwrecked Union Star.

20 – The Polish Ambassador Romuald Spasowski is granted political asylum in the USA.

22 – Leopoldo Galtieri becomes president of Argentina.

22 – Madness frontman Suggs marries singer Bette Bright.

29 – President Reagan responds to the USSR’s imposition of martial law in Poland by outlawing the sales of equipment to be used in the Siberian gas pipeline, and by ending negotiations on the new long-term grain purchase agreement between the two superpowers.

31 – Alarming reports from Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York suggest that a new type of lung infection and skin cancer may be common in homosexuals. It appears to destroy the body’s immune system so that after a period of weight loss the victim succumbs to infections.

31 – A military coup in Ghana sees President Hilla Liman deposed by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings.

Also This Year . . .

  • The European Monetary Fund (EMF) is set up and the European Currency Unit (ECU) is introduced.
  • 450,000 transistors now fit on a silicon chip 1/4-inch square.
  • Sydney Centrepoint Tower is completed.
  • ‘Just A Dash’ wins Melbourne Cup.
  • Australian rugby league team Parramatta win their first premiership with a 21-11 win over Newtown in the NSW rugby league grand final.
  • American research chemist Spencer Silver is working for the 3M Corporation trying to produce the strongest glue in history when in 1970 he spectacularly fails by inventing a glue that will not stick permanently to anything. It is another 11 years before a colleague, Arthur Fry, finds a (now famous) use for it and “Post-It Notes” are born.
  • First subscription TV service begins in Britain. It is called Starview.
  • Britney Spears is born in Kentwood, Louisiana.
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