It is one of those linguistic anomalies when we credit a person for discovering something that was there all the time for instance Swedish pharmacist Carl Wilhelm discovered oxygen on September 30, 1774! What did the human race breathe before then? Sir Isaac Newton 'discovered' gravity around 300 years ago - wouldn't it be great to float around nowadays? Air traffic control would be a nightmare!
Then America was discovered in 1492! It was already populated in every place that Columbus set foot. However, many of these 'discoveries' were the result of great strivings and battles against massive odds both natural and man made and that is really what is being celebrated.
I remembered that at school we had been taught the first few lines of a rhyme to help us remember the date and below I reproduce the whole poem. There are a few versions but this was the most complete although there is considerable dispute as to who wrote the poem originally.
In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.
A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.
Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.
Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.
Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!
"Indians! Indians!" Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But "India" the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.
The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.
Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he'd been told.
He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.
The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.
Today I learned of the existence of this very useful body from a fellow author. It is the Authors' Licencing and Collecting Society. As the saying goes it does what it says on the tin! Very simply it is a group representing writers and it collects royalties that you may be unaware of and pays them to you. Check it out on www.alcs.co.uk