This is St Dunstan’s Day, celebrated by some of the churches and other institutions which bear his name. Born in Somerset in the early tenth century, Dunstan studied at Glastonbury Abbey and became abbot there, way back in 945. He instituted a couple of major reforms as Archbishop of Canterbury, some of which were very unpopular, such as the revival of monasticism in England and the obligatory payment of tithes by landowners. Patron saint of goldsmiths, his emblem is a pair of metal worker’s tongs!
According to Devon legend, St Dunstan was a keen brewer of beer who made a pact with the Devil to ensure the destruction of the apple crop on which his rivals, the cider makers, depended.
On St Dunstan’s Day in 1980, Mount St Helens volcano erupted killing 57 people. The victims closest to the eruption were killed almost instantly when an earthquake triggered a huge landslide that unleashed a sideways blast that sent clouds of hot gas, ash and rock speeding away from the volcano.
The eruption of Mount St Helens and El Chichon in Mexico two years later were the first two incidents when pyroclastic flows – clouds of very hot gas, ash and rock that move at hundreds of miles per hour – were studied using modern scientific techniques. Mount St Helens remains active and has erupted periodically since 1980. A full list of those who lost their lives in the eruption has been made available online.