March 18-24: The supertanker Amoco Cadiz finally split
in two off the coast of Brittany spilling the last of 220,000
tons of crude oil into the Channel. Pollution experts believed
the spill was the worst in marine history.
After covering 70 miles of Brittany coastline there were fears
the slick could destroy Jersey's beaches if the wind changed direction.
An inquiry began into claims the disaster was caused by an argument
over financial terms between the tanker's captain and the master
of a West German tug called to the rescue after the ship's steering
broke in heavy seas. During the argument the towline broke and
the ship drifted on to rocks.
August 6: Pope Paul VI died in Rome and 1978 became the
year of the three Popes. Paul's successor, John Paul I, was a
popular and promising leader who inherited a mixed bag of Catholic
fortunes. His predecessor had taken the radical step of ending
the use of Latin as the sole language for celebrating Mass. Thanks,
to him, the most sacred Christian ceremony was being conducted
around the world in hundreds of languages and local dialects,
bringing the Church ever closer to the people.
And yet Paul had not shifted an inch on one of the most controversial
Catholic doctrines. In his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, he firmly
repeated the Church's age-old ban on artificial birth control.
Would John Paul I take the same strict line? The world would never
know. After a reign of only 33 days he died of a heart attack.
His successor was the first non-Italian Pope for more than 400
years, the Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. He took the name John
Paul II and a new era of Catholicism began.
July 25: A fair-haired girl weighed in at 5lb 12oz at
Oldham General Hospital became the world's first test-tube baby.
Louise Brown and mother Lesley were in excellent shape after the
Caesarian birth just before midnight while dad John, not present
at the 20-minute operation, was said to be over the moon. "She's
beautiful, beautiful," he was told by an excited Patrick Steptoe,
the man who helped pioneer the test-tube baby technique.
The Browns had wanted a child for years but having a baby in
the normal way was ruled out because Mrs Brown's fallopian tubes
were blocked. The birth was a triumph after 10 years of painstaking
research by Mr Steptoe and Cambridge scientist Dr Robert Edwards.
19: Paperboy Carl Bridgewater was shot in the head at point-blank
range after disturbing thieves raiding an isolated farmhouse.
He died instantly from the shotgun blast in the living room at
Yew Tree Farm, Prestwood, near Stourbridge. There was no sign
of a struggle and the police chief leading the murder hunt called
it a "completely cold-blooded killing".
The 13-year-old was found dead by a friend of the elderly couple
at the farm, who were out for the day. Carl, of Ascot Gardens,
Wordsley, was near the end of his evening paper round when he
His father Brian said he was late on his round because he had
been to the dentist. He normally slipped a copy of the Express
& Star just inside the hallway and and had two more papers
to deliver after the farm.
November 29: More than 900 members of an American religious
cult were found dead in the Guyanan jungle in the modern world's
largest instance of mass suicide. Survivors claimed their leader
the Reverend Jim Jones forced them all to drink a cyanide cocktail
in an act of "revolutionary suicide". Earlier the bodies of US
Congressman Leo Ryan and five others, who had been sent to investigate,
were found near the campsite.