The 48th Annual Memorial Banquet of the The Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Spencer Churchill Society of Edmonton.
At 19:30 sharp, on Monday, 7 May 2012, a trumpet fanfare was followed by the bagpipes leading the President, Roger Hodkinson and Mr. Randolph Churchill between a guard of honour comprised of Royal Canadian Air Cadets, 570 Sir Winston Churchill Squadron under the command of Captain David Goldingay up to the head table. This ceremonial entrance signalled the beginning of the Right Honourable Sir Winston Spencer Churchill Society of Edmonton’s 48th Annual Memorial Banquet.
The sold-out dinner of over 200 filled the Empire Ballroom to capacity. The glistening medals and honours on formal attire and military uniform matched the elegantly refurbished ballroom dating from 1915. The first Churchill Society in the world was back home where it had begun in 1965. The “homecoming” was akin to the prodigal son’s return after having abandoned the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald for close to thirty years.
Earlier in the day the Board of Directors of the Society had welcomed Randolph and Catherine Churchill on the Terrace of the Hotel Macdonald by recalling letters Sir Winston Churchill had written to his wife Clementine during his visit to Edmonton and his stay at the Hotel Macdonald in 1929. His words were most complimentary to the City and to Canada in general.
After this brief revisit of the long history Edmonton has had with Sir Winston Churchill, the Board walked over to Churchill Square, the focal point of downtown life in Edmonton with the City Hall, Law Courts, Alberta Art Gallery, Winspear Centre where the Edmonton symphony orchestra holds concerts, Citadel Theatre, Stanley A. Milner Library, and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and legal offices all surrounding this central meeting place. Amongst this bustling focus of city life, stands the statute of Sir Winston Churchill, sculpted by Oscar Neman and unveiled in 1989 and rededicated in 2004 on both occasions by the patron the Edmonton Churchill Society, Lady Mary Soames. In brilliant sunshine and before this grand statue which rivals a similar statue located outside the British Parliament Buildings, City of Edmonton Deputy Mayor, Jane Batty, officially proclaimed Monday, 7 May to be Sir Winston Churchill Day in Edmonton in honour of Sir Winston himself and the visit to the city by his great grandson, Randolph Churchill. Randolph and Catherine Churchill received the beautifully framed proclamation as a gift from the City of Edmonton.
Following a tasty lunch in the heart of the original downtown area of Edmonton, the Board members took the Churchills on a short walking tour on one of the city maintained trails along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, crossing from the north to the south side of the river on a “walking bridge” and ending at the Muttart Conservatory. This brief excursion into nature was followed by some private time for our guests in preparation for the evening’s activities.
Before dinner, both Randolph and Catherine Churchill assisted with the presentation of the Society’s student gold, silver and bronze awards in the categories of debating, essay writing and speech making. The medals were presented by the Churchills while the trophies for the winner in each category were presented by members of the family who donated them.
This presentation ceremony was followed by brief interlude whereby the Churchills were able to meet some of the guests who were arriving for the memorial dinner. The four course meal which featured Albert Prime Rib Beef was washed down with wines chosen especially for the occasion. During dinner, music was provided courtesy of the Royal Canadian Artillery Band. In addition, the young winners of the debate, speech and essay contests were introduced with their coaches and the university scholarships were announced. The Loyal Toast and the Royal Salute played by the Royal Canadian Artillery Band were executed with proper dignity. Then, the climax of the evening arrived with the speech delivered by Randolph Churchill.
The speech, “Churchill, European Unity and Economic Turmoil” was a brilliantly crafted talk in which Randolph Churchill wove history and present-day events into a very compelling argument which echoed some of his great grandfather’s concerns raised in the post First World War period. Randolph Churchill reminded his audience about the exploits of Canadian’s, particularly local heroes in Canada’s various wars of the past century. He emphasized the changes which had occurred in his great grandfather’s lifetime by recalling that in 1898 he took part in a cavalry charge with the 21st Lancers in Sudan and less than 50 years later was living as atomic bombs were being dropped at the end of the Second World War. Randolph Churchill reminded his listeners that Winston Churchill had warned the British people about being lulled into thinking that civilized countries had risen above solving disputes through arms. This mistake did not prevent a world war. Just as the western world faced vast debt, deprivation and unemployment in the mid-1920s, an almost identical situation faces us today. Winston Churchill hoped that the League of Nations would secure peace as nations would be bound together by economic enterprise. Unfortunately, for various reasons, this proposed solution proved faulty. For his part, Randolph Churchill wishes the people of Europe to look to free trade, competition, engineering and scientific endeavour to help solve the present crisis. He asked Europe to follow the example of Canada which has appeared to have escaped major economic difficulty. He then ended with the words of Sir Winston Churchill: “Let us…move forward steadfastly together into the storm and through the storm.”
Following his speech which received a standing ovation, Randolph Churchill asked the audience to rise with port glasses full and he proposed the toast to “the Heroic Memory of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.”
With the singing of the national anthem and the departure of the head table, the 48th Annual Memorial Banquet in honour of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill came to a reluctant end.