“Churchill & the Irishman” Provides Rare Insight
For the first time ever there is an exhibition dedicated to the life and career of Brendan Bracken, the publisher and politician who provided the closest political support Winston Churchill received during his Wilderness Years. The exhibit opened this month at the Little Museum of Dublin and includes rare personal letters from Bracken, who ordered his own papers destroyed before his death in 1958. This is a rare glimpse of a rare man.
One of the most intriguing and influential Irishmen of the twentieth century, Brendan Bracken grew up in Dublin, but had an uneasy relationship with Ireland, and was a notorious inventor of his own past. Winston Churchill’s son, Randolph, once described Bracken as “the fantasist whose dreams came true.”
The son of a prominent Fenian and founder member of the GAA, Bracken left Ireland for Australia in the spring of 1916. He was fourteen years old. Later he spent a term in an English public school before rising to prominence as publisher of the Economist and, later, the Financial Times. He also founded the popular journal History Today. Bracken enjoyed a successful career as a Conservative MP, and was Winston Churchill’s closest friend in politics for many years. During the Second World War he served as a very successful Minister of Information in the wartime cabinet.
The curators of Churchill & the Irishman are Charles Lysaght, author of the seminal 1979 biography of Bracken, and the subject’s nephew, who is also called Brendan Bracken. “Without him Churchill might not have survived politically, let alone become Prime Minister,” says Lysaght. “He was also a spin doctor par excellence half a century before the term was invented. And he was the effective founding father of the modern Financial Times, Britain’s highest quality daily newspaper.”
Bracken’s letters home to his mother are a key piece of evidence in this exhibition. They constitute the most intimate record of this elusive subject in his own words. Reflecting on subjects like Churchill, W. B. Yeats, and Anglo-Irish relations, the letters reveal the inner thoughts of a brash young man in a hurry. They were recently purchased at auction by the Little Museum of Dublin.
“The twists and turns of Bracken’s life are an affront to anyone who has a narrow view of what it means to be Irish,” says museum director Trevor White. “We can’t wait to share this extraordinary story with a new generation of global adventurers.”
The exhibition was formally opened by John Ridding, Chief Executive of the Financial Times, on July 1st.
Churchill & the Irishman is open 9am–5pm every day until 28 September 2016 in the Ireland Funds Gallery at the Little Museum of Dublin, 15 St Stephen’s Green.