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Churchill and the Duke

Churchillians celebrate Sir Winston’s Birthday on
John Wayne’s Wild Goose with Duke’s daughter

Aissa Wayne SoCal ChurchilliansAissa Wayne speaks of her father’s admiration for Churchill

Members of the International Churchill Society from up and down the west coast of North America gathered in Newport Beach, California to celebrate Sir Winston Churchill’s 142nd birthday with a lunch cruise onboard the Wild Goose, once the private yacht of screen legend John Wayne. Guest of honor Aissa Wayne told the audience that her father regarded Churchill as one of his two great heroes, the other being director John Ford, who propelled the Duke’s film career into stardom.

Members came from as far away as British Columbia and Arizona to attend the event, which involved a cruise around Newport Bay. Gregory B. Smith, President of the Northern California Chapter of ICS, made the trip to Southern California to present a copy of his book The American Ancestry of Sir Winston S. Churchill to Aissa and explain to everyone the family connection between Winston Churchill and John Wayne, whose real last name was Morrison. The Morrisons were related to the Jeromes, the family of Churchill’s mother Jennie. Wayne was a fifth cousin, twice removed of the Prime Minister making his daughter Aissa precisely an eighth cousin of Churchill’s great-grandchildren.

Although unable to attend, two of the great-grandchildren—Randolph Churchill and his sister Jennie—both sent their regrets but expressed their pleasure at knowing that they can claim two dukes in the family along with the Duke of Marlborough. Jennie Churchill sent a message in which she said the following: “You have to know that as a child Randolph made us watch John Wayne’s films all the time!!!”

In a conversation with Finest Hour editor David Freeman, Aissa discussed the many things she learned about her family connections with Sir Winston while preparing her article for the spring 2016 edition of Finest Hour. Also joining the discussion was Bert Minshall, who worked aboard the Wild Goose throughout the years it was owned by the Wayne family and was the last skipper of the boat before it was sold shortly prior to John Wayne’s death in 1979. In his book about that experience On Board with the Duke, Minshall—himself originally from England—remembers frequently seeing Wayne reading and re-reading Churchill’s books while relaxing on the Wild Goose.

In appreciation for her support, Aissa received several appropriate gifts from the International Churchill Society including a signed copy of Candice Millard’s best-selling new book Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill. Naturally there was also a bottle of Pol Roger champagne included in the gift bag as well as a command ball cap from the USS Winston S. Churchill provided by the ship’s current commanding officer CDR Paul M. Allgeier—an appropriately nautical gift to present to John Wayne’s daughter on her father’s yacht, which was originally a US Navy minesweeper built during the Second World War.

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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

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