“My earliest memories are Ireland,” wrote Winston Churchill in the opening paragraph of his charming memoir My Early Life. And in Ireland, memories of Churchill persist. On May 7, more than 100 people gathered at Dromana House in the enchanting Blackwater Valley of Co. Waterford to attend a seminar entitled “The Arts and High Politics: Winston Churchill—Ireland.” Dromana, perched on a bluff overlooking the Blackwater River, has been in the hands of the Villiers-Stuart family for eight centuries. The current owners—Barbara Grubb of the Villiers-Stuart clan and her husband Nicholas Grubb—presided over an elegant and informative affair.
International Churchill Society Executive Director Michael F. Bishop opened the proceedings with an overview of Churchill’s Irish connections and a look at the activities of the Society and the National Churchill Library and Center. He was followed by four excellent speakers:
In “Churchill’s Favourite Sculptor,” Aurelia Young, daughter of the famed Oscar Nemon and granddaughter of Patrick Villiers-Stuart (who spent his childhood at Dromana), discussed her father’s life and work, especially his close friendship with Winston Churchill and his brilliant busts and statues of the great man.
Mark Leslie, grandson of Sir Shane Leslie (a first cousin of Winston Churchill) and the designer of such brilliant exhibitions as “Yeats: The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats” at the National Library of Ireland and “Churchill: The Power of Words” at the Morgan Library in New York City, explored his family’s connections with Churchill and Bourke Cochran in “The Prime Minister’s Speech.”
Clare Sheridan was another cousin of Churchill who lived in Ireland. She was a sculptor and writer whose works included a bust of Winston and the novel From Mayfair to Moscow. In “Whatever Is Written: The Life and Art of Clare Sheridan,” art historian and curator Peter Murray discussed her work and her extensive connections with Lenin, Trotsky, and other Russian revolutionaries.
The final presentation was “Dev and Churchill: Conflicting Perspectives on Ireland’s Place in British-Irish Relations” by Martin Mansergh, historian, former member of the Irish Parliament, former Irish senator, and an architect of the Good Friday agreement. Dr. Mansergh explored the long and vexed relationship between the wartime prime minister and the longtime leader of the Irish Republic.
This memorable event was another reminder of the worldwide reach of the Churchill legacy, and a fascinating look at the great man’s links to Ireland and the arts.