My very kind hosts. Mary and Christopher. Ladies and gentlemen. I won’t start off with a pun. I was truly moved by what Mary said. It was, and I’’m not exaggerating, more than I deserved. Certainly the rewards of those 13 years were worth more than the little dust that there was. You expressed yourself very movingly, and I am deeply grateful to you. As for the privilege I had of that association at that time, I don’t think that I would have enjoyed it more, whatever the period of your father’s great life it had been. I am moved by your words. I will say no more about that.
Speaking now between Mary and Christopher. I feel rather like a priest in a small Italian village, getting up to make a sermon and finding not one but two popes sitting there.
But since you insist on a pun, I will give you a pun. It is about not 111aki11g puns. The jester of a medieval sovereign insisted on making puns and the sovereign finally said. ‘I’ve had quite enough of your terrible puns! One more and I will hang you.’ The jester did make one, and the sovereign duly sent him to the gallows. But at the last moment he repented. and thought he’d been a bit hard as he quite liked the jester. So he sent a galloper to reach him at the foot of the gallows, who told him, “If you promise never to make another pun, you will be spared. And the jester sighed and said, ‘No noose is good news.’”
I am very much honoured by your invitation. The International Churchill Society has achieved an astonishing record for its comparatively short span of life since it was reorganized and restarted in 1981. To maintain and restore Winston Churchill’s many written works, which is one of the objects of the Churchill Literary Foundation, is a true historical service, and a very unusual thing to do. People have tried to do it for commercial reasons, but to keep it going on its own worth is something that the future will be very grateful for. Whether you’re a “phile” or a “phobe,” you ‘ll be grateful.
I won’t say much about the Other Club, which has met here since it was founded by Winston Churchill in 1911 . I think you’ve fixed the scene of this dinner very imaginatively. Christopher, who has been a member much longer than me, will speak about it. But let me say this: At the Other Club there are no speeches. You here tonight have no such luck!
Most great figures go through a period of eclipse after their death, which may or may not be permanent. Winston Churchill, who in his life conformed to no pattern, continues his own tradition. Here we have your activities as an admirable example. There are quite a number of commemorative organisations established during his lifetime. Churchill College was founded at Cambridge with its emphasis on technology; it now has a most distinguished scientific record and numerous Nobel Prize winners. The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in this country has, since 1966, had more than 60,000 candidates, has awarded traveling fellowships to 2000 people, to study abroad in a wide variety of subjects. There are many clubs and societies here and abroad. I wonder if any other contemporary figure has excited such long international interest of such a benevolent kind. Generally speaking, all these organisations have been mercifully free of the kind of individual who not only feel he has invented Winton Churchill, but patented him too.
Richard Langworth told me that I could use the same speech that I made in Canada in 1982, to the Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver Churchill Societies. But I thought it would be a little rough on anybody who may have been there! It is also unwise to start off bored with one’s own speech. I‘m afraid you’re not going to have the good fortune as an audience to which, some years ago. a Commonwealth High Commissioner spoke in this hotel. The toastmaster stumbled and advised the company. “Ladies and Gentlemen, pray for the silence of His Excellency the High Commissioner …” The High Commissioner rose and said, ”Ladies and Gentlemen, your prayers have been answered.”
There is, however, a good deal of advice available on how to make a speech, some of it less useful than the rest. Ernest Bevin, who I believe to be the greatest foreign secretary since the war, once told me that if one was addressing a rowdy audience like the Boilermakers Union, one should lower one’s voice: because boilermakers are occupationally deaf, and they have to shut up if they want to hear you. Alas I am sorry to say that it has not yet fallen to my lot to address a rowdy audience of boilermakers.
I thought I might take a leaf out of Randolph Churchill ‘s book when he was beginning to write the life of his father. He wrote, “He shall be his own biographer.” I intend to base what I am going to say on quotations of Sir Winston. Actually some of his remarks were recorded by several people, who claimed to have heard them personally on different occasions –and they were usually correct. He very often repeated a remark he thought worthwhile if it fitted the occasion.
It is of course the case that he varied his assessment of historical fact in differing situations. In 1940 the head of an important section of the London transport system refused to put his name to a statement that the London transport services were running normally despite an enemy air attack. He said, reasonably enough, ‘It’s just not true.” The Prime Minister was convinced that it was necessary to say something like this for morale reasons. He sent for the gentleman concerned and reasoned with him at great length, all to no avail. His conscience was impregnable. Eventually the Prime Minister dismissed him with a sigh: “I will do violence to no man’s con science.” After he left, the P.M. added, “And never let me see that impeccable bus conductor again. “
Quotations are a very rich vein because Winston Churchill’s political life extended from 1900 over 60 years. I will e n d e a v o ur to draw on it a little to throw a bit of light on the lesser–known sides of his character, because the broad sweep has already been closely recorded not least by himself. His friends were not slow to take note of this. About The World Crisis Sir Samuel Hoare said, “Winston has written a huge book all about himself and called it The World Crisis.’ He himself rejoined. “I have not always been wrong. History will bear me out, particularly as I shall write that history myself.”
In a debate on the newspaper industry when Winston Churchill was Member for Dundee, a colleague of his spoke of a whole list of newspapers: “I finally come to the Dundee Advertiser – I I mean the paper, not the Member.”
I still think that we all have reason to be pleased that this particular original source was so
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