Paul Bew, Churchill and Ireland, Oxford University Press, 208 pages, £16.99/ $29.95.
Review by Robert McNamara
Robert McNamarateaches History at Ulster University and is the editor of The Churchills in Ireland 1660– 1965: Connections and Controversies (Irish Academic Press, 2011).
What did Winston Churchill really think about Irish nationalism and unionism? Indeed who is the real “Churchill” when it came to Ireland: an ardent home ruler or a diehard unionist Tory? Since he, at least on the surface, changed his mind often regarding both the conflicting communities in Ireland, it is rather difficult to identify a coherent thread, let alone an idée fixe.
Remarkably, this is only the fourth book on the subject out of the many thousands published about Churchill. Paul Bew covers the intersections of Churchill’s career and Ireland from the baby in the pram in the viceregal lodge in Phoenix Park to the 1950s. Mainly he negotiates a delicate balancing act mixing praise and criticism in his portrait. Unlike previous books written on the subject, Bew takes a moderate unionist perspective on some of the issues.
Irish opinions on Winston Churchill are mixed, to say the least. The accusations levelled against Churchill are long. He was the son of Lord Randolph, the man who played the “Orange Card.” He supported coercion and, most infamously, reprisals during the 1919–21 Troubles. He was a leading figure in the Treaty that partitioned Ireland and led to a bitter civil war in the south. He showed no respect for Irish neutrality (and by implication independence) during the Second World War. In a victory broadcast in May 1945, he launched a venomous attack on Irish neutrality, which Eamon de Valera defiantly rebuked in a famous reply. Read More >
John Potter, Pim and Churchill’s Map Room, Northern Ireland War Memorial, 2014, 76 pages, £5.00.
This very slim booklet tells the story of a little-known member of Churchill’s inner entourage, whose experiences deserve to be known about. Richard Pim was very much a Northern Ireland worthy and a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. Shortly before the partition of Ireland in 1922, he had become a police cadet in the Royal Irish Constabulary and, after this date, was appointed a senior civil servant in the newly established government of Northern Ireland. In 1924 he added an important activity to his credentials by joining the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR); he attended regular training, which included exten- sive sea-time, rising to the rank of Commander. As a trained reservist, he was mobilised in September 1939 and was posted to the Admiralty and put in charge of the map-room on the day after Churchill’s re-appointment as First Lord. In May 1940 Pim was promoted to Captain and accompanied Churchill to Downing Street. Pim remained in this position until July 1945 and often was called to brief his master several times a day.
Pim reported to the Prime Minister each morning with a summary of overnight reports. At the time of the Dunkirk evacuation, he asked Churchill for temporary leave of absence so that he could take a boat across the English Channel. He was allowed to do this for a period of four days, when he captained a flat-bottomed barge that carried a number of motor-boats that were launched to bring parties back from shore to ship. It is estimated that he rescued some 3,500 men, including a number of sailors from sunken vessels. Later, at a period of the war when nothing seemed to go right, Churchill told Pim that he was seriously thinking of handing over his load of responsibilities to other shoulders; Pim is reported to have replied, “By God, Sir, you can’t do that!” Read More >
Join or Renew NowPlease join with us to help preserve the memory of Winston Churchill and continue to explore how his life, experiences and leadership are ever-more relevant in today’s chaotic world. BENEFITS >BECOME A MEMBER >
Finest Hour Image
The most recent issues of Finest Hour are available online to members. Join to automatically receive a subscription to BOTH Finest Hour and the Churchill Bulletin.LEARN MORE >VISIT FINEST HOUR ARCHIVE >
The next issue of Finest Hour will be about "Churchill, Race, and Religion." In the foreword, Lord Boateng, Chair of the Churchill Archives Trust, writes: “Sir Winston did not run away from controversy in his life and would not expect anything less in that which has followed. We do owe him and each other, however, civility and respect in the conduct of those arguments—not least, since we owe to him and the global anti-fascist fight, which he helped lead to such good effect, the secure freedom to hold those arguments at all.” … See MoreSee Less
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.
At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.