October 4, 2007
Sir Winston Churchill—Interesting Facts and Quotes
G.R. (Randy) Barber
President, International Churchill Society, Canadian Chapter
Chairman: Catherine S. Swift, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests:
Sylvia Morawetz: Principal, S.A.M. Solutions, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada
Ahmed Abdi Ahmed: Senior Student, Westview Centennial Secondary School
Reverend Canon Philip R. Bristow: Senior Pastor, St. Philip’s On-the-Hill Anglican Church, Unionville
Solveig Barber: Professional Singer
The Hon. Henry N. R. Jackman: OC, KStJ, OOnt, CD, LLD, Honorary Chairman, The Empire Life Insurance Company, Former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
John C. Koopman: Partner, Spencer Stuart, and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
Peter K. Large: Barrister and Solicitor, Past President, Churchill Society
Don Cousens: Former Mayor, Town of Markham.
Introduction by Catherine Swift:
I imagine that it would be a rare person who did not agree that Winston Churchill is a giant of history and someone who significantly altered the course of world events in a positive way. When I am looking for quotes, I have found Sir Winston to be one of the most quotable figures of history.
For instance, some of my favourite Churchillian quotes include such gems as: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” “Although prepared for martyrdom, I prefer that it be postponed.” “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” And the famous: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all of the others that have been tried.”
Our speaker today, Randy Barber, is the President of the International Churchill Society, Canadian Chapter. The mission of the Churchill Society is to preserve and promote the accomplishments of Winston Churchill. Randy has a very eclectic biography, having such diverse experience as Chair of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario from 1997 to 2005 and Ward Councillor of the Town of Markham from 1994 to 2000, where he earned the nickname “The Graffiti Fighter.” He was a Senior Account Executive with Callpro Canada Ltd. from 1982 to 1995, a sales manager with VMS Inc. from 1979 to 1982, and Director of Entertainment with the Commonwealth Holiday Inns of Canada from 1971 to 1979. He was also a banker in his early career as an Assistant Branch Manager with the Bank of Montreal from 1966 to 1971. Just last week he was appointed to the National Parole Board for a three-year term. Today he will be speaking on the life accomplishments of one of the world’s greatest citizens, Sir Winston Churchill.
Please join me in welcoming Randy Barber.
Madam President, head table guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for that kind, sincere and accurate introduction. As a “recovering politician,” I do appreciate it. As a matter of fact Madam President, it is most likely the second-best personal introduction I have ever heard. The only one better perhaps was at a speaking engagement a year or two ago when the fellow to introduce me fell ill at the last moment and I was forced to introduce myself!
As I look out over this audience today, I am reminded of a remark made by my friend Senator Hugh Segal. In the last few months, I have been speaking at nine seniors’ homes in the Markham area and of course, Senator Segal addresses the Upper House on occasion. And as I look around this room today, I too feel that I am addressing an audience that still realizes “depends” is a verb and not a noun. Speaking of dependence, I would like to pay tribute and introduce my Churchillian mentor, who handed the reins of the ICS-Canada presidency over to me in 1990—John Plumpton. I have prepared an address today for as Churchill once admonished, “He spoke without a note and almost without a point.”
In 1960, a 16-year-old American high school student sent a letter through the post addressed simply to “The Greatest Man in the World.” The letter was delivered to 28 Hyde Park Gate in London, England. The resident of that address was Sir Winston Churchill. Today, many young people under 30 have no idea who Sir Winston Churchill was. A few years back, Winston Churchill Secondary School in Scarborough conducted a poll of its 1,000 students to see who could identify him. Some thought that he was the first principal of the school. Sadly, many could not even hazard a guess.
Each year for decades Time Magazine names a Person of the Year. In 1950 Winston Churchill was named the Man of the Half Century. He was certainly a candidate for Time’s person of the century (note the politically correct shift!) in the year 2000, coming second only to Albert Einstein. In the United Kingdom in 2005, he was voted “The greatest Briton who ever lived.” There are still six to 12 books written each year about a deceased Victorian aristocrat who died in 1965 at 90 years of age. Let me quote from one of them, by well-known Churchillian, Judge Douglas Russell from Iowa, in his recent book “Winston Churchill—Soldier: The Story of a Gentleman at War.”
“At the height of the Victorian empire, Churchill served as a cavalry officer in the British army, ‘seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth.’ Between 1895 and 1900 he saw combat in Cuba, India, the Sudan and South Africa, was mentioned in dispatches, earned four campaign medals and the Spanish Order of Military Merit, wrote five books, established himself as a popular war correspondent and lecturer, gained international fame as an escaped prisoner of war, and was elected to a seat in Parliament—all before his twenty-sixth birthday.”
Today’s heroes to youth—rock stars and basketball players—pale in comparison. Now my Empire Club blurb promised that I would shatter myths so the first one is that Churchill and his father Lord Randolph saved a boy who would become Sir Sanford Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, from drowning in a bog in Ireland in the 1890s. This heart-warming fallacy has been circulating on the Internet for several years now—it is bunk!! As is the urban myth about Winston’s 125-year-old parrot that has been found in a bordello in Mexico City, swearing a blue streak with an English accent. The Churchills never owned a parrot, and even if they had, one of a long succession of Chartwell cats would likely have “de-perched” it!!
What is true is the fine introduction of Churchill by Empire Club President Hugh Eayrs, as he was about to address a joint meeting of the Empire and Canadian clubs and the Board of Trade in 1929. He said, “The guest of honour, the Rt. Hon. Mr. Winston Churchill, follows logically in the distinguished line of ambassadors of Empire who have come to Toronto in recent months. We have had the Rt. Hon. Mr. Stanley Baldwin, the Rt. Hon. Col. Amery, Sir Austin Chamberlain and that ambassador extraordinary His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales. And now we have Mr. Churchill. No man has served his country and the Empire better. He has held practically every important portfolio in a number of ministries in England. HE HAS NOT YET BEEN PRIME MINISTER. I imagine he is saving that for a little later on. As a statesman, as a soldier, as an author and historian, his services have been signal, but it is rather for his personal qualities than for his achievements that one commends him to this audience. And for one quality in particular—that of personal courage. Dr. Samuel Johnson says, “He that hath not this virtue hath no security for the preservation of any other.” And so gentlemen, here is the Rt. Hon. Mr. Winston Churchill, the gentleman of courage.”
Now I commend this speech to you—an address that was interrupted some 30 times for applause. I humbly beg you not to break that record today. Churchill was a young man in a hurry and always seemed confident in knowing where he was going and what he wanted and that was the prime ministership. He said, “I am not usually accused, even by my friends, of a modest or retiring disposition.”
In 1907, just 33, he said, “We are all worms, but I do believe I am a GLOW WORM.” With his whole being he believed that “the price of greatness is responsibility.” But beginning in the year of his speech here in Toronto and other major cities in Canada, he was in his “wilderness years,” excluded from Cabinet by his own Conservative Party which he had rejoined in 1922, after having been a Liberal since 1904. He was never a member of the Labour Party, which he described as “government of the duds, by the duds and for the duds.” He was not trusted to tow the party line as he opposed independence for India primarily because he feared war between the Muslims and Hindus—which of course eventually did occur in the late 1940s. Churchill also supported King Edward VIII in the abdication crisis of 1936 when it was clear that Chamberlain and the Archbishop of Canterbury wanted the king to resign over his intended marriage to Wallace Warfield Simpson. Now Edward was a personal friend and one of Churchill’s most endearing qualities—and greatest flaws—was his unyielding loyalty to his friends, no matter what the personal cost to him. He described himself to his good friend Lord Beaverbrook, Canadian Max Aitken, originally from New Brunswick and a staunch ally of Churchill’s in his war cabinet, as “a foul-weather friend.”
There is probably no greater example of the right man, at the right place, at the right time, than Winston Churchill in 1940. He had warned against Hitler and Nazism from early times and he had advocated increased military and naval re-armament even when Britain was still recovering from the horrible trauma of the Great War. Churchill was 65 years old when he became Prime Minister on May 10, 1940. He had finally attained his lifelong goal proving true what was said of him in the early 1930s that “England will turn to Churchill when times become forlorn.” And it did!
Today I am part of an organization with over 3,000 members throughout the world—the International Churchill Societies and the Churchill Centre, which celebrate Sir Winston’s enduring place in history and his relevance in today’s world. We publish a high-quality magazine—Finest Hour—four times a year; we republish books by Churchill that are worth $20,000 or more in their signed first editions; we support the work of Sir Martin Gilbert, his official biographer, who has published an eight-volume biography and is now working on the 16th volume of support documents for that biography.
Indeed, on October 16 next, we will host the Canadian launch of Gilbert’s 79th book, “Churchill and the Jews,” at the Albany Club. Our patron, the Lady Soames LG DBE, née Mary Churchill, says of our work that we “keep the record accurate and the memory green.” My wife, Solveig and I, and 250 or so others, helped her celebrate her 85th birthday three weeks ago in Vancouver at the Societies 24th annual worldwide conference.
I wrote to Lady Soames, enclosing a copy of her father’s address to this club some 78 years ago. She has sent me a message of greeting to the Empire Club and to all of you. Soames letter was read. Well then, why DO we study Churchill’s life, his prescience, his faults and foibles? Churchill was really the last of his kind, a sentiment echoed by many a newspaper around the world, seemingly on a daily basis. He was a politician, statesman, orator, writer, historian, painter, bricklayer, prime minister and lover of books, cigars, Pol Roger champagne and French brandy, not to mention Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch. Winston Churchill was always satisfied with the best!
He was born into one of Britain’s great aristocratic families. A grandson of the Duke of Marlborough, he was born in 1874—halfway through Queen Victoria’s reign—at Blenheim in Woodstock, a palace of 320 rooms, three acres of roofs, and 2,700 acres of parks and gardens near Oxford. He proposed to his wife Clementine in one of those gardens called the Temple of Diana, and would later say: “At Blenheim, I made two very important decisions: to be born and marry. I am content with the decision I made on both occasions. I have never had cause to regret either decision.” His full name was Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill—the Spencer giving him a family link to Princess Diana, deceased ex-wife of the next King of England, Charles, Prince of Wales. At a young age he was sent away to school, Harrow, leaving his mother whom he described thusly, “My mother seemed to me a fairy princess; a radiant being possessed of limitless riches and power. She shone for me like the Evening Star. I loved her dearly—but at a distance.”
In the following paragraph, an excerpt from the biography of the author of “Rumpole of the Bailey,” John Mortimer, “Clinging to the Wreckage,” Mortimer was reminiscing with his classmate Oliver of his time at Harrow in 1940, singing the old school songs: “Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, came down to this strange ceremony which he apparently enjoyed. After the school songs were over, Mr. Churchill climbed with difficulty on to the stage. He cannot have been more than 65 years old, but his ancient head emerged from the carapace of his dinner jacket like the hairless pâte of a tortoise, his old hand trembled on the handle of the walking stick, which supported him, and his voice when he spoke, was heavily slurred with brandy and old age. “He seemed to us as young men to be about 103.” Mortimer continued, “I whispered to Oliver, ‘If they ever put HIM in charge of the war, God, help us all!’” “Oh, they wouldn’t do that,” Oliver assured me. “They’ll never do that. A chap in the government told my ma they’d never do that.” How wrong he was and how fortunate for all of us too!!!
Back to Harrow for songs again in 1941, Churchill told the boys, “Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing great and small—large and petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.” Churchill was honoured throughout his life for his command of the English language. He may have contributed to word pictures within the English language more than any person since William Shakespeare. While often accused of ornate and flamboyant rhetoric, particularly in the House of Commons, one must be moved by some of the original phrases penned by Winston Churchill, which still ring out through the decades in their simple majesty. “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.” “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” “We shall never surrender until the new world steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the old.” “And if the British Empire lasts a thousand years, men will still say, THIS was their finest hour.” “Never, in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed, by so many, to so few.” Brevity gave his words so much of their power. He said, “Short words are best, and old words, when short, are best of all. All the greatest things are simple and can be expressed in a single word—Freedom, Justice, Honour, Duty, Mercy, Hope.”
In 1940, when it looked like England would be invaded from occupied France, a civil defence was to be formed. Originally called Local Defence Volunteers or LDVs, Churchill changed it to “Home Guard” as he said LDV stood for “LOOK, DUCK and VANISH.” A young man once asked Churchill for advice and he was told to “study history, study history. The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see. In history lie all the secrets of statecraft.”
Churchill was a “student of history” who then made it and then wrote about it. He published over 55 books, contributed to dozens of others and wrote over 700 feature articles for newspapers and magazines. He said of personal libraries in general, “If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them, peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on their shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends. Let them at any rate be your acquaintances.”
I am proud to own originals from 1901, the year Queen Victoria died on January 22nd. Winston Churchill in Winnipeg sailed for home to attend the funeral. By the way, Churchill was in Toronto on the first day of the twentieth century. Incredible as it may sound, while he was one of the most active and pre-eminent politicians in the British Parliament, he produced:
• A two-volume biography of his father, Lord Randolph;
• A four-volume biography of his great ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough;
• A six-volume history of the Great War called “World Crisis”;
• A four-volume history of the English-speaking peoples; and
• A six-volume history of the Second World War.
He said, “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy, an amusement; then it becomes a mistress and then a master and then a tyrant.” How many of you know that, in 1953, Churchill received the greatest literary award in the western world, when he was honoured with the Nobel Prize for Literature for the totality of his literary contributions?
United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy also championed Churchill’s ability with words when, on the occasion of the singular honour of presenting an honorary citizenship of the United States to him, said that Churchill, during World War II “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle,” which was a “borrowed” quote from Edward R. Morrow.
Churchill’s wit made him a “FORCE MAJEUR” when dealing with friend and foe. About Stanley Baldwin, he said that history would deal severely with the Prime Minister. “I know, because I shall write it.” He accused Labour Leader Ramsey Macdonald whom he labelled “The Boneless Wonder” of “compressing the largest number of words into the smallest amount of thought. Ramsey has all of the virtues I abhor and none of the vices I admire.”
As general counsel, he also said, “Never trust a man who has not a single redeeming vice.” And finally, he opined, “If this is a world of vice and woe, I’ll take the vice and you can have the woe.” For post-war Labourite and Prime Minister Clement Attlee, he cut him to the quick. He said that Attlee was “a sheep in sheep’s clothing.” On another occasion he said that he was “a very modest man with much to be modest about.” And I believe his best word picture occurred when he said that “once an empty taxi drove up to the House of Commons and Clement Attlee got out.”
After the war, his daughter Sarah’s husband, a nightclub musician, and considered by Churchill beneath her station in life, asked him which of the war leaders was the greatest. Winston Churchill replied, “Mussolini, because he had the courage to have his son-in-law Count Ciano shot.” True, Ciano died of lead poisoning, very quickly, in front of a firing squad, for treason against his father-in-law. “If you destroy a free market, you create a black market.”
Then he took aim at certain women and others outside the House of Commons. Lady Astor: “Winston, if I were your wife, I would put poison in your coffee.”
Winston Churchill: “Nancy, if you were my wife, I would drink it.”
Another woman MP, noted more for her strong independence than for her beauty said to him, “Winston, you are drunk.” Winston Churchill, “And you, madam, are ugly. (Say it with me) And tomorrow I shall be sober.” Not sure if that one is apocryphal but is too good to leave out until it is verified in a book later this year. George Bernard Shaw sent him two complimentary tickets to his play with a note, “You are invited to my premiere. Come and bring a friend—if you have one.” Winston Churchill replied: “Impossible to be present for first performance. Will attend second—if there is one.”
It is said that a hostile voter once accosted Churchill immediately after an election in which the latter had retained his seat in Parliament. The voter said with a sneer, “I presume we may expect you to continue to be humbly subservient to the powerful interests that control your vote.” To which Churchill replied with a growl, “I’ll thank you to keep my wife’s name out of this.” Even when he reprimanded someone he could use his wit. During the war, some nameless bureaucrat issued a memo to government officials, which crossed Churchill’s desk, saying that despite the chaos of war, proper standards of English must be maintained in written government communications and outlining some rule which included, not ending a sentence with a preposition. When he saw the memo, Churchill exploded that this was the sort of bureaucratic nonsense “up with which I shall not put.”
A few other tidbits of fact for you. He served under six British monarchs from Queen Victoria to Elizabeth the Second, and at the same time, 18 U.S. presidents from Ulysses S. Grant in 1873 to Lyndon Johnson in 1965, and 14 Canadian prime ministers from Sir John A. Macdonald to Lester B. Pearson. It is true that he knew and corresponded with virtually all of them concerning vital issues over the years that they shared the world’s stage with him.
He had several things to say about his penchant for alcohol in its myriad forms. “When I was a young subaltern (second lieutenant) in the South African campaign, the water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learned to like it.” “Stilton and Port are like man and wife. They should never be separated. Whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” At another time he said, “A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced, the imagination is agreeable stirred, the wits become more nimble. A bottle produces a contrary effect.” And finally, he said of brandy, “I neither want it nor need it but I think it pretty hazardous to interfere with the ineradicable habit of a lifetime.”
Field Marshall Montgomery, “I do not drink nor smoke and I am 100-per-cent fit.
Winston Churchill: “I both drink and smoke and I am 200-per-cent fit.”
At another time he said, “I get my exercise being a pallbearer for those of my friends who believe in regular running and callisthenics.” He smoked cigars, usually six to eight a day, and sometimes never lit, which, of course, eventually became his personal icon along with the “V” sign. Always Cuban—Romeo and Julietta and of Churchillian proportions. When Castro took over from Batista, his personal cigar roller and shipper escaped to Florida with a huge supply and some seeds too and continued to supply him until his demise. It was in Cuba, at 21 years of age in 1895, where he picked up the cigar habit and from where he wrote to his mother a famous Churchillian understatement, “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at, without result.”
Philosophically he related, “Smoking cigars is like falling in love; first you are attracted to its shape; you stay with it for its flavour; and you must always remember—never, never let the flame go out.” “Tobacco is bad for love; but old age is worse.” And finally he rolled it all up by stating, “My religion prescribed an absolute sacred rite of smoking cigars and drinking alcohol.”
After the Dardanelles debacle, also known as Gallipoli, he was forced to resign as First Lord of the Admiralty and he turned to painting for relaxation. Pablo Picasso remarked, “Churchill was good enough to have made a living as a painter.” When asked why he painted landscapes and not portraits, he replied, “A tree doesn’t complain that I haven’t done it justice.”
At last count, 537 of his canvasses have been identified. He said about his pastime, “When I get to heaven, I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting and so get to the bottom of the subject.” There are at least three books about his paintings including one he wrote himself called “Painting as a Pastime.” He called his death, “Operation Hopenot.” “I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” He added, “The world does not end with the life of any one man.” Musing on the type of company he should like to find in Heaven, he said, “Stained perhaps, but positive, not those flaccid sea anemones of virtue who can hardly wiggle an antenna in the turgid waters of negativity.”
In January 1965, his last recorded statement was purported to be, ”It has been a grand journey. Well worth making—ONCE.” Allow me to close by paraphrasing the great man. On the occasion of his 80th birthday in 1954, when he was labelled “The British Lion,” he humbly said, “It was the nation and race dwelling all around the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”
I too did not write his words; I only had the honour and pleasure to bring some of them to you today. I, of course, have nothing more to add and I thank you for celebrating some of Sir Winston’s rich life with me.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by John C. Koopman, Partner, Spencer Stuart, and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.