From The Madeira Island Web Site|
Winston Churchill in Madeira
By Jorge Barbosa
Jun 6, 2008 - 10:29:53 AM
Not many visitors to Madeira know that the Island was a special retreat for Winston Churchill. Like so many other British aristocrats before him and up to this day, Madeira has always been the reviled destination to go to, and the Reid's Palace Hotel the accommodation of choice. Although the tourists of distinction that had prevailed during much of the 20th century have become less apparent today the Island is still a refuge, a place of reflection, a new point of departure, a twist in the road, for many celebrities, politicians, and other well known figures. We can recall, for example, the ousted government leaders of Cuba by Fidel Castro, Empress Sissi of Austria, Emperor Karl I of Austria - Karl von Hapsburg (also known as Charles IV of Hungary), or George Bernard Shaw, and so on.
"You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her. She was made to be wooed and won by youth."
(Roving Commission: My Early Life - 1930)
Winston Churchill was born in 1874 at Blenheim Palace, near Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, to Lord Randolph and Lady Churchill (Jennie Jerome). During his infancy and his school years it was noted that he was not very academically inclined...
Even his father stated that he had a "stupid" son (this after Churchill only succeeded entering a military school on his third attempt). An interesting contradiction to the opinion many people today have of the illustrious politician, journalist, militarist, and voyager.
At the young age of 21, for example, Churchill would adventure to Cuba with companions to search and capture a rebel army. Often, he would go to South Africa to assist in and report the Boer Wars (every time stopping over at Madeira). Sometimes he ventured as far afield as India.
Winston Churchill is mostly well known and reputed for his excellent statesmanship during the Second World War. But he was also very well known in England before that time as a war correspondent during the Second Boer War, the First World War and many other international incidents. He travelled much, honing his wisdom with the experiences he garnered along the way to eventually become one of the leading British Prime Ministers ever in its democratic rule.
Churchill's first shot upwards to fame was when he became an overnight hero in England on the occasion of his tactful escape from Boer imprisonment while on transit on a train. That was, after being captured during a Boer attack in South Africa, he swum across the Jukskei River and escaped his captors. A remarkable start to the career of this once unintelligent and uneventful boy who was to become one of the most remarkable figureheads of the twentieth century, and one of its most wittiest...
However, our retrospective looks beyond the well known history of the statesman to a time before his final term of office. When In 1950 the already tired and battle-weary Winston decided to take some time to relax and rejuvenate his spirits before ensconcing himself to the last of his elections as Prime Minister for England.
Winston Churchill in Madeira
One may view this photograph of Churchill at the luxurious Reid`s Hotel, taken in 1950. It has given the Reid`s Hotel a distinguished status by highligting the fact that somebody as prominent as Churchill chose this hotel to spend their winter vacation. The suite where Churchill stayed is now named after him and is decorated by several of his oils painted in Madeira.
Special preparations were to be made for this unique voyage: prior to
his visit to Madeira, Winston Churchill telegraphed Bryce Nairn, the
British Consul in Madeira, to query about the hotels, the landscape,
the flowers, the paintable scenes…But also, because he wanted the
entire trip to be kept under wrap. It was important for Churchill that
the consul try and keep any publicity leaking out regarding his
probable ill-health whilst in Madeira. It was known in confidential
circles that a month earlier before his departure he was forced to
remain in bed with a bad case of the flu. It was so severe his
political agenda was put on hold. Clearly, in course for the elections,
this would not feature positively for Winston. Thus Madeira was to be,
not only a vacation, but also the venue of his recuperation from the
fatique and possible ill health that he started to suffer recently.
Accompanying him on his visit to Madeira was his wife Clementine, his daughter Diana, two secretaries - Miss Gilliatt and Miss Sturdee, and two special Branch detectives, G.E. Williams and E.A Davies. On leaving England he wrote to his beloved friend Lord Camrose saying: "
a fortnight`s sunshine is in our hopes, and some weeks or months, or other things, in our minds."
It was evident that Churchill wanted to elude himself from the hussle and bussle of politics.
Churchill arrived in Funchal aboard the liner, the Durban Castle ,on the 2nd of January 1950. A surprise warm welcome was awaiting him and his family.
The English residents had heard about his arrival and along with the locals crowded around the harbour shouting : "
the man who saved the world!". He proceeded immediately to his suite at the Reid`s Palace Hotel where he unpacked his war memoir materials and his paints.
Churchill occupied his time admiring the beautiful landscapes of Madeira. He was impressed with Camâra de Lobos, where he painted various pictorial images of the village. He also painted the refulgent valley of Ribeira da Metade in Ribeiro Frio - the location of the hatchery where trout are bred alll year round still today.
The photo that nearly every guide reproduces. Churchill is seen in the foreground painting his colours of CĂ˘mara de Lobos.
Churchill adored the country-side, he spent as much of his time as possible close to nature. His endearment of the outdoors was illustrated by his purchase of Chartwell Farm and Parkside farm in England. In Madeira he would be spoilt by the fresh air, the frustic charm of the populace, and thesub tropical winter blossoming of flowers …
The renowned photograph of Sir Winston Churchill painting in Camâra de Lobos depicts a distinguished and compelling world leader wrapped in the bow of a simplistic fishing village. A contrast to the complex racqueteering of the House of Commons. Camâra de Lobos is to this day still visibly impressed with the stature of this English Aristocrat - bars in the area carry his photographs, the location of his painting belvedere is commonly referred to as Churchill's Panorama, some establishments even include Churchill in the title of their name.
The Refreshed Winston Churchill
Upon the reading of a letter to F. H Keenlyside, the Assistant Manager of a Steamship Company, written in 1950, immediately before his departure to Madeira, Churchill states that "It was fifty years, not fifteen, that I travelled this way before". He was correcting the assumption made by Mr. Keenlyside before that he had visited Madeira 15 years prior to 1950.
Churchill found himself recovering quickly from his fatigue in Madeira, it offered him the stability and tranquility that he required to face the upcoming elections in 1951, and the memories and detachment needed for relection and perspection. His health and demeanour improved so much he would meander through the streets of Funchal inspecting and reminiscing the bucolic town that it was. He was well received by the local town folk and was esteemed for his courteousness and bonhomie-like character. Churchill often responded to salutations with his traditional V symbol. The symbol of victory and peace, which he popularised and conveyed to everyone during his leadership in and after the Second World War. Funchal was mesmerised by the cigar smoking man who jaunted about in such a carefree manner.
Churchill returns to England to become Prime Minister again.
Churchill's visit to Madeira in 1950 was cut short by the earlier than expected call to elections in Britain. The early general election announced by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Atlee, forced Curchill to leave Madeira on the 12th of January 1950.
His wife, Clementine, remained in Madeira for a longer while. Churchill telegraphed Clementine on several occasions to make sure that she was enjoying the rest of her holiday. Nevertheless, Clementine left Madeira on the 19th of January to support her dear Winston in the upcoming elections. The elections that would lead to his second and last premiership.
Perhaps, that brief interlude, the short interval to reminisce, to paint, and recover strengths, helped Sir Winston Churchill reenvigorate himself one last time for his final vaunt in the fierce world of British politics. His recovery and resultant victory in the 1951 elections gave a whole new perspective to the class of tourists one could expect in Madeira from thereon. The british consolidated fast their position as the principal foreign visitor market to Madeira for decades to come, and along with the nuances and character so typically English helped intertwine successfully culture, traits, and "business as usual" approach (Churchill, Speech at Guildhall, Nov. 9, 1914) to affairs into the patchwork of the history of the Island of Madeira. An evident influence as apparent as any other, even from Portugal. Churchill´s aura or presence persists, in Câmara de Lobos, at the Reids Hotel, but mostly through the generations of britons today who continously flock to the island in the finest british tradition.
Quotes and excerpts from Churchill we found amusing
By being so long in the lowest form (at Harrow) I gained an immense advantage over the cleverer boys.... I got into my bones the essential structure of the ordinary British sentence - which is a noble thing.... Naturally I am biased in favour of boys learning English; I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat."
I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."
Lady Astor: "
Winston if I were married to you, I'd put poison in your coffee."
Nancy, if you were my wife, I'd drink it."
Betsy Braddock :"
Winston, you're drunk!"
Bassie, you're ugly! But tommorrow I shall be sober."
"Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all."
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