Hero wartime Prime Minister, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill had a connection with Blackpool, which we can celebrate.
Nick Moore records that the connection started with Winston’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill, who had given a famous speech at Blackpool in January 1884, questioning the UK Government’s decision to send troops to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal.
In a speech in Blackpool in 1902, Churchill, then a Liberal MP in Lloyd George’s Government, Churchill recounted Rowntree’s 1901 book on Poverty, ‘a terrible and shocking thing, people who have only the workhouse or prison as avenues to change from their present situation’. He had commented earlier: ‘I see little glory in an Empire which can rule the waves and is unable to flush its sewers’.
It was in 1924 that Sir Lindsay Parkinson, at the time Chairman of Blackpool Parliamentary Borough Conservative and Unionist Association, (based at the Wainwright Conservative Club, in Victoria Street), had written to Winston inviting him to stand for the constituency in the forthcoming October elections. Churchill declined the offer.
A regular visitor to the town and to the Imperial Hotel in particular, Lady Clementine and Winston enjoyed their stays, drawing large crowds on their arrival at and departure from the hotel. He is remembered at the hotel with affection and commemorated by the dedication of a function room, the ‘Churchill Room’.
In 1946, Churchill was invited to become an ‘Honorary Freeman of Blackpool’, joining the catalogue of great names holding the appointment: 1918 David Lloyd George; 1932 Earl of Derby; and later, in 1948, Field Marshall Sir Bernard Montgomery
By October of that year he was invested at a ceremony at the Winter Gardens, during the Conservative Conference. In a speech during the ceremony, Churchill extolled the virtues of a ‘United States of Europe’ and prompted the later closer association with the rest of Europe in an Economic Community. The speech reinforced an earlier one in Zurich when he promulgated a ‘United Europe’ to dispel the bitter feuds and quarrels of the past. The investiture and speech were reported all over the world.
Churchill was again in Blackpool In 1950. At that time, war was raging, with International military action to expel communists from Korea. Churchill’s Blackpool Conference speech urged Europe to provide a European Army to defend the west from the Soviet Union. Domestically, he was concerned that the Labour Government spending programme was ‘irresponsible’ and argued that Nationalisation of Iron and Steel Industries ‘would see the demise of Trade Unions’ and confirmed that Conservatives would build 300,000 houses a year. It seems that the issues of the past are issues of the present.
In 2008 the Gazette reported that six discs of recordings of the Investiture speech found their way into a Charity Shop in Poulton. They were handed to the then Mayor of Blackpool, Councillor Robert Wynne. The Gazette report stated that the speech closed with Churchill thanking the people of Blackpool:
“I shall carry away from Blackpool the most delightful memories and tell any descendants I may have in future years that I was once welcomed here with open arms.”
Sources and Additional information Links:
Nick Moore’s Blackpool Chronology
American Newspaper Investiture reports: and HERE
Blackpool Gazette report on finding of speech discs:
Churchill’s 1946 speech film
Conservative Party Speech Archive
Churchill Collector website
List of Honorary Freemen of Blackpool
The Churchill Museum
The Churchill Museum entry of the ‘United States of Europe’ speech
Short Biography of Winston S Churchill
Rowntree, B.S., (1901) Poverty: A Study in Town Life, Macmillan & Co
Gibson, M., (2011) Winston Churchill – The Wilderness Years: Speaking Out Against Hitler in the Prelude to War, Tauris Parke Paperbacks (London). Accessed 11/09/2015. Available via Google Books HERE