Voted greatest ever Briton in 2002, Sir Winston Churchill has a Hamilton connection
The story goes that after a weekend of ferocious fighting at the Duke of Marlborough’s, Lady Astor quipped to Winston Churchill, “Winston, if I were your wife I would poison your coffee”, to which he replied, “Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it”. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill is as much remembered for his witticisms as he is for his role as the Prime Minister of Britain during the Second World War. His famous speeches were an inspiration to the embattled British, and in 2002 he was voted as the greatest ever Briton by a BBC poll.
So how does a letter from the greatest ever Briton become part of the collection at the Waikato Museum? In October of 1958, a letter arrived addressed to K. Wilson, Esquire, President of the Chartwell Ratepayers and Citizens Association. It came from Chartwell, Westerham, Kent. “Dear Mr Wilson. I am honoured that you should wish to name the new suburb of the City of Hamilton after my home. I am very glad to give my agreement, and I send you all my good wishes. Yours very sincerely, Winston Churchill”.
Winston and Lady Churchill purchased Chartwell home in Kent in 1922, and lived there until his death in 1965. The house remained largely unused during the Second World War however, as it was potentially vulnerable to a German air strike. The home was presented as a gift to the nation in 1966, and has been preserved to look as it would have when Churchill owned it. The ownership of Chartwell can be traced as far back as the reign of Edward III.
This lone letter from our Great Briton makes you curious as to whether the Museum holds any other Winston wonders. A quick search unearths a small array of oddities – a Winston jug, a mantle bust, and a Peter the Pilot album.
The cream Winston jug was made by J & G Meakin in 1941, a year after Churchill replaced Chamberlain as Prime Minister. No doubt patriotic Brits and Kiwis alike would have loved having Winston sharing their dinner table each night, even if they were pouring gravy from his hat.
It must have been patriotism also that would move people to not only make, but to buy, a small mantle bust of Churchill. His trademark cigar pokes out from his lips, and the words “WE SHALL NOT FAIL” are etched beneath his face. Both objects were purchased for the collection in 1991.
Churchill’s speeches had the power to lift a nation. His first speech as Prime Minister was the “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech. Equally famous was the speech before the Battle of Britain where he said “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour’”.
It was this type of stirring motivation that ‘Peter the Pilot’ picked up on. Peter the Pilot was a children’s radio show and Diamond O-tis, ‘the energy breakfast’ produced a Peter the Pilot album in 1942 on ‘British Might’, which has been part of the collection since 1983. There were 3 cards in every pack of Diamond O-tis that children could collect to fill their album. Churchill is on the cover in technicolour glory, and inside a speech from Churchill is reproduced on the meaning of democracy. Although this view on democracy by Churchill was never recorded in the children’s album: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."