Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Churchill Series – Aug. 28, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Shortly after the outbreak of WW II Churchill’s only son, Randolph, an officer in his father’s old regiment, the 4th Hussars, married a young woman of a good family, Pamala Digby.

Neither set of parents were keen for the marriage which they felt was being entered into impetuously as so many wartime marriages were. As they used to say “the marriage was soon troubled” and ended in divorce shortly after the war’s end.

Randolph and Pamela had one child, a boy born in October, 1940, and named for his paternal grandfather Winston Spencer Churchill.

Both sets of grandparents were concerned for the effect his parents’ divorce would have on the child. There was also the matter that right after the war both parents were traveling a great deal.

In those circumstances, the two sets of grandparents, who always cooperated in young Winston’s interests, each arranged for him to spend most of his time either at the Digby’s diary farm in Dorset or the Churchill’s farms and gardens at Chartwell.

What follows are Winston S. Churchill adult recollection of what it was like for a boy almost 6 to go from the dairy farm of one set of loving grandparents to the Chartwell estate of his other set of loving grandparents:

Delighted to have a grandfather who was a milkman, I now discovered I had another who was a bricklayer.

Grandpapa Churchill would regularly spend a couple of hours most afternoons when he was at Chartwell, building a wall around his vast kitchen garden where Mr. Vincent, the gardener, grew a wonderful variety of flowers, fruit and vegetables.

Grandpapa would don his overalls and, if it wasn’t too windy, his broad-brimmed ‘Ten Gallon’ hat. He would then mix up his ‘pug,’ as he called his mixture of sand and cement to which he added some water.

He wielded his builder’s trowel with dexterity, placing a layer of “pug’ on the top course of bricks, to make a bed for the new bricks which I would hand to him. He would bang them into place with the handle of his trowel, scraping off any surplus ‘pug,’ which would be saved for the next course.

From time to time he would get out his plumb line to check that he was building true.

I thoroughly enjoyed being his “Brickie’s mate” and , ultimately became quite proficient at it myself , especially when Grandpapa gave me as a Christmas present a miniature building set, complete with tiny bricks and real ‘pug’ which I could mix up myself to build small houses.

Winston S. Churchill, Memories and Adventures. (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989) (pgs. 54-55)