Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Churchill Series – Sept. 17, 2008

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

In In Search of Churchill: A Historian’s Journey Sir Martin Gilbert recounts some of his efforts and adventures tracking down and interviews around the world people who’d known and worked with Churchill.

Gilbert tells us - - -

Secretaries are seldom mentioned in political biography either by worked or name, yet they see their employers at close quarters, in all circumstances and moods, and at critical moments. Might not they too be of help in the search for the character of their employer? (p. 153)

[Gilbert located former Churchill secretaries beginnings with one who’d actually worked for him before 1910 right through to ones who’d worked for him up to his last years. The all had wonderful stories to tell and good things to say about Churchill; all save one.]

Gilbert continues - - -

For the post-war years, Jane Portal, Chips Gemmell, Catherine Snelling and Doreen Pugh each gave me vivid glimpses of their boss. Each had worked with him for five years or more, itself a testimony to his qualities.

One lady, not one of those who became devoted to him, who worked with Churchill for just under three months in 1931 while he was in the United States, did not like him. She made her objections plain when, nearly sixty years later, she was interviewed at length by the BBC.

It was curious, and for me distressing that the other secretaries, who were with him for so much longer, and saw him at his daily work, were given far less time to say their piece.

The overriding impression that his secretaries gave me was of a man who worked hard himself, drove them equally hard, but did so with humour and kindness, alert to their personal needs and quick to apologize for any outburst of anger. (p.270)