Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Churchill Series - Apr. 9, 2009

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

September 1, 1929 found Churchill in Western Canada, at a place many of you may have visited: Banff. His visit was part of three month long speaking, writing and holiday trip he took across Canada, down the American West Coast, and then across America to New York by train. He was accompanied by his son, Randolph, his brother, Jack, and Jack's son, Johnny.

Here follows most of a wonderful letter Churchill wrote Clementine from Banff. Mary, his youngest daughter, is then seven :

I have some news which will interest Mary. [We] have encountered bears. [WSC underlined "bears." JinC]

We were motoring along when suddenly at a turn in the road, bears were seen approaching at no great distance. It was in fact a she-bear attended by two large cubs. We stopped the motor alongside of them.

The she-bear reared up on her hind legs in what looked at first a menacing attitude, but it turned out that she was not at all hostile, but was in fact only begging for biscuits [which we did not have.] …

[We] slept at Lake Emerald, after a fine drive along the sides of precipitous hills, across foaming torrents and through magnificent gorges. Lake Emerald has an extraordinary colour, more Turquoise of Jade than Emerald. … I painted three pictures which give a very inadequate idea of the great beauty of this spot.

In the evening we reached Lake Louise, where there is another enormous hotel. [Here there is] another green Lake of wide expanse surrounded by enormous precipices and with a wonderful line of snow clad peaks and glaciers in the centre. …

No more prefect Alpine scene exists than this though it is but two hours ride from a Ritz hotel. No wonder Lake Louise is becoming one of the most famous pleasure resorts on this continent! …
It makes you want to head right off to Banff, doesn’t it? I have a friend who’s been just about everywhere in the world. He says Banff and the lake area surrounding it is the most beautiful place he’s ever been.

The letter gives us a wonderful look at Churchill, the father and husband. He knew Clementine would read Mary the letter, especially the part where Papa, Randolph, Uncle Jack and Johnny meet the bears.

He knew both Clementine and Mary would love the striking “word pictures” he drew.

But he couldn't know that 70 years after he wrote that letter, Mary, now Lady Soames, would take it and other letters her father and mother wrote each other, and make them available to us.

What a wonderful thing Lady Soames did.

I hope to see you tomorrow. We’ll be on Victoria Island where, among other things, we’ll meet that cleric I mentioned the other day. Remember? The one Churchill said had “socialist leanings.”

Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill. (Edited by their daughter Mary Soames) ( p. 343)