Tuesday, 22 September 2009

782 - Winston Churchill

On Saturday, in Lacock with friends (Whitley to Newcastle, Newcastle to Bristol, up and left a bit), we met a man who claims to be the son of the illegitimate son of Winston Churchill.

He's a potter, David McDowell. I googled "Lacock" and "Pottery" and "Churchill" and found a holiday diary, the writers of which spent longer with him, and were given a fuller version of the story than we were.

The man is small and fiery, like a kiln on legs. He pinned E with his eyes all the while he was talking with us. The gist of it is that his father's mother was seduced by Churchill while the man was on a visit to Ireland. She was a household servant.

David has a book in which he gathers stories related to his own from the visitors to his pottery. I was able to tell him about Marie-Louise.

When we first came to Newcastle, we lived in Gosforth, across the way from an elderly Austrian woman. One day she told us a story about herself. She'd come to Britain to become the tutor of a young woman who wanted to learn her language. The woman had recently married a politician and was rattling around his stately home, so the appointment was as much about providing companionship as education. They were of similar age.

One night Marie-Louise couldn't sleep. She got up to visit the library, and on the balcony overlooking the entrance hall she paused. The home had been used as the location of some important political negotiation the day before. Downstairs, looking up at her, was Winston Churchill. He mounted the staircase, and, passing her, surveyed her deliberately from top to bottom and back again, before pointedly declaring (surely not in a leery voice), "You're a fine-looking girl."

Marie-Louise told us she felt like a horse the way he coldy assessed her. She didn't have a high opinion of the man after that, not at all.

Prime Ministers. Don't cha just love 'em?

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