Winston Churchill is one of the most recognizable names of the 20th century.
During the Second World War, Churchill led Britain from the brink of defeat, through rousing and oft-quoted speeches, to the Allied victory against Nazi Germany.
His godfather, Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook and generally known as Lord Beaverbrook, was a Canadian-born newspaper publisher whose philanthropic deeds live on in New Brunswick, where he grew up.
On this day in 1964, the New York Times ran this headline about Beaverbrook’s death, “Lord Beaverbrook Dead at 85; Founder of Newspaper Empire; Member of Churchill’s War Cabinet Guided Britain’s Aircraft Production.”
So a handwritten letter of condolence from Churchill to Lady Beaverbrook is a big deal.
That letter is now on display in Saint Andrews, explained Barry Murray, the past president of the Saint Andrews Civic Trust.
It’s part of a large collection of Churchill memorabilia that was given to the trust by Doug Young, a former provincial and federal Liberal politician who once served as federal fisheries minister.
Young bought the collection from the estate of Dalton Camp, a New Brunswick-born journalist, political strategist and commentator.
Murray said Young initially called him about putting the letter on display for New Brunswickers to see, but by the time he showed up in Saint Andrews to drop off the letter, he decided to donate the entire collection of more than 100 items.
“Doug and his wife opened the back of the SUV and said, ‘We need help.’ And we received boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff. … I was overwhelmed, to be quite honest,” said Murray.
He said there were dozens of letters from Churchill, as well as signed photographs, a commemorative tea set and coins with his likeness, audio recordings of some of his speeches and various other items connected to him.
Young wanted the items to be put on display in memory of a former colleague, Fred Drummie, who had lived in Saint Andrews and died in 2018.
The letter was unveiled by the trust during an open house, recently, and will be on display at the Ross Memorial Museum in Saint Andrews for the summer. Some of the other items will also be included in a newly created section on Winston Churchill.
Murray said they’re still “figuring out what to do with with all of these things.”
He said the trust has had a large number of the artifacts “professionally replicated,” while the originals are being kept in a temperature- and light-controlled vault.
The letter of condolence to Lady Beaverbrook is one of the items that was replicated. The original was written double-sided on one piece of paper, but the replicated version is on two pieces and framed. It also contains Churchill’s unique spelling of Beaverbrook’s homes —Cherkley in England and La Capponcina in France.
The hand-written letter is dated July 2, 1964 — more than three weeks after Lord Beaverbrook’s death. It reads:
Dear Lady Beaverbrook,
Please forgive me for being so slow in writing to you to say how sad I was to hear of Lord Beaverbrook’s death. He was a most remarkable man and to me he was always a good and most generous godfather. With him there was never a dull moment — there was always some fun or mischief afoot. His houses, Cherkeley and the Caponchina, I remember from my early childhood as having always been filled with sunlight and laughter.
I send you my deepest sympathy in your bereavement; but it must be a consolation that he died while he was still fully active in mind and body. His speech at his eighty-fifth birthday dinner was a most remarkable performance and will be long remembered.
Yours sincerely, Winston
‘Lots of buzz in town’
James Geneau, a volunteer with the Saint Andrews Civic Trust, said the group is often given items related to the town’s history.
“But to receive something like that is quite substantial,” he said, especially since many of the letters were from Churchill to “Lady Beaverbrook and colleagues and friends who resided here at one time.”
Before her marriage to Max Aitken, Lady Beaverbrook had been Lady Dunn, and she and her husband, the wealthy New Brunswick-born financier and industrialist James Hamet Dunn, had a residence in Saint Andrews.
Geneau said there’s been “lots of excitement and lots of buzz in town” about the Churchill condolence letter since it was unveiled at an open house last weekend.
“The society was quite excited and surprised that such an artifact would be A, in existence and B, that somebody would want to donate it to the trust,” said Geneau.