Sir Winston Churchill-Union Bricklayer

The other lives of Sir Winston Churchill



He was our greatest wartime leader – but did you know that he was also an expert bricklayer, a pet lover with a particular soft spot for pigs and parrots, and owned a string of racehorses?


IT WAS a brickie, albeit one with a cigar rather than a roll-up, who won us the war. It was a man who was a master of the trowel and mortar who faced down the Nazis and who, when he wasn’t unloading a hod or tapping a red brick into place, was saving the nation. Winston Spencer Churchill was much more than the greatest 20th-century war leader.

Our image of him may be of the British bulldog flashing his famous victory sign but he was also a soldier, writer, farmer, orator, painter, racehorse breeder, scriptwriter, parrot owner and bricklayer. “One man in life plays many parts,” wrote William Shakespeare in his play As You Like It and no one played more parts than Sir Winston Churchill.

Today a new radio series, Churchill’s Other Lives, begins, in which historian Sir David Cannadine looks at Churchill not as a statesman but as a Renaissance man. “In contrast to today’s 24/7 politicians who have neither the time nor the talent to cultivate their hinterlands, Churchill did so all his life with extraordinary energy, imagination and versatility,” said Sir David. “I do not think that many of us appreciate the full dimensions of his personality and his genius.”

And the extraordinary range of that personality and genius is perhaps best illustrated by his skill at the humble art of bricklaying. Churchill was a qualified member of the Amalgamated Union of Bricklayers and at Chartwell, his home in Kent, he laid a superb red brick wall around the vegetable garden with a trowel in one hand and a cigar in the other. He also built a swimming pool and a goldfish pond.Bricklaying was only one of his many interests and the first signs of that rich and varied life were not as a builder but at Harrow school. There his achievements were not academic – when it came to brains he would later describe himself as a “late developer” – but rather as a swimmer for the school and at the age of 17 as the British Public Schools’ fencing champion. 
time-life2-460_1116741cThen when he left school he went to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst but his first job was not as one might have expected as a soldier but as a newspaper reporter for the Daily Graphic in Cuba where a minor rebellion against the Spanish colonists was being waged. It was there that he acquired his taste for cigars and afternoon naps. And he continued as a journalist when he returned to soldiering and was posted to the North West Frontier of India (where he took up polo and became the leading scorer for the 4th Hussars).At 22 he turned his dispatches from India into his first book, The Story Of The Malakand Field Force, and after he had participated in one of the last cavalry charges in British history during the Boer War, which he had been sent to cover as a journalist, he wrote a second book of dispatches.
At 25 he was not only a national hero for his daring exploits during that war and had won his first parliamentary seat but he had also written  five books – as many, he later quipped, as Moses. For the rest of his life he continued to write articles on everything from Are There Men On The Moon? to a lurid account of being run over and seriously injured on a visit to New York’s Fifth Avenue.MEANWHILE his love of history, a love that he had discovered in India, won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 for his book A History of the English Speaking Peoples. He also wrote a screenplay for the cinema depicting the major events in the reign of King George V for his Silver Jubilee in 1935, which was sadly never made. By the time of his death his total literary output had added up to 55 volumes. However, what is even less well known about the great statesman is his love of animals.
He not only bought a farm adjoining Chartwell – which he loved although he made no profit from it – but his letters, many of them to his wife Clementine, often contained, in addition to the more weighty matters of state, the arrivals, births and deaths of various animals and pets including dogs, cats, goats, cows, black swans and even a parrot.3227fafc039d923e921999cbc005c029He also loved pigs, once saying: “Dogs look up to us, cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” In his later years Churchill took up horse breeding and horse racing (his racing colours were pink with chocolate sleeves and a chocolate cap) and when he became Prime Minister for the second time, in the early Fifties, he shared his passion with the new Queen Elizabeth II and it helped forge a strong bond between the two of them.
Churchill also excelled as a painter. He took it up in 1915 after leaving the Admiralty following the disastrous landing at Gallipoli. One of his teachers Sir John Lavery, a Royal Academician, said: “I know of few amateur wielders of the brush with a keener sense of light and colour or a surer grasp of essentials. “Had he chosen painting instead of statesmanship I believe he would have been a great master of the brush.”churchill wo 10.3_v_Variation_1As proof of his skill he submitted two pictures to the Royal Academy under the name of David Winter and both were accepted. Soon afterwards David Winter, now revealed as Winston Churchill, was elected “Honorary Academician Extraordinary”. In addition to all of the above he hunted, shot and loved gambling – not only at the Monte Carlo casino but also losing a small fortune on the stock market in the Great Crash of 1929.
He was a connoisseur of fine brandy (he was annually sent several cases of a rare Armenian brandy by Stalin), father of five children and had a catholic collection of friends including Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein, TE Lawrence and the Greek ship owner Aristotle Onassis, with whom he occasionally went on holiday.In the film The King’s Speech about George VI’s stutter, Winston Churchill, played by Timothy Spall, reveals to the King that he, too, once had a speech impediment but found that the best way to overcome it was to use it to his advantage, which led to him becoming one of the world’s finest orators.That latent skill should come as no surprise to any admirer of our greatest statesman. After all Winston Churchill managed to skilfully turn every bone in his body to his advantage.





Courtesy AMJ Masonry Fort Worth, Texas4803784_orig


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