Becoming Winston Churchill

October 16, 2014

Michael McMenamin, the author of the critically acclaimed biography  (published first in 2007 and then in a revised edition in 2009) spoke to the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Ottawa on October 16th. He captivated the audience with the story of the 1895 meeting in Paris of the then recently-widowed Lady Randolph Churchill and Bourke Cockran, the Irish-born, French-educated, American politician, who had also lost his wife a few months earlier.

The friendship that was kindled on that occasion lasted for the rest of their lives, although they each subsequently married other spouses. Cockran was at Jennie's side when she died in 1921, and he himself died less than two years after that, in February 1923.

Lady Randolph asked Cockran if he would meet young Winston when he travelled through New York in November 1895 en route to Cuba. He readily agreed. And it was from Cockran that Churchill learned much of the Irish-American's brilliant oratorical skills and public policy positions. That mentorship endured over almost 30 years, and McMenamin cited fascinating bits and pieces from the lengthy correspondence between the two politicians during his address.

Churchill himself told the story of much that he had learned from Cockran half a century later when he met American Democratic presidential hopeful Adlai Stevenson in 1954.

The SWCSO audience was delighted by McMenamin's presentation.