THE BIG READ: Villain or hero? The war over Winston Churchill and Scotland for the facts


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By Mark Smith and Stewart Alastair

Winston Churchill, who had just been voted out as the MP for Dundee, boarded the London sleeper train on Nov. 16, 1922. He was disappointed, angry, and sick, writing that “without office, without a seat, without a party, and without an appendix.” he was left.

For Churchill, the election was incredibly challenging. He had unwisely targeted DC Thomson, the local newspaper publisher. Often aggressive were the public meetings he attended, and ultimately the Labor vote turned behind the candidate for Prohibition, and Churchill lost the seat.

It is vital that he never returned to Dundee and refused the freedom of the city when it was later offered to him: Churchill considered the city a “seat of life and cheap and easy beyond all experience.” But his political rejection of Dundee morphed into the false idea that Scotland was despised by Churchill.

Churchill was accused in 1919 of ordering tanks into the “Battle of George Square” and in 1940 of leaving the 51st Highland Division at St. Valery because it was Scottish. It has also been alleged that during World War II, Churchill was ready to surrender Scotland to Nazi forces to defend the south of England. In 2019, MSP Ross Greer went so far as to tweet that Churchill, interspersed with hand-clapping emojis, was a “white supremacist” and a “mass murderer,”

The lack of a single, centralized source about Churchill and Scotland marks the prevalence of all these myths, false tales, and lies. “So much has been written about every aspect of Winston Churchill’s life that it is surprising that one important area – his relationship with Scotland – has received so little attention.”So much has been written about every aspect of the life of Winston Churchill that it is surprising that so little attention has been paid to one significant area – his relationship with Scotland.

Churchill was taken for granted, like the Union itself. Ian Hamilton noted in his book Stone Of Destiny that in World War II, King George VI was the guiding, non-political power. Churchill has become an omnipresent spectre in quick motion, a sign only half-remembered, arousing religiosity or pure hate.

Those who attempt with an almost moral perfectionism to embellish Churchill’s memory are as guilty as those who peddle nonsense. As renowned as Wilde and Shakespeare, Churchillian bon mots are. But he did not say, “Of all the small nations on earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to humanity.” There are a thousand other well-intentioned tales of old wives that do more harm than good.

One such story has been pointed out by Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre, making the rounds on the Internet. There was a poor Scottish farmer called Fleming, depending upon which version you read. One day, from a nearby swamp, he heard a call for help.

He set his tools down and fled in the direction of the screams. There, a terrified, mud-covered boy struggled to free himself and was about to suffocate. The boy was rescued by Fleming from certain death.

A carriage pulled up in front of Fleming’s modest home the next day. A nobleman, elegantly dressed, got out and introduced himself as the father of the child. “I would like to repay you. You saved my son’s life.”

“No, I cannot accept payment for what I have done,” the Scottish peasant responded. The son of the farmer came to the door of the dilapidated house at that moment.

“Is this your son?” the nobleman requested.

“Yes,” the farmer answered proudly.

“I propose a trade to you. Let me take him and give him a good education. If the boy resembles his father, he will grow up to be a man you can be proud of.”

And he has. Over time, the son of Farmer Fleming graduated from St. Mary’s Medical School Hospital in London. Around the world, he became known as Sir Alexander Fleming, the penicillin discoverer.

The nobleman’s son became ill with pneumonia years later. And what saved him? With penicillin. The name of the aristocrat who had come to the door of Fleming? Randolph Lord Churchill. His son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill.

A wonderful story. Of course, there is no truth to it. There is no evidence that the young Churchill vacationed in Scotland or fell into a bog. Nor is there any evidence that Lord Randolph Churchill financed Alexander Fleming’s education.

Farmer Fleming was already an old man, with his


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