Sunday January 22, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated Jan 23, 2023]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
Also see event preview: Winston Churchill annual remembrance at Beacon Hill Park (Jan 21, 2023)
An annual tradition to commemorate Winston Churchill (1874-1965) in Beacon Hill Park in Victoria saw a strong turnout this year.
Today about 70 people attended in all, meeting at the spot where Churchill planted a hawthorn tree in 1929.
Some remarks were delivered by two long-time Victoria area news reporters: Les Leyne (columnist with the Times Colonist) and Vaughan Palmer (columnist with The Vancouver Sun).
Also attending on this dry cold Sunday were Times Colonist columnist Jack Knox; Mary Brooke, editor of Island Social Trends; Joan Halvorsen, an executive member of the Friends of Beacon Hill Park Society; and Ruth McAllister who displayed a coveted display binder including an original Winston Churchill signature from 1899.
Churchill’s state funeral in 1965 was the last before the one held in 2022 for Queen Elizabeth II, noted Leyne. He retold the story of how Churchill was in Victoria in September 1929 to give a speech (to 800 people who gathered at The Empress Hotel); that was Churchill’s last stop on a month-long speaking tour of Canada.
During his Victoria visit Churchill also laid a commemorative brick at Christ Church Cathedral, then made his way over to Beacon Hill Park to plant the hawthorn tree. He and his son Rudolph also went fishing off Dallas Road that day.
This annual gathering in Beacon Hill Park has been held every year (except one year in the COVID pandemic), launched in 1999 by Leyne. Since then there have been 21 gatherings. They skipped a year or two during the pandemic, and in January 2022 only two people showed up.
This year’s robust turnout was evidence of a turnaround; possibly some social media exposure helped but also people are getting out again after pandemic seclusion. For some it was a walk in the park with their dogs.
The tree planted by Churchill is large enough now that some of its branches hang low enough for wanting to attentively avoid them. Of course in winter the limbs are bare. The famed tree is right near a sports field at the far end of Beacon Hill Park at Southgate Street.
Today someone remarked that the tree is fairly small for having been growing there for 93 years, but Leyne piped up immediately that hawthorn trees grow for hundreds of years. In urban environments they can grow to a height of about 30 ft and are generally drought-resistant. Churchill’s tree seems to have reached it maximum expected height.
The branches on Hawthorn trees are ‘thorny’ which seems to suit Churchill’s trademark grumpiness. The tree he planted is among other trees that are maintained in the ‘mayor’s grove’ in Beacon Hill Park.
No in-character this year:
Some years for this event, author Chris Gainor shows up dressed in-character as Churchill — to make it all that much more real. This year Gainor was under the weather and not able to not attend. Those who attended today were asked to send Chris a get-well note by email.
Some memorabilia was on display, and a tiny sip of champagne was offered to all in mini paper cups.
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Winston Churchill annual remembrance at Beacon Hill Park (Jan 21, 2023)
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends is a local and regional news service in the west shore of south Vancouver Island.
This journalism service has been operating since 2008 in the west shore, under the direction of editor and publisher Mary P Brooke: first as MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, then Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, then West Shore Voice News 2014-2020, then emerging fully online mid-2020 as Island Social Trends at islandsocialtrends.ca .