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Winston Churchill annual remembrance at Beacon Hill Park

Sunday January 22, 2023 at 2 pm

Saturday January 21, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


Tomorrow — Sunday January 22 — marks the continuation of a January tradition at Beacon Hill Park.

A small group of people get together to commemorate Winston Churchill’s formidable role in leading Britain and the NATO allies during WWII.

This annual gathering has been going on for several years, since 1999 in fact. Everyone welcome.

The event is coordinated each year by Times Colonist columnist Les Leyne. Someone (author Chris Gainor) shows up dressed in character as Churchill, to make it all that much more real.

hawthorne tree, beacon hill
Hawthorm tree in Beacon Hill Park. [web]

Where and when:

At 2 pm, in the park at the foot of Quadra Street off Southgate, there will be a toast to Churchill on the anniversary of his death (born in England on November 30, 1874, he died on January 24, 1965).

Why that spot? It’s the location of a tree that he planted when he was in Victoria in 1929.

History of the Hawthorn tree:

According to the James Bay Beacon in a 2014 article, Winston Churchill in 1929 on his first and only visit to Victoria where he spent three days and two nights. He had arrived aboard the Canadian Pacific Railway Ship Princess Marguerite, on the last stop of a month-long speaking tour of Canada.

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Winston Churchill planting a tree in Beacon Hill Park in 1929. [BC Archive]

Churchill addressed 800 people at the Canadian Pacific Empress Hotel. The event was sponsored by the Canadian Club of Victoria branch of the National Council of Education. He was given a “tumultuous reception” that visibly moved him when the crowd sang “Rule Britannia” and “O Canada” when the meeting began.

On Friday afternoon, September 6, 1929, after visiting Christ Church Cathedral at Quadra and Rockland, the Churchill party (with son Randolph and brother Jack) drove a few blocks south on Quadra to Southgate Street and Arbutus Way where he planted a now “historic hawthorn tree”. Upon his departure Churchill spoke to a cheering crowd: “Your green leaves and sturdy oaks and hearts as British as the oaks all remind me of the Mother Country.”

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Man of the Century:

In 1999, when TIME Magazine chose Albert Einstein as Person of the Century, some thought Winston Churchill would have been the more suitable pick.

einstein, man of the century, time
Albert Einstein, Man of the Century, on TIME Magazine’s cover Dec 31, 1999.

Not that Einstein wasn’t amazing and had impact on many things we know in our world today, but without Churchill what would have been the opportunity to explore, thrive and experience freedom and imagination?

In the Washington Post on December 31, 1999 it was written that Churchill should have been chosen as Person of the Century: “Because only Churchill carries that absolutely required criterion: indispensability. Without Churchill the world today would be unrecognizable — dark, impoverished, tortured.”

Why attend at the park?

As busy as a person might be on a winter Sunday afternoon, this is an important event to catch.

Arguably, without Churchill’s impact during WWII, there would not have been freedom and democracy enjoyed in the world since then. The Ukraine situation reminds of what can be lost.

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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 .

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Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends