remembering epic or even minute historical events and the reasons they came about is
never a waste of time. Indeed past moments are always worth reflecting upon as
they can often explain the present.
known history dates just over six hundred years, any event, however small in a
world context, is naturally framed as vitally important. Rightly proud they should be indeed, for these islands have played a huge part, due to their stategic geographical situation, in world affairs, not least in the discovery and conquest of America.
was relaxing on the Côte d’Azure at the time, described his encounter with
Onassis to his wife Clementine in a letter. I like him. He is very pleasant
and domineering and told us a lot about whales. He kissed my hand!
statesman that he told his secretary he would like to meet the Greek again.
That is how their relationship, which many people frowned upon, developed. Churchill gave
Onassis important international prestige although it is believed Onassis never actually used the
Englishman’s contacts for business interests. In return, Onassis offered Sir Winston a
great deal of Mediterranean luxury and comfort. Churchill is known to have said, I have simple tastes. I am satisfied with the best.
of the Admiralty, had pushed to have every Royal Navy ship running on oil
rather than coal. Onassis owed most of his enormous fortune to the maritime
transport of oil.
accompany him on his yacht, the Christina, on eight cruises in the
Mediterranean and the Atlantic between 1958
and 1963. Celia, Sir Winston’s granddaughter, observed that he had aged
considerably and was wonderfully happy on the yacht and those pleasurable holidays appeared to give him renewed life. Onassis, apart from being one of Churchill’s great admirers, was an intelligent and civilized man who did all he could to make
life as enjoyable and easy as he could for the old, valiant leader. Churchill’s
doctor, Lord Moran, described how Aristotle Onassis never stopped caring for
his friend. In one moment he would be giving Churchill a whisky. In another,
when Churchill felt chilly on deck, Onassis would cover him with a blanket.
her first voyage to the Canary Islands,
Churchill was 84. He was still a member of the House of Commons and
in good health. Sir Winston had been spending a few week’s holiday at the Mamounia Hotel in
Marrakech with his wife Clementine and daughter Diana. Morocco was one of his favourite
places to which to escape and sketch.
and on the 17th February Aristotle and his wife Athina, daughter of shipping tycoon, Stavros G. Livanos, got into the
ship’s seaplane and flew to Marrakech where Churchill was giving a farewell
dinner. On the following day Churchill and his party made their way to Safi, on the Atlantic coast, where Onassis took them
aboard for a cruise to the Canary Islands. This was not part of an invasion plan but a peaceful visit and they were joined by Sir Anthony Montague
Brown, from the Foreign Office, Sergeant Edmund Murray of Scotland Yard, and
Arthur Sheppard, Churchill’s personal nurse.
It was not the first time
Lucas and Churchill had been together aboard a ship. During WW2 William
Lucas was an MI6 agent in the Carribean. In 1944 both he and Churchill returned
to Britain from New York aboard the Queen Mary, which was transporting
support troops destined for the already launched Normandy invasions. Winston Churchill had been to the Quebec
Conference and to his meeting with Roosevelt.
Clementine and Athina were so enthusiastic about the beauty of the Orotava Valley and the charms of Puerto de la Cruz that Churchill and Onassis decided to have an excursion themselves. In fact Churchill’s visit to Tenerife really began after his lunch with Lucas and simply involved a drive to Puerto and back along the winding roads of the 1950s.
Aristotle, the powerful millionaire, drove them off out the harbour at a
dizzy speed in the direction of Puerto de la Cruz.
way but from the Taoro Hotel, close to All Saints Anglican Church, the two men were able to admire the beauty of the Orotava
Valley, undeveloped as it
was then with acres of banana plantations. I wonder if Churchill was
aware that when his plans to invade the Canaries during the war were drawn up, Thomas Reid, the British Vice-Consul in Puerto de la Cruz was issued with a
giant Union Jack and was given orders to drape it over the roof of All Saints Church, where British and other allied residents would be safely gathered in the event of an airborn raid. Sadly it is thought the flag, along with
documents of immense historical value, were destroyed when the British Vice-Consulate in Puerto closed down in the early 1970s.
of bowls at the British Games Club, to inform him that Mr Churchill had decided to pay a visit to Puerto. Noel Reid collected Isidoro Luz and took him
to meet the great statesman and Churchill was received by the Mayor at the Lido
San Telmo, together with an enthusiastic and applauding crowd of British
residents, tourists and local people, all of whom were squeezing each other to
get as close as possible to Mr Churchill. This was indeed a minute historical event of enormous importance to this Atlantic community. In his diary Noel Reid recalled, Churchill was smiling all around and making the V sign. It was very pleasing.
Isidoro Luz was as thrilled as I was.
However brief, this was an intense and memorable visit which Sir Winston Churchill
made to Puerto de la Cruz and to Tenerife and before the Onassis yacht departed for Las
Palmas in the early hours of the morning, the
Churchills were presented with orchids, Canary drawn linen work, a box of fat cigars,
oranges, and two dozen bottles of local Malmsey wine.