Churchill’s Ambition and Ooty

(England’s Legendary Prime Minister Churchill was brash, brave and bold. He was ambitious from his younger days. His first expression of his political ambition was made in Ooty)

Having failed in his attempts to obtain a more exciting posting, Churchill sailed for India on 11 September 1896 and was garrisoned in Bangalore. He was to spend the next two years in India. It was at this time that he paid a visit to India. 

There is a letter he wrote from Ooty on 10th May 1898 (from Government House, Ooty?) to his mother Lady Randolph Churchill thanking her for her letter and press cuttings (relating to one of his books),  discussing the possibility of writing a biography of  Duke of Marlborough etc  etc.

It was one of those days that he sought to enter Ootacamund Club but was turned down as he owed Rs.78 balance to its sister club in Bangalore. But that did not stop the young Churchill from joining the outdoor sports like hunt.

It was on one of these days of Ooty hunt,  Churchill first confided his ultimate political aspirations, to Captain Bingham of the Royal Artillery. Bingham was Master of the Ootacamund Hounds, and was bringing the pack home through the dusty, undulating country when a young cavalry officer out riding fell in with him. They struck up a conversation, during which the young officer, puffing on a cigar, said he would be giving up the army for politics, and would one day be prime minister.

Chrurchill remembered Ooty for a long time. During the Boer War in South Africa in 1900 he was posted in Pietermaritzburg near  Durban,  where Gandhi was first thrown out of the train. He wrote, “ The town looks more like Ootacamund than any place I have seen. To those who do not know the delightful hill station of Southern India let me explain that Pietermaritzburg stands in a basin of smooth rolling downs, broken frequently by forests of fir and blue gum trees”

While a student at Harrow, Churchill is said to have memorized the Lays of Rome written by Macaulay in Ooty ,  in order to show that he was capable of mental prodigies, notwithstanding his lackluster academic performance.

One last Ooty connection of Winston. The great actress Vivien Leigh had her upbringing for a while in Ooty in 1917. Among her famous movies was a war movie ‘The Hamilton Woman’.  It was a huge hit and Winston Churchill’s personal favorite.

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