In search of WC on Madeira

IN JANUARY 1950, the famous writer, painter, and politician, Winston Spencer Churchill (‘WC’) paid a short visit to the island of Madeira with his wife and his eldest daughter. They were accompanied by various British officials.

WC arrived on the island by sea, and stayed in the luxurious Reid’s Hotel in Funchal, which continues to flourish today. He left by seaplane a few days later to attend to affairs connected with an upcoming election in the UK.

While we were visiting the excellent photographic museum in central Funchal, we saw some photographs of Churchill, which were taken during his excursion to the picturesque fishing port of Camara de Lobos, which is a few miles west of Funchal. The photographs show WC painting a picture of the lovely bay surrounded by serried rows of houses. I have yet to see the picture, which I hope still exists.

We took a local bus to Camara de Lobos and disembarked close to a small bar named after WC. This is located close to a terrace overlooking the bay and its fishing boats. It was from here that he painted. A monument records this episode.

In 2019, a new hotel opened, the Churchill Bay. Outside its entrance, there is a sculpture depicting WC with cigar held between his lips. He is shown seated at an easel. Within the hotel’s lounge and bar, there is a fascinating collection of Churchilliana – photographs; letters signed by WC; a portrait by Felix Topolski; and contemporary artworks relating to WC.

Whether or not you are a fan of the Great WC, Camara de Lobos deserves a visit. Although there are plenty of tourists there, it manages to retain the feeling of a traditional fishing village.

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