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Did Churchill Secretly Father A Tipperary Son?

Sir W.Churchill

RTE documentary film makers are presently investigating whether Sir Winston Churchill‘s right hand man, Tipperary born Brendan Bracken, was really his illegitimate son.

This follows some 80 years of gossip and rumour that the Tipperary native and possibly one of the most powerful Irishmen and spin doctor of the 20th century, was long suspected, by even Churchill’s own family, as their father’s illegitimate child.

The documentary possibly to be entitled “Churchill’s Secret Son” is expected to be broadcast as part of RTE1’s winter schedule, in November next.

Who Was Brendan Bracken ?

Brendan Bracken was born in 1901 in Templemore, County Tipperary. He was the son of Joseph Kevin (J.K.) Bracken and Hannah Agnes Ryan.

J.K. Bracken was a successful builder, a member of the Fenian Brotherhood that had committed itself to winning Ireland’s independence from Britain by force and a founder member of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) established in 1884 here in the Haye’s Hotel in Thurles.

His father died when Brendan was just three years old. His mother remarried one Patrick Laffan, whose ideals leaned to armed rebellion, and they moved with Brendan, his three full siblings and his two step sisters, to Dublin city.

Brendan was, for a time, educated by the Jesuits at Mungret College, a boarding school in County Limerick, but ran away in 1915. Brendan became engaging in acts of vandalism and numerous altercations and in desperation he was sent by his family to Australia to reside with a relative who was a Catholic priest in Echuca in the state of Victoria.

Here Brendan appeared to have remained unsettled and appears to have moved about often, however he, like Churchill, became an avid reader and acquired much of his later education through self learning.

He appears to have returned home briefly in 1919, but soon left to settle in Liverpool.

In 1920 the young Bracken appeared at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, claiming to be an Australian 15 years old orphaned in a bush fire and claimed a family connection to Montagu Rendell, latter the headmaster of Winchester College. On the basis of this fairy story he was accepted at Sedbergh School and thus began the beginning of his new and colourful life, and the beginning of his denial of his true background.

When he met Emmett Dalton in London1926, latter a British soldier turned IRA confidant and Michael Collins’s right-hand man, Bracken denied he attended primary school in Dublin with Dalton. A further example occurred during the Second World War when Bracken told people that his brother had been killed in action at Narvik, when in fact his brother Peter was alive and well.

Followed a number of small teaching jobs, he moved to London and got a post on a periodical called the Empire Review. This brought him into contact with J.L. Garvin, former editor of The Observer, who would introduced him to Winston Churchill in the summer of 1923.
Bracken became Churchhill’s political campaign organiser and in 1924 Churchill rejoined the Conservative Party, was returned to Parliament and became Chancellor of the Exchequer under Stanley Baldwin. It was at this time that Churchill wrote to a friend that Bracken “was a brilliant young Australian of quite exceptional powers and vitality.”

In matters relating to Churchill, Bracken can be said to have played a key part behind the scenes. When Neville Chamberlain prepared to resign in May 1940, his successor would be Churchill or Lord Halifax. Bracken advised Churchill tactically to say nothing when the three met, indicating that he would not support Halifax, and as a result Churchill’s name went forward for approval by parliament. It was also Bracken who first met American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s closest confidant and personal agent, Harry Lloyd Hopkins, forging a close association and speeding the decision for the USA to assist Britain, by entering WW2.

Bracken served as Minister of Information from 1941 to 1945 after a short period as Churchill’s Parliamentary Private Secretary. In 1945 Bracken was briefly made First Lord of the Admiralty and was elevated to the House of Lords by Churchill, as Viscount Bracken of Christchurch in the County of Southampton, in 1952, but he never used the title and never sat in the House. Possibly his most famous business achievement was in merging the Financial News into the Financial Times in 1945.

Brendan Bracken died, from throat cancer, on August 8th, 1958. An obituary in the London Times described him as “an ebullient, full-blooded, energetic and a highly intelligent personality.”

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