Iron Lady under shadow of Iron Curtain


Fulton, Missouri

Kilted bagpipers marched, choirs sang, and a motorcade of cars from the period rolled along the same route that Winston Churchill and Harry Truman took half a century ago. But since the year is 1996 not 1946, and since Margaret Thatcher was the guest of honour, the Irish Question also came to Fulton this weekend.

She was here, deep in the American mid-West, to give the lecture marking the 50th anniversary of Churchill's Iron Curtain speech. But an Irish- American contingent, including Matt Morrison, a former member of the IRA with 10 years in Long Kesh on his cv, was bent on something else: showing their feelings about a woman whom their nationalist cause loathes as few others. To be fair, they did not spoil the parade - they joined it.

The Rolls-Royce Phantom bearing Baroness Thatcher and her husband Denis were supposed to bring up the rear, but the Irish tagged along behind. "Britain out," they chanted, "Wanted for Murder," proclaimed their leaflets. "We're here to remind her of her past," said Mr Morrison, a resident of St Louis but still embroiled in extradition proceedings. But as an indifferent local populace showed, if Irish America was on the streets, it couldn't spoil the script. For Fulton lives for one thing; and that is not all- party talks on Ulster.

Never in the history of human learning, has so small a town owed so much to one speech. Missouri's Westminster College is tiny, just 600 students. But for decades now, the great of the planet have trooped here - Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Edward Heath, George Bush, and in 1992 the just-deposed Mikhail Gorbachev among them - to receive honorary degrees and hold forth on the state of the universe.

All because, on 5 March 1946, Winston Churchill came to deliver an address at what President Truman told him was "a wonderful school in my home state", in which he warned of an "Iron Curtain" descending across Europe. Oddly, news reports the next day barely mentioned the phrase. Today it is history, and Fulton has built an industry upon it.

The Churchill scowl adorns billboards on the nearby interstate I-70. A Wren church gutted by a German bomb in the Blitz, was shipped from the City of London and now stands as the Churchill Memorial. A museum of Churchilliana occupies what would be the crypt.

And to this English corner of a foreign field came Lady Thatcher. Her speech was a mixture of the familiar (a tongue-lashing for the wicked bureaucrats in Brussels) and the modestly new, as she urged a "New Atlantic Initiative" based on a revived anti-missile defence system, and a North Atlantic free trade area that would complement a retooled Nato, all under explicit American leadership.

So much has changed, she pointed out; and yet so little. Then the threat was Stalin's Russia, now it was "rogue states" armed with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, at a moment when the West had lost its resolve. But the mood is similar; "anxious and baffling times" according to Churchill in 1946, a "pervasive anxiety about the drift of events" for Lady Thatcher now. And her remedy remained the same: the might of America, faithfully supported by Britain. Once more the English-speaking peoples must lead the world back to Churchill's sunlit uplands.

The audience of 1,300, some paying $375 (pounds 245) apiece, listened intently. Far more than Britons, Americans still admire Margaret Thatcher - last of the great Atlanticists - as a Churchill reincarnation. But the passion is fading. Some 3,000 at most lined the streets. Gorbachev drew 20,000; Churchill himself double that.

Soon, though, Fulton's latest basking in vicarious glory was over. Even as Lady Thatcher was speaking, the vintage cars were on their way back to St Louis. The bunting had disappeared within the hour, as had Matt Morrison's uninvited Irish-American caucus - heading home to Chicago, Kansas City and points beyond.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Application Support Engineer with SQL skills

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas