Wednesday 17 April 2013

Funeral of Britain's greatest 20th century peacetime prime minister

From The Times 12 October 1967
Clement Richard Attlee 1883-1967


There was little of the pomp usually associated with the passing of Prime Ministers at the funeral service for Lord Attlee in London yesterday. Fewer than 150 people attended the ceremony, which lasted 20 minutes, in the Temple Church.

There were no crowds, few policemen. Most of the congregation were either family or close friends.

Some of Lord Attlee's oldest colleagues were there: Emanuel Shinwell, who had been his Minister of Fuel and Power and Secretary of State for War, with George Wigg who had been his parliamentary private secretary, during both appointments, and James Griffiths, Minister of National Insurance during the postwar administration.

Veterans knew the words

Links with the past and present were established by the presence of Mr Alister MacDonald son of the first Labour Prime Minister of England [sic], and Mr Harold Wilson, the party's third Prime Minister.

The immediate family mourners were Lord Attlee's son, Lord Prestwood (now the second Lord Attlee), with his wife Anne, Lord Attlee's eldest daughter Lady Janet Skipton, now a United States citizen, and his other daughters Lady Felicity Harwood and Lady Alison Davis.

Two wreaths were all that lay on the small oak coffin during the service. One, inscribed 'To Daddy, with love, from all your children' was of red carnations and roses, yellow chrysanthemums and lilies. The other, a bunch of freesias, roses and lilies read: 'With much love, from grandchildren'.

The service was worthy of the old socialist, with the lesson taken from Revelation, St John's vision of 'The New Jerusalem', and one of the two hymns 'Jerusalem', sang at so many Labour gatherings. Many of the veterans present sang it without their pamphlets.

'Building one people'

The master of the Temple, Canon Milford, conducted the service. He was assisted by the Archdeacon of Westminster, Canon Edward Carpenter, who spoke the prayers and the eulogy. In this he referred to Lord Attlee as one who 'sustained a passionate concern to promote social justice, to break down barriers, and to build up among men one people'.

After the ceremony the chief mourners went in procession to the cremation ceremony at Putney Vale. On the leading car was a wreath from the Cabinet 'Flowers from the garden of Chequers, which he loved'. Lord Attlee's ashes are to be interred at a memorial service in Westminster Abbey early next month.

Some 30 people standing in one of the Temple squares watched the funeral procession of the man who had introduced the welfare state move off into the rain.


1 comment:

  1. An excellent post. A refreshing read today of all days.