If you go to the States looking for memorabilia of Ronald Reagan, you will find practically a Heritage Trail. In particular, there’s the Reagan Archive and Library, although ironically as I write it’s closed for the US government shut-down. But the Americans know how to honour their leaders. I have possibly slightly less regard for Kennedy than for Reagan, but no one going to Washington can miss the Kennedy Centre.
So it must seem strange to Americans that we do so little for our own great leaders. Margaret Thatcher was Reagan’s opposite number this side of the Atlantic. She stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him, and stiffened his spine when he threatened to “go wobbly”. Yet until recently you would find little more in Margaret Thatcher’s birthplace in Grantham, Lincs, than a very small plaque on the grocer’s shop where she grew up – now a health spa and centre for alternative medicine. But now a group of dedicated volunteers has launched a project to refurbish the Grantham Museum and to build a statue of the Iron Lady in her home town. www.margaretthatcherstatue.org The artist’s impression above shows how one of the proposed designs would look, with the museum building behind.
I understand that Lincolnshire County Council recently found itself unable to continue funding the museum, so the fund-raising efforts of the volunteers become even more important.
Grantham is in my East Midlands patch, so of course I have been there a number of times since 1999. But I am ashamed to say that I had never visited the museum until last weekend, when I was there with the Freedom Association. The visit was to mark Margaret Thatcher’s 88th birthday – October 13th. The main events took place in the Angel and Royal Hotel, claimed to be the oldest hostelry in England, with associations with King John, and later Dick Turpin.
As speakers we had John Whittingdale OBE MP, who served as Lady Thatcher’s political secretary for a number of years, and also Mark Worthington, who was in her private office for many years. It would be difficult to find two men who knew her better, and their reminiscences gave fascinating insights into the politician and the woman. It fell to me to give the vote of thanks, and I was able to throw in my tuppence-worth, having met Lady Thatcher in Malaysia (CHGC 1988) and later in Seoul, Korea.
Margaret Thatcher was undoubtedly the greatest peace-time Prime Minister of the 20th Century, and she deserves greater recognition than she’s received so far. The volunteers of Grantham deserve our support.