The Other Club

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Michael Shirley

F. E. Smith & Winston Churchill founded the Other Club in 1911
F. E. Smith (Vanity Fair)
Winston Churchill was an unusual politician, for he bore no grudges. As the historian Paul Johnson wrote, “Churchill wasted an extraordinarily small amount of his time and emotional energy on the meannesses of life: recrimination, shifting the blame onto others, malice, revenge seeking, dirty tricks, spreading rumors, harboring grudges, waging vendettas.”[1] His founding of the Other Club reflects that attitude. With his friend F.E. Smith (later Lord Birkenhead), Churchill formed a dining club in 1911, limiting it to no fewer than thirty-six members (twelve Conservatives, twelve Liberals, and twelve from outside party politics) and no more than fifty. The requirements for membership were two: a man had to be both estimable and entertaining. There were initially eleven club rules, but Churchill added a twelfth: “Nothing in the rules or intercourse of the Club shall interfere with the rancour or asperity of party politics.” Members could disagree, but were not to be disagreeable about it. Churchill’s abiding willingness to forgive others’ trespasses carried with it the demand that others forgive his. Members of the Other Club ably met that demand.

Winston Churchill (Vanity Fair)
At meetings of the Other Club, Churchill and Smith were able to indulge their appetite for conversation in the best elite English tradition: witty, insulting, well informed, and wide-ranging. Smith attended regularly until his untimely death in 1930 (Churchill broke an unstated club rule against speeches by delivering an extended eulogy at the next meeting). Churchill himself last dined there on December 10, 1964, little more than a month before he died.

As his son Randolph noted, Winston Churchill had no small talk, and preferred to talk about himself.[2] At meetings of the Other Club he was able to listen as well.

[1] Paul Johnson, Churchill (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 162.
[2] Randolph S. Churchill, Winston S. Churchill: Young Statesman, 1901-1914 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967), 241.


W.B. Michael H. Shirley is Past Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He's also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He's also a member of the newly-chartered, Illini High Twelve No. 768 in Urbana-Champaign. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

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