People take up bricklaying for different reasons. Research tells us that many young apprentices say the main reason is that they enjoy ‘working with their hands’. If you look a bit deeper into this, without getting too philosophical about it, I think there’s something about the enjoyment of ‘creating’ in bricks that delivers real satisfaction, akin to other crafts, which keeps people in this game all their lives.
A really interesting example of someone who had a mighty big job in politics but who sought enjoyment and pleasure in bricklaying was the British statesman Winston Churchill.Over a few months I’d like to take us through the stories behind some famous and greatly admired people, like Churchill, who used it to help ground them, and others who chose bricklaying, until something else creative, took their fancy or fell into their lap.
“It was a brickie, albeit one with a cigar rather than a roll-up, who won us the war (WWII). It was a man who was a master of the trowel and mortar who faced down the Nazis and who, when he wasn’t unloading a hod* or tapping a red brick into place, was saving the nation. Winston Spencer Churchill was much more than the greatest 20th-century war leader” claims Adam Edwards, UK writer for Express.com.uk.
Yes, Churchill was a great leader and also a very creative person: he was an expert bricklayer, an acclaimed writer, an artist, a pet lover with a particular soft spot for pigs and parrots, and he owned a string of racehorses. In the teeth of the First World War he discovered painting as a pastime after being ousted as First Lord of the Admiralty over the disaster at Gallipoli, for which it is said, he was unfairly scapegoated. For the rest of his life, he would paint as a respite from the world of politics.
“In contrast to today’s 24/7 politicians who have neither the time nor the talent to cultivate their hinterlands, Churchill did so all his life with extraordinary energy, imagination and versatility,” said Sir David Cannadine, historian. “I do not think that many of us appreciate the full dimensions of his personality and his genius.” This is perhaps best illustrated by his skill at the humble art of bricklaying. Churchill was a qualified member of the Amalgamated Union of Bricklayers and at Chartwell, his home in Kent he laid a superb red brick wall around the vegetable garden with a trowel in one hand and a cigar in the other. He also built the walls of a cottage for his daughter, a swimming pool and a goldfish pond.
You’ll especially love this story: After being Prime Minister twice, Churchill had been asked to lay a foundation stone in Bristol, where he was Chancellor of the University. He picked up a silver trowel provided for the occasion and looked at the foundation stone. To the surprise of everyone he laid the trowel aside and said, “The stone isn’t level.” McCardle wrote: “Red-faced officials produced measuring instruments and in a second discovered that Winnie was right. Solemnly, they adjusted the stone, and then Winnie the bricklayer nodded his approval, took up the silver trowel, and smoothed the cement.” For more on the story of the early years of this amazing man read “…200 bricks and 2000 words a day” — Churchill to Stanley Baldwin, 1928.
* A British term meaning a trough carried over the shoulder for transporting loads