In November 1942, Eleanor Roosevelt paid a fleeting visit to Edinburgh as part of her tour of Britain during the Second World War. In her popular ‘My Day’ column, she records how she visited some of the city’s landmarks, including the Castle and St Giles’ Cathedral before taking tea with the Lord Provost, Sir William Young Darling, in the Council Chambers.
Exactly 73 years and 9 months later, on the 16th of August 2016, the Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London Company recreated this little episode in some style; dressing writer and performer Alison Skilbeck up in full Mrs Roosevelt regalia before heading over to the City Chambers. Here she was very cordially received by the incumbent Lord Provost, the Right Honourable Donald Wilson, who was kind enough to provide tea for his guest (and her very grateful extended team) while donning his ceremonial robes on what was a considerably hotter afternoon than the wartime winter of yesteryear.
All manner of interesting connections emerged as Alison and he stood dressed up before the fireplace, possibly in the very same room graced by Eleanor herself. The Lord Provost, who places great value on the cultural heritage of the City Chambers, brought out some exquisite teacups, each worth around £300, which were part of a tea service that would almost certainly have been laid on for such an eminent visitor as the American President’s wife. Conversation turned to the Second World War, and the Lord Provost explained how his father had cooked for Stalin and Churchill as a serviceman during the war. Another surprising link with the past.
The Lord Provost was kind enough to offer an extensive tour of the revamped buildings, where the costumed Mrs Roosevelt was the perfect inquisitive guest, asking questions about Scottish history, architecture, and female representation on the city council. They ended up in the Nelson Mandela Room, posing under the serene gaze of a figure who Eleanor – champion for peace and civil rights – would have seen as an exemplary human being.
Blog written by: Oliver Collard, Marketing and Publicity Assistant.