Item 96b - Script of a radio interview with Lord Pethick-Lawrence

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PETH/2/96b

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Script of a radio interview with Lord Pethick-Lawrence

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  • 28 Nov. 1957 (Creation)

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4 sheets

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Pethick-Lawrence recalls his meetings with Gandhi.

(Carbon copy of a typed original.)

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Transcript

An interview with Lord Pethick Lawrence.

Interviewer: It is a great privilege, Sir, to welcome you to this country after a lapse of nearly eleven years and to recall those days when you and Gandhiji used to be together. Would you kindly tell me when your first acquaintance with Gandhiji took place.

Lord Pethick: I forget the precise year, but when my first wife, Emily†, was fighting for women to get the vote in my own country, Mr Gandhi was in London and he took a great interest in our fight because it was non-violent, and on one occasion one of the women, who had been arrested for technical breaches of the law began a hunger strike in order to secure proper treatment in prison. Now shortly after that Mr K. Hardy introduced Mr Gandhi personally to my wife and myself, and I remember very well that he came to our flat in Clements Inn in London and told me about the work he had been doing in South Africa. He told us of his relationship with General Smuts and how he had acted on behalf of the Indian community and had made a compromise decision with General Smuts. This did not please all his followers, and he told us how one of them met him in the street and said that he had betrayed the rights of Indians and he was going to attack him. Mr Gandhi offered no resistence†, and I understand he was struck down, but his supporters rallied round him and saved the attack from being mortal. It is rather interesting, in this connection, to recall that in years later, I think it was in 1942, General Smuts issued a statement about Mr Gandhi in which he praised Gandhiji in every way and said that he was an honourable and worthy debater and discusser in matters concerning them in those old days.

Interviewer: The Pathan, who attacked him, afterwards became a bodyguard to Gandhiji.

Lord Pethick Lawrence: Yes, I think, that is true. Mr Gandhi said the man who struck him was one of his most faithful supporters. I remember his telling us that.

Interviewer: When did you meet Gandhiji next?

Lord Pethick Lawrence: Well, I may have met him in London again, but I have no definite recollection. But I certainly met him in 1926. In that year the Congress was holding its annual gathering in Gauhati, in Assam, where I am interested to note it is holding it again this year, and Mr Gandhi attended that gathering. My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting him when he was having a frugal lunch somewhere in the neighbourhood of the site where the Congress was held. We had discussions on a great number of things including non-resistence† and, subsequently, we met him again at the full gatherings of the Congress. Also, although we did not meet Gandhiji himself, we went to his Ashram in Ahmedabad and we had the pleasure of seeing [his] {1} work.

Interviewer: Gandhiji was not there at that time, I think.

Lord Pethick Lawrence: He was not in Ahmedabad when we went there.

Interviewer: A long period of nearly twenty years, I think, elapsed before your next meeting with him took place.

Lord Pethick: I don’t think it is quite correct. I met him at the Round Table Conference which was held in London. I was not a member of the first Round Table Conference, but I was a member of the second Round Table Conference that was held, I think, in 1930, and Gandhiji was a regular attendant at that and he sat on one side of the Chairman, Lord Chancellor, and I sat about two or three on the other side of the Chancellor. I was only a very subordinate member. I was not a member of the Cabinet then. But I do remember talking to Gandhiji and of hearing the speeches that he made at the Conference. I had also the privilege of making a short speech myself. My principal meeting with him was in 1946 when I led the Cabinet Mission to this country to discuss the future of India. In the meantime, I have had a letter from Gandhiji, congratulating me on being Secretary of State and hoping that we should do business together. I had replied and in particular I do remember his birthday, October 2, because that was a very important day in my own life, being the day when I married my first wife.

Interviewer: Well, that is very interesting.

Lord Pethick: When I came here Gandhiji came specially to meet me, and one of the first things he said to me was that he believed in my sincerity, and I am happy to think that he never changed his view on that matter. I do believe the fact that Gandhiji recognised my sincerity in wishing to see freedom coming to the people of the country and that not only I was sincere myself but I was entitled to present that position as that of the Government of the day, my Government, and in that way, I feel sure that negotiations and discussions, though they were long drawn-out and often not always entirely amicable, nevertheless they were conducted, all through, in the knowledge and certainty that the British were sincere and that I as a representative was entitled to represent the views of the Government in that matter and that sincerity was one of the causes for the settlement which has now come to be recognised and the independence of the people on this Peninsula is now an accomplished fact.

Interviewer: You will be interested to learn that one of the proofs of your sincerity which he always wished to mention was that you took your wife’s name instead of your wife taking your name.

Lord Pethick Lawrence: We took the double name. My wife was Pethick and I was Lawrence, and we decided to unite the two names to represent the quality of our union.

Interviewer: That was in his eyes a more important indication than any indications could have been. What was your reaction when you got the news of his assassination.

Lord Pethick: Well, I had of course ceased to be Secretary of State at that time, and not only that but India had won its independence and I was just a private citizen. But I was quite unprepared for the news of Gandhiji’s death, and it came as a very severe blow to me. I heard it in the country and was greatly grieved. It was a great loss to the people and greatly as I mourn the manner of his death, I feel his name must live enshrined for ever in the annals of humanity.

Interviewer: Thank you, Sir, for giving us very interesting reminiscences, and I hope you will again be able to visit our country and carry the good wishes of the 300 million people of India.

Lord Pethick: Thank you very much for your kind words. I am certainly having most interesting time, and I am delighted at the friendliness of every one I meet from the highest to the lowest.

*****
HS;BLM
1645

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{1} Omitted by mistake.

† Sic.

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