Reid's Hotel, Madeira
The Golden Book

George Bernard Shaw

The hotel is proud of its Golden Book, listing the famous names, celebrities and members of royal families, who have made their way to Reid's Palace over the century: These include The Empress Elizabeth of Austria, Austen Chamberlain, David Lloyd George, Princes Marie Louise , daughter of Queen Victoria, Queen Ingrid of Denmark, General Batista, Ex King Umberto of Italy, Gregory Peck, and not forgetting George Bernard Shaw and Sir Winston Churchill.

George Bernard Shaw had been persuaded by his wife Charlotte to leave Britain for an extended holiday in Madeira to enjoy "the flowers, sunshine, bathing and no theatres". He was 68 years old and feeling "too old - I ought to be retiring". But far from a relaxing break, Shaw arrived at Reid's Palace on 30th December 1924 to hear the news of the death of his dearest and closest friend, William Archer. Archer, born in Perth and educated at Edinburgh University, moved to London to find work as a journalist. He met Shaw at the British Library - they were exactly the same age and became life long friends. They collaborated on Shaw's first play Widowers Houses, while Archer became a renowned theatre critic and was the first person to introduce the plays of Henrik Ibsen to London, as both translator and producer.

In mid December Archer wrote to GBS to inform him of a forthcoming operation for cancer.

"I go into a nursing home tomorrow. I feel as fit as a fiddle so I suppose my chances are pretty good. Still accidents will happen. Though I may sometimes have played the part of all too candid mentor, I have never wavered in my admiration for you or ceased to feel that the Fates had treated me kindly in making me your contemporary and friend.
I thank you from the heart for 40 years of good comradeship.
Ever yours, W.A.

George Bernard Shaw Shaw was devastated by the news of Archer's sudden death. He counteracted his grief by working and writing frantically, then making his way down the steps to the rock pool and plunging into the Atlantic Ocean. In the afternoons while others played tennis he sat in the sunshine, consoled in part perhaps by the beauty of the tropical flowers. "This is one of those unnaturally lovely hells of places where you bathe amid innumerable blossoms in midwinter," he wrote.

One evening he decided to overcome his sense of bereavement with a whimsical piece of therapy - on the dance floor and agreed to take a tango lesson from the resident dancing instructor, Max Rinder. When Shaw left Reid's on 12 February, he gave Rinder a signed photograph, "To the only man who ever taught me anything".

The Churchills Twenty five years later, in 1950, Winston Churchill arrived in Madeira in order to recuperate from a minor stroke the year before, as well as of course the latent stress of the long, dark war years. He was in need of a rest and in search of a destination which would be "warm, paintable, bathable, comfortable, flowery", the island was recommended to him by the British Consul, Bryce Nairn.

Arriving on the Durham Castle liner, a huge crowd of Madeirans, the British community, and visitors, all gathered at the pier to greet the Churchill party to show respect to the great British statesman. During his stay at Reid's he worked on his memoirs and relaxed by painting, taking a trip down the coast to the charming little fishing village of Camara de Lobos - where today you can see a plaque on the wall above the harbour and along the main street there is the Churchill Bar and Restaurant, in commemoration of his visit.

Two of the most luxurious suites at Reid's are named the George Bernard Shaw and the Winston Churchill. They each feature a series of delightful cartoons of their former residents, as well as one of Churchill's watercolours of Camara de Lobos, where he had spent many a leisurely afternoon.

Next page > Reid's Palace - 21st Century > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

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