When Gandhi Visited Darwen (England)

There was a time when Gandhi endorsed a boycott of British cloth in India. While in England, he visited the workers up in Darwen. These workers were now unemployed because of the largely successful boycott. Although many thought that violence would erupt, the working-class people of Darwen overwhelmingly supported his struggle. This is a surprising moment as, even though he was responsible for their loss of jobs, they supported his cause.

A few people are still alive and they could tell BBC about the time when Gandhi visited them.

Sigrid Green, of Ely Close, Darwen, was 11 when Gandhi’s entourage stopped walking outside her father’s works, in Crown Street, and he touched her hair and face.

She said: “The police had been in the previous day to check there were no nooks, or crannies, where people could hide and take a pot shot at him.

“He was a brave man to come because there was a lot of ill feeling in the town at the time.

“My father explained that he was a great man and decided it would be good for me to see him, so we joined the crowds outside.

“When he walked down the road he was with about 20, or 25, people and a little dog.

“Then Gandhi stopped in front of me and looked down at me.

“He touched my hair and cheek, grinned, then left. He didn’t say a word.

“At the time I didn’t really know what a great man he was, I just had to smile and be polite.”

Former mill worker Ethel Gunning, 104, saw Gandhi address crowds gathered outside Darwen Market.

She said: “I remember seeing him clearly. He was a funny little man and had old clothes on, he looked poor.

“There was a lot of excitement about his visit.

“It was quite something for Darwen, and we made him very welcome, even though there were a lot of people not so pleased about what he was doing.”

Former transport worker Grace Scott, 91, who lived in Olive Lane in 1931, saw Gandhi entering a cottage in Watery Lane as she left a friend’s house.

She said: “I was very young and didn’t know the significance of the visit.

“I remember there was a lot of excitement in the town and as I came out of my friend’s house I saw Gandhi and his party go into the cottage.

“It would be nice to have an exhibition about the visit for people to see.”

There are many stories associated to him during his visit. As you can see from the pic, even in cold weather of England, he dressed the same way as he did in India. Here are some stories taken from a website mkgandhi.org

#1 : Gandhiji Meets King
When the Conference ended, Their Majesties held a reception in honour of the delegates to the Conference. Everyone that went to the reception was dressed in his best suit of clothes, but Gandhiji appeared before the King of England, wearing a Khaddar dhoti, a pair of the plainest sandals, and an ordinary blanket. The simplicity and humility of his dress presented a striking contrast to the glory and pomp of the royal palace.”
“Isn’t it strange, mother, that even when he went to the royal palace, he should not have put on a proper suit of clothes?”
“You see, Hari, Gandhiji went to England as the spokesman of the poorest men and women of India, and it was right that he should appear like one of them. But the respect that he got did not depend upon his clothes, for the King was very attentive to him and talked to him for a long time.
In England he was the guest of an old friend of his, Miss Muriel Lister, and he continued to follow his daily routine exactly as he used to do in India. He would hold his prayer meetings, morning and evening, and would take long walks everyday. His simplicity and sincerity and warmth left a deep impression on the poorer people of England. In fact, that impression still remains in a very large measure.

#2 : Churchill Refuses To Meet Gandhiji

It is customary that when a person visits a new country or town, he calls on the important people of that place. And in accordance with this practice, Gandhiji wanted to call on Mr. Churchill. But Mr. Churchill refused to see him, saying, ‘I am not prepared to meet that half-naked fakir of India as long as he does not learn how to dress properly.’ Bapu was not upset by Mr. Churchill’s rudeness but every Indian felt deeply grieved and angry at this insult to their beloved leader.

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