William Bourke Cockran

Bourke Cockran
Cockran, William Bourke. Lawyer, orator. Born in Ireland, February 28, 1854. Educated in Ireland and France. Came to the United States in 1871. Taught in private academy, later principal of a public school in Westchester County, NY. Then became a lawyer, soon becoming prominent in New York City politics. Made noteworthy speeches at Democratic National Conventions, 1884 and 1892, opposing the nomination of Cleveland. Member of Congress, 1887-89, and 1891-95, as Democrat. In 1896 became advocate of the gold standard, and campaigned for McKinley. On issue of anti-imperialism, returned to Democratic Party, 1900, and campaigned for Bryan. Was again elected to Congress, February 23, 1904, at a special election to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of George B. McClellan. Re-elected 1904, 1906, 1920. Died 1923.

Brilliant Orator; Influence on Churchill

Bourke Cockrane was a brilliant orator The following is taken from an article entitled Winston Churchill: A Study in Oratory by Thomas Montalbo.

At age 21, Churchill came to the United States and met Bourke Cockran, a New York Congressman whom he described as "a remarkable man. . .with an enormous head, gleaming eyes and flexible countenance." But most of all, Churchill admired Cockran for the way he talked.
The Congressman had a thundering voice and often spoke in heroic and rolling phrases. When Churchill asked his advice on how he could learn to spellbind an audience of thousands, Cockran told him to speak as if he were an organ, use strong words and enunciate clearly in wave-like rhythm. They corresponded for many years.
Adlai Stevenson, himself a notable speaker, often reminisced about his last meeting with Churchill. "I asked him on whom or what he had based his oratorical style. Churchill replied, ‘It was an American statesman who inspired me and taught me how to use every note of the human voice like an organ.’ Winston then to my amazement started to quote long excerpts from Bourke Cockran’s speeches of 60 years before. ‘He was my model,’ Churchill said. ‘I learned from him how to hold thousands in thrall.’"

William Bourke Cockran

(Roy Jenkins, well-known British politician and statesman, died in January 2003. He was a biographer of note. In 2001 he wrote a much admired life of Winston Churchill. In it he devotes about a page to Churchill's relationship with William Bourke Cockran (born in Ballinacarrow in 1854). Below is abstracted from his book.)

Bourke Cockran
[When Churchill arrived in the United States in 1895] he had been met on the quayside in New York by Bourke Cockran. [Cockran] had been elected to the House of Representatives in 1890 and had made a run to secure the Democratic Presidential nomination for himself rather than Glover Cleveland in 1892. He was a powerful orator and a consummate politician from whom Churchill learnt much and with whom he continued to correspond long after their quayside encounter. Cockran made a profound impact upon Churchill. As late as 1932, when he got together a collection of essays entitled Thoughts and Adventures, Churchill wrote:

I must record the strong impression this remarkable man made upon my untutored mind. I have never seen his like, or in some respects, his equal. With his enormous head, gleaming eyes and flexible countenance, he looked uncommonly like the portrait of Charles James Fox. [Fox, 1749 - 1806, was Britain's first Foreign Secretary.] It was not my fortune to hear any of his orations, but his conversation, in point, in pith, in rotundity, in antithesis and comprehension exceeded anything I have heard.

Cockran took Churchill to stay at his Fifth Avenue residence. He gave a stimulating dinner party for Churchill on his first evening ashore, and generally entertained him so interestingly and generously as to imbue him with a lasting sense of the excitement of New York. The electricity of New York in that mid-autumn week just before his twenty-first birthday was possibly of even greater significance for his future than the baptism of fire in Cuba. The credit for making this impact so strong upon this future honorary citizen of the United States must rest largely with Bourke Cockran.

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