The Winter Gardens is well known for hosting annual conferences for the UK’s political parties and trade unions. In fact the venue has provided a platform for every Prime Minister since World War II to address an audience at the venue, with the Empress Ballroom as the backdrop.
Many locals have been employed to ensure visits from political leaders run smoothly – and Blackpool is the perfect choice for entertainment. However a more vital role is that of security, with high-profile trips involving VIPs requiring a police escort. One such example was reported in the press when Blackpool was the first resort to host Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party Conference after the 1984 bombing in Brighton.
Local residents who’ve safely transported political and dignitaries to and from the venue alongside officers include chauffeur Frank Lucas, for whom driving Winston Churchill along the prom to and from the Winter Gardens was all in a day’s work.
Those flanking such visitors had to have their wits about them, and one was such occasion was revealed by a member of the History of Blackpool Facebook page, Paul McEvoy, who posted a photograph of his relative - “the fabulous Sergeant Les Holt” - alongside Prime Minister Harold Macmillan at the Winter Gardens.
Born in 1894, Macmillan was Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963. Reputed as “unflappable” and nicknamed ‘Supermac’, he served in both World Wars and was badly injured in WWI's Battle of the Somme. During WWII his political career took off when he became Winston’s Churchill’s protégé.
“Les also served in World War II, in Ireland," said Paul. “He was my late wife Michelle's granddad, my mother-in-law, Patricia Wait’s father. He was married to Winnie Holt of an old Blackpool family, the Fishers; and his son Peter and his grandchildren live in Blackpool.”
Sadly both Paul’s wife Michelle and her mother have passed away, and Paul never had the opportunity meet Les, but one thing he did know about him: “His family loved him dearly.”
In a reflection of Macmillan’s 1957 speech about Britain's post-war economy when he famously stated that “most of our people have never had it so good," Paul said of Sergeant Les Holt’s service to the Prime Minister at the Winter Gardens - “Harold never had it so good”.