The Rose of Lidice

The Garden of Peace and Friendship had been opened on the 19th of June 1955.

In 1956, the musical composition “A Rose for Lidice” was commissioned retrospectively by the Lidice Shall Live Committee to celebrate the opening of the rose garden. The choral piece was written as a soprano solo with SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) backing. With words by poet Randall Swingler, brother of MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stephen; and music by Alan Rawsthorne, the five-minute-long song was dedicated to Jack Putterill, Vicar of Thaxted, and campaigner for the garden.

Harry Wheatcroft and Jack Putterill at the launch of the rose garden in June 1955

“A Rose for Lidice” was premiered on the 10th of June 1956 in Lidice’s Rose Garden of Peace and Friendship, and simultaneously in Thaxted’s 14th century medieval Church by the Purcell Singers under the skilful direction of Imogen Holst, daughter of the renowned composer, Gustav:

Lidice lay unknown

In the lap of a lying world.

Lidice worked alone in the core of stone

Lidice had grown from the blood of the earth;

Coal and steel were bone of Lidice’s birth.

Fate chose it for Hate’s gangrened fury.

Hate said: Wipe out the name!

History shall abjure it!

Ah, the brave dust blew round the world;

The air flooded with blood of roses.

Hate had ploughed up the soil, Love sowed it.

Where the murderer’s heel stamped on the eyes of children

The gardener’s fingers fashioned them into roses.

Love is a ring once broken proves all untrue.

But the shed petals are token of the bud’s renewal.

While man’s love grows and blossoms in time’s ground

Lidice hangs, a garland round the cross of the world.

Developments continued when the new Mayor of Lidice, Libuše Prošková, accepted from Barnett Stross a newly cultivated variety of rose on a visit to London on the 28th of June 1961. The rose had been bred for a special purpose by Harry Wheatcroft, the now world-famous rosarian and friend of the Lidice community. Before a distinguished embassy gathering, the Ambassador for Czechoslovakia christened it, “The Rose of Lidice.”

The Rose of Lidice

Light poppy red in colour, with a clear lemon base, and finely pointed, bushes were sold for 10s 6d each for planting in the Lidice Garden. The variant became popular with tourists as a contributor towards the costs of supporting the garden, and throughout the 1960s and 1970s the rose was commercially successful. Profitable as it was, it had more impact as a potent symbol of peace.

Harry Wheatcroft presents the Rose of Lidice to the Mayor of Lidice, Libuše Prošková. The photo also features, Dr Barnett Stross to the right, and Madame Galuska, Czechoslovak Ambassador, to the left.

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