Sir Patrick Duffy: a new book tells his story of survival, public service and statesmanship

Sir Patrick Duffy: a new book tells his story of survival, public service and statesmanship

At the age of 103, Britain’s oldest parliamentarian reflects on history, contemporary issues and friendships

Sir Patrick Duffy pictured with his latest book

SIR Patrick Duffy, former Labour MP and minister, has just published his memoirs - From Wigan to Westminster: Hot Wars, Cold Wars and the Carrier Strike Groups - capturing the many and varied aspects of his long life.

He is now 103-years-old, and is the oldest living former MP.

Sir Patrick experienced an eventful career as a young pilot in Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War, crashing into a Scottish mountain in bad weather and lying undiscovered in the wreckage for two days.

He received the Last Rites - twice - and underwent experimental plastic surgery to overcome his appalling injuries, before, remarkably, taking to the skies once more.

He also witnessed the Cold War at close quarters as President of the NATO Assembly - a key role during the tense years of the 1980s - where the threat of nuclear war loomed large.

Sir Patrick discussed global affairs with prime ministers and presidents. In his book also recalls a private encounter with Pope John Paul II, who batted away the Italian Prime Minister in order to talk to him into his private office. He needed to lobby him about development spending.

The reference to ‘carrier strike groups’ in his memoirs refers to Sir Patrick’s role in retirement, when he chaired an influential group of naval experts (which included the odd admiral) to advise the British government about future warship requirements.

He also details some of his exchanges with the late Queen Elizabeth, of whom he was very fond.

But there many other aspects covered in the book, some of them personal, reflecting Sir Patrick’s unique status as a war hero, member of parliament, government minister, knight of the realm, but, above all, a quintessential Irishman.

Indeed, he writes movingly about his first-ever visit to Ireland as a 12-year-old boy, despatched from his home in Doncaster back to Raith in east Mayo.

The journey took him 30-hours, returning to his real ‘home’.

He offers an evocative, first-hand recollection of an Ireland from nearly a century ago.

Sir Patrick still has a home in Co. Roscommon.

What is striking about Sir Patrick’s writing is the clarity and precision. He is blessed with a pin-sharp memory and can recall events across the rich tapestry of his life as if they were yesterday.

And the book is not only a reflection over a long and eventful career, but also an incisive commentary on contemporary issues like Brexit, Covid and Boris Johnson.

An assiduous reader, Sir Patrick is phenomenally well-briefed on current affairs.

The launch of his book last Friday at Doncaster’s new Danum Gallery, Library and Museum, saw family and friends gather to celebrate a remarkable achievement from a remarkable man.

Among those present were Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, Rosie Winterton, Sir Patrick’s local MP and longtime friend.

The elected Mayor of Doncaster, Roz Jones introduced him, while Sarah Mangan, Consul General of Ireland in Manchester also spoke.

Leading business figures were also there, like John Kennedy and Andy Rogers, who helped produce the book, (along with Irish Post’s publisher, Elgin Loane).

As well as his indispensable friend, Fr Gus O’Reilly.

Offered the chance to remain seated to read the speech he had prepared, the veteran politician would have none of it and stood at the lectern to deliver an eloquent, 20-minute address to assembled guests.

Even at 103, he still has a lot to say.

From Wigan to Westminster: Hot Wars, Cold Wars and the Carrier Strike Groups

available on