IT has been a landmark year for former British government minister Michael Portillo.
As well as celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary in Andalucia, he has been travelling around the Pyrenees learning about his father’s escape from Spain after the bloody civil war.
In a four-part series, The Pyrenees, he revisits how his father Luis, a left-wing academic at Salamanca University, was forced to flee his homeland.
Despite not fighting for the losing Republican side, he was a staunch supporter unlike his six brothers, who all fought for the victor, dictator Franco.
It meant a long and tricky journey to escape the new regime that executed tens of thousands of Republicans after winning in 1939.
His son, who served as a Tory minister, in the government of Margaret Thatcher and later John Major, has now paid tribute to his father walking stretches of the Pyrenees that he took.
“I hope he might think that my coming here is a tribute to him and his sacrifice,” he explains in one episode.
“The Spanish Civil War hung over us like a big, black cloud every day, and his sadness of a potential unrealised.”
He revealed in 2009 that his earliest memories included his father speaking of his hatred of Franco.
“His tone was shocking because he was the most loving and gentle of humans. Yet loathing for Franco poured from him. He carried a debilitating wound, of the spirit not the body.
“My father’s life had been devastated by the Spanish conflict. As a supporter of the government in 1936, he had fought against the rebels. In January 1939, as the government side was stumbling to defeat, he crossed the Pyrenees into exile.”
Today, life has come full circle for the Portillos, with Michael spending a lot of time in Spain, where he chose to celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary recently with family and friends.
He and his wife, recruitment consultant, Caroyln Eadie, have owned a charming townhouse in evocative Carmona, near Sevilla, for over a decade.
“I’ve known my wife since we were small children, so the 40 years is only the married bit,” he said.
The couple were unable to have children after she developed cancer early in the marriage.
His father died in 1993 in London, but was buried in Madrigal, in Avila, where he has a grave.
The Pyrenees with Michael Portillo started on Channel 5 last week
The programme is available online.
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