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Andrew Stunell, a prominent member of the UK House of Lords, spends six days in Madras for solar eclipse.

HOLLY M. GILL - Andrew Stunell, a member of the British House of Lords, was delighted by his visit to Madras for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. At left, he attends a Lowell Observatory event at the Performing Arts Center Aug. 20. Stunell, 74, camped at Juniper Hills Park, and spent time visiting city officials and touring the city hall and city, before enjoying the eclipse.  
The total solar eclipse brought in at least 100,000 well-behaved visitors from all over the world, including scientists, members of the media, businesspeople, celebrities, and even at least one British lord.

The Right Honourable Lord Robert Andrew Stunell (who even has his own Wikipedia page under "Andrew Stunell") had first attempted to view a total solar eclipse in Cornwall in southwestern England on Aug. 11, 1999, but it was cloud covered.

"It went dark, but I didn't see the corona or the eclipse itself," said Stunell, who decided then that he wanted to see an unobscured eclipse at some point. Eighteen years later, he had his chance.

"This was an opportunity, having my sister-in-law in Portland, to look up a family member and fulfill a longstanding ambition," said Stunell, who researched locations for viewing the eclipse, and decided on Madras.

Using the madraseclipse.com website, he booked a spot at Juniper Hills Park, and arrived Thursday, Aug. 17, with a sleeping bag, tent and binoculars to view the eclipse.

Prior to the eclipse, Stunell contacted city officials — Madras Mayor Royce Embanks and City Administrator Gus Burril — and toured the city hall.

"We gave him a complete tour of city hall and discussed our form of city government," said Embanks, adding that Stunell "is a very unpretentious and a congenial gentleman; it was our joy to have had him here."

Burril said that they enjoyed Stunell's visit. "He had questions about how our municipal government functions and what challenges that we face," he recalled. "Andrew was also inquisitive of how the community prepared for the solar eclipse and the large influx of visitors. This meeting was also an opportunity for us to quiz Andrew about the United Kingdom."

At the conclusion of the visit, Burril said, Stunell and Embanks were able to exchange small gifts in honor of each community. Embanks placed the plaque from Stunell in the mayor's office.

Noting that many cities across the state could learn from Madras, Stunnell commented, "The mayor and the town manager were very positive about finding ways to use this event to bring jobs and prosperity to the city. I'm really impressed with all the teamwork."

On Sunday evening, he attended a Lowell Observatory presentation at the Madras Performing Arts Center.

"I took the advice of the commentator who said that 8 million people would be holding cell phones and taking pictures, so don't waste your time; use your eyes," he said. "It was absolutely fantastic; I've seen plenty of photos and you always assume that they've been touched up, but it was the real thing. It more than lived up to my expectations."

Longtime British politician

Stunell, 74, a member of the Liberal Democrats party, spent 18 years as one of the 650 elected members of the British House of Commons — from 1997-2015 — representing Hazel Grove, a suburb of Stockport in Greater Manchester, in north-central England. On Jan. 24, 2014, he was knighted by the Prince of Wales for public and political service in 2013.

According to his Wikipedia page, he was nominated for a lifetime peerage, and took on the title of Baron Stunell on Oct. 26, 2015. Two and a half years ago, he was appointed as one of the 802 sitting members of the House of Lords.

Stunell modestly never mentioned any of the titles and accolades he accumulated over the years spent serving in the House of Commons, including his service as parliamentary undersecretary of state for communities and local government from 2010-2012, and Liberal Democrat chief whip in the House of Commons from 2001-2006.

Regarding Brexit — the United Kingdom's June 2016 vote to exit the European Union — Stunell said that he worked hard to get people to vote to stay in the union.

"I think it will be a costly decision for the UK," he said. "Some of the hardest hit people will be the people who have suffered the most since the banking crisis. They were attracted by the slogan, 'Take Our Country Back.'"

The UK, he said, has made its mistakes, just like the U.S., with about 51.9 percent of voters voting to leave the union, which could take place in March 2019, if it's not revoked.

In the years before serving in the British Parliament, Stunell served as a county commissioner and a city councilor.

Asked about his occupation prior to his political career, Stunell joked in an email, "Before I turned to the Dark Side I made my living in the construction industry, something I'm again spending some time on by looking at the impact of Brexit on it — potential labour shortages, higher costs of imports, loss of mutual recognition of professional qualifications and materials standards ... nothing to worry about as our own dysfunctional government assures us."

After leaving Madras, Stunell said that he had visited Crater Lake Aug. 25, "but it was smoked out, with nil visibility. At least Madras avoided that!"

Stunell returned to the UK on Aug. 29, with a very positive impression of Madras.

"Camping at Juniper Hills Park was great; they've handled a lot of people and had a good friendly team there, as well," he said. "My overwhelming picture of Madras is how friendly and welcoming everyone has been, and how good they've been at providing the help and information that people need. The people who came and stayed would have gotten a very positive picture of the city."

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