Basque children in Salford – Update 4

Basque Children 001It’s been a while since I last talked about the Basque children in Salford, because I’ve had to put my research on hold while I do other stuff. However three exciting things have happened this year, two of them this week, so here goes!

Exciting thing 1) In February I was invited to the opening of an exhibition by the Basque Children of ’37 Association at the Peace Museum in Bradford, and met Carmen Kilner from the Association. We have spoken by e-mail on many occasions, but this was the first time we had met. It was a great exhibition, followed by a viewing of the DVD “The Guernica Children”. In the question and answer section afterwards, I asked if anyone had any information on the children at the Sheffield Colony in Froggat/Grindleford, which is where the Salford children moved on to. Afterwards, Simon Martinez spoke to me, curious that he hadn’t known about this move. He has since researched it and written about the Sheffield Colony, which you can read on the Basque children’s website here .

Exciting thing 2) In January, I took part in a Masterclass through the Ideas4Ordsall project for emerging artists in Salford. We were filmed by Cheryl Twomey as we talked to Amy Goodwin – the curator at Salford Museum and Art Gallery – about geting work into public galleries. (The film can be viewed here.) Anyway – and this is the really exciting bit – I followed all the advice, applied for an exhibition and was accepted!  So from July 18th to 24th Sepember 2017 next year, I will have an art exhibition at Ordsall Hall based on the story of the Basque Children in Salford. Whoo hoo…

So thanks to Dr.Jessica Symons, from the Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures at Salford University for organising the masterclass and to Amy for her good advice.

Exciting thing 3) Spurred on by getting this exhibition, I decided I had to find out about the Basque children who, according to the Salford Reporter, went to St. Joseph’s Home in Eccles. So, I spent 5 hours yesterday at the Salford Local History Library

staring at the microfilm of the Eccles and Patricroft Journal for 1937, and eventually found some information on them, which I will tell you about in a later post as you must be bored by now!

Basque Children in Salford – Update 3

Spanish Children at Harold's Memorial Orphanage HomeEarlier this year I met Manchester-based writer Natalie Bradbury at an event at Islington Mill. Natalie has a blog called the Shrieking Violet and also creates a zine of the same name.  Natalie is interested in preserving lost stories and history and asked me if I would write an article for her zine.  This has now been published. Paper Copies are on sale in Piccadilly Records and Cornerhouse bookshop, Manchester, costing £2 or you can download a copy here or you can read it on line. My article is on pages 3-6.

I’ve now worked my way through old copies of the Salford Reporter so the next step is to find out what happened to the children who went to Eccles and to start to research the people involved in fundraising and supporting them.

To see previous posts on the Basque Children in Salford click here

Basque Children in Salford – update 2

I have found out so much about the Basque children in Salford since my last update on them, and I have met and been in e-mail contact with so many interesting and kind people who have generously shared their own research with me.

I met up with a local historian, Roy Bullock, author of Salford 1940 to 1965: Twenty Five Years in the History of the City of Salford and other books (detailed here but you need to scroll down a bit). He is currently researching Salford’s history between 1930 and 1940 and has worked his way through, photographed and catalogued the microfiches of the Salford Reporter for that period at the Local History Library. After a very interesting chat in the Deli-lama Cafe I arrived home to find he had sent me all the info! How wonderful is that?

It was suggested to me that I contact Bill Williams, another local historian and author of ‘Jews and other foreigners’: Manchester and the Rescue of the Victims of European Fascism, 1933-1940 (Manchester University Press).  He has devoted a whole chapter of this book to the Basque children and very kindly sent me a copy of it! Again, how wonderful is that?

So with the help of these two very generous people I now have the beginnings of a story to tell!

On the 28th May 1937 the Salford Reporter informed readers that “The Bishop of Salford (Dr. Thomas Henshaw) announced that some of the Basque children who are being evacuated from war-torn areas are to be cared for in the homes of the Salford Catholic Protection Society”. This included 8 or 10 boys and girls who arrived as a group of 90 children at London Road Station in Manchester on the 24th June who were assigned St. Joseph’s Home, Worsley Road, Patricroft in Eccles run by the Missionary Sisters of St. Joseph. Eccles is a small town in Salford which, until 1974, was a Municipal Borough with its own town council, but is now administratively part of the City of Salford. Finding out that there were children in Eccles too means I now have another strand of the story to investigate and another old local newspaper to research, The Eccles and Patricroft Journal.

On the Friday 18th June 1937, The Salford Reporter announced

These children between the ages of seven and eight (according to this article, but older children are mentioned in the Manchester Guardian) “are one section of the hundred for which the Christian Volunteer Force is caring, and during their stay in Salford they will be accommodated at Harold’s Memorial Orphanage Home, Seedley Road, Seedley” The two other contingents of children were taken to Forces homes in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The children were a couple of days late because of a typhoid scare at North Stoneham camp, where they stayed on arrival in Britain.

A reporter who visited the home before the children arrived described “an atmosphere of busy happiness over the house” around the preparations which were going “full steam ahead”. Five rooms were already prepared as dormitories, “bright cheerful rooms decorated in yellows and browns with blue coverlets on the beds and blue floor coverings”. A Manchester firm donated baby dolls with eyes that “open and shut”, sets of tools and miniature planes for the boys as well as puzzles and games.

The Officers from the Christian Volunteer Force who were in charge of the home were Mr and Mrs Hutchinson, Staff Captain and Acting Matron, Adjutant McMullen and Commodore Hill.

All this information just from two old newspaper articles, and there is so much more to tell, including what the children ate, where they did their lessons, a trip to Blackpool and moving on to Grindleford near Sheffield after four and a half months (another area I now need to investigate).

Thanks to all the people who have helped so far, some I’ve not yet named as, unlike the two author/historians Roy and Bill, their names are not in the public domain and I want to get their permission first.  I’ve also linked up with a local multimedia artist and community researcher, Steve Cunio, to try and progress this project. I am really looking forward to his involvement.

Basque Children in Salford – update 1

In my post on June 26th I mentioned a project I have started about the Basque children who came to Salford in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Thanks to Caroline Allport, the User Development Worker for Older People at Salford City Council, who put my request for information on The Older People in Salford Facebook page, and the Salford Advertiser who printed a letter requesting information, I now have some interesting threads to follow and thought I would update you on my progress.

First of all Ray contacted me to say he had been in a play about the Spanish Civil War at the Working Class Movement Library and that a Basque Lady, who he thought was one of the original refugees, attended.  He is trying to find out how to contact her through his networks, and has given me lots of contacts of people who have researched the Spanish Civil War.

Vicki supplied me with the photograph above of the Spanish Children, taken in the grounds of Harold’s Orphanage. The photograph came from her mother, who used to play with the children. Another contact, Dorothy, remembers walking past the orphanage with her mother and being told that they were children with no mummies and daddies who had left Spain because of a war there.  When she was later evacuated from Salford during the War she thought of the Spanish children and was terrified she might never see her parents again. Jim can remember playing in the grounds of the orphanage in 1941 when it was empty.  There were two old dilapidated rowing boats in the back! He also told me that a bomb was dropped next door to the orphanage during the War.

In addition I have had lots of offers of help, suggestions of where to find information, including the really helpful comment from Richard on my original post, and an e-mail from a chap called Peter whose family had been involved in supporting refugees during the War. I have had lots of encouragement and am going to talk to a local community forum in August to try to find local groups and community champions who might be able to help me uncover more leads.  I am finding this all very exciting and will keep you posted!

Basque Children in Salford 1937

I am embarking on an interesting project to find out more about a group of Basque refugee children who came to Salford following the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. I am particularly interested in memories of local people who would have been children at this time. Now, I know it’s a bit different to ripples and erosion, and pristine white velvet snow so I’m going to try to explain how someone who found history boring at school has suddenly started to research the Spanish Civil War!

As a teenager I watched the film “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and was struck by reference to the Spanish Civil War because I wasn’t really aware that there had been one, although I had heard of Franco.  I bought the book but didn’t learn any more. Something resonated with me, though, and I had a gnawing sense that I wanted to dig deeper. I didn’t, of course!  Then around 2006/7 I saw Guillermo del Toro’s film “Pan’s Labyrinth” which is set against the back drop of the Civil War. This stirred that old romantic interest in the subject and I followed it up by watching his “The Devil’s Backbone” set in the same period.

File:Panorama Cerbère depuis le col des Balistres.jpgPanorama of Cerbère seen from the French/Spanish border (July 2008) photo: Christophe Marcheux

A trip to Barcelona by train stirred this feeling again, particularly when at  Cerbere, the station on the border where many of the International Brigade entered Spain, the Border Police got on and searched the train!

On my return I taught a printing class and used paintings by Jean Miró as inspiration for print designs. By learning about Jean Miró I became even more aware of the devastating impact the Civil War had on the nation and people of Spain, and how he was affected by it. Picasso too, whose painting Guernica  is a visceral depiction of the horror that civil war can lead to.

So, gradually, I have been building up my knowledge.  For me, the best way into reading “proper” history books is via fiction and biography.  I received Javier Cercas’ “Soldiers of Salamis” (slow start, nearly put it down, but glad I didn’t, really good), Laurie Lee’s Trilogy “Red Sky at Sunrise”  and George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” as gifts, so I had a cracking start to my research.  I then saw a review of Peter Day’s “Franco’s Friends: how British Intelligence helped bring Franco to power in Spain” and put it on my Christmas list! A very interesting book, if a little dry, based on recently released documents from the National Archive, the Imperial War Museum, British library and Private Collections.

At a local festival as Nana Knitwit, I took a quick break during a quiet spell to look at the stall next door – the Working Class Movement Library – and amongst their publications was a little book called “From Manchester to Spain” by Bernard Barry, so of course I bought it.  It was reading this that alerted me to the Spanish children and the Salford connection.

In June 1937, 4000 Basque children arrived in Southampton as refugees and were dispersed around the country in “colonies”.  One of these colonies was in Salford at Harold’s Memorial Orphanage, now demolished but only five minutes walk from my home, and they were taught at the Local Quaker Meeting House, now a British Legion building just a little further on.  I realised that it is exactly 75 years since they arrived. Did anyone remember them? Somebody should organise a celebration I thought!  I mentioned the children to my friend’s mum (age 83) and she was delighted to be asked. She remembered being 9 years old and leaving hospital after a bout of mumps. She went with her friends to look at the refugees because “we thought they would be exotic but were dead disappointed because they looked just like us!”

The former Friends Meeting House (now The British Legion) on Langworthy Road, Salford

I felt I should let people know about this 75th Anniversary because it’s a little bit of Salford history that was overtaken by the war and forgotten, and that maybe someone should do something about it.  I then met a really great guy called Lawrence at the opening night of the Cow Lane Exhibition. He has set up the Streets Museum, an online archive of the 1000 lost streets of Salford – streets that have been demolished over the last 60 years – and their fragmented and dispersed communities, inspired by The District Six Museum of South Africa. He basically did it because it needed doing and it needed doing now before all those memories were lost.  So, inspired by Lawrence, I have decided to make a piece of art based on the Basque children in Salford. Anyone who remembers them will be in their eighties and nineties, and I need to tap into these memories sooner rather than later.

And! After talking to artist Julie Foley an artist at Cow Lane Studios, it does fit in very well with my investigation of memory and the way it changes and fragments over time. I’m just approaching it from a different perspective…