My mum used to talk about the refugees but she is now 94 with advanced Alzheimer's and can hardly remember what happened 2 minutes previously. However, her long term memory sometimes kicks in so I'll bring up the subject with her on my next visit.
At the end of a recent holiday in France with my daughter and son-in-law we briefly called at Poix-du-Nord, with which Keighley had strong associations following WW1. On our return home I mentioned this to my friend, Barbara Davies (formerly Day), widow of A G Davies a contemporary of mine at KBGS. She told me that her Grandma Day, who lived in Devonshire Street, had a couple of small vases which she said she had been given for helping with some foreign children. Barbara wondered whether they might have been from Poix-du-Nord.
However I thought that perhaps these children might have been the Basque refugees who I could vaguely remember. I discovered that the Days had lived next door to a manse where I guess the Revd J N Balmer, Minister at Devonshire Street Congregational Church lived. Apparently he had been responsible for bringing a party of 100 Basque children to Keighley in 1937. They were accommodated in two ’houses’ on the Morton Banks Hospital site and Mr Balmer’s brother, who spoke Spanish fluently was one of their teachers. I understand that from time to time they would be invited to visit local homes. It seems probable that the Days had been involved in providing some of this hospitality.
I started at KBGS in 1937 and as far as I know we had no Basque children on the books.
Thanks, Trevor and David, for your contributions. I’ve passed these on to Simon, whose film and presentation I saw last night in Edinburgh. A good way to spend a couple of hours of your time if you’re in or around Keighley on 28 October.