Harry Rutherford's
Festival of Britain Mural

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Hyde In War Time (1914-16) Pages11-12

Succouring Homeless Belgians.


Several of the refugees told of terrifying incidents they had experienced or before fleeing out of their country. One of them, a girl of sixteen, had the windows of her bedroom smashed the night before she left Malines by splinters from German shells. In hurriedly escaping, she fell into a dyke, but fortunately was rescued by her father. One of the men refugees had seen a Civilian in Malines with a bayonet stabbed through his heart done by a murderous German. The house of another refugee, at Malines, was destroyed by a German bomb before they left. but this man (who find a wife and seven children) and his family happened to be out at the time, otherwise they might have been killed.


A second party of thirty-nine Belgian refugees arrived before six o-clock on the evening of Friday the 16th October; while on the following morning nineteen were brought from Manchester in motor cars belonging to several Hyde gentlemen. This made exactly a hundred up to that time. The thirty-nine were received at the station, and were conveyed in motors to the old Hospital. Similar scenes were witnessed as on the previous occasion, although it was only a few hours before their arrival that the Mayor received a telegram that were travelling by train from London. As the pitiable bundles of humanity, helpless and careworn, emerged from the station, one eyes grew misty, and many a handkerchief stole up to the faces of the onlookers to brush aside the tears of sympathy that welled up from overflowing hearts.

Among the thirty nine was an old man of 72 years, whose relatives, it was stated, had all been killed of were missing. There he stood, dazed and stupefied, with farrowed brow and stooping mien ; with wisps of grey hair, which he tremblingly pushed back from straggling across his forehead. But for the cruel Huns he have been ensconced near the fire, listening to the lisping of his grandchildren, as they played about his chair, instead of which he had been buffeted from pillar to past, through long nights and days as he pressed with the crowd to Ostend.

There were two little babies in aims, one apparently four or five months' old, the other seven or eight months. These precious little Belgian bairns in innocent and perfectly unconscious wonderment, gazed at their benefactors as they were tenderly carried from the platform to a motor car by two prominent townsmen. It was pathetic to see the Belgian women and to note their silent gratitude for having been delivered from the risk of German violence and outrage, which was so rampant in the early months of the war.

About the beginning of December, there arrived at Hyde nearly thirty more, including a young women of 22, with her two babies, aged two years and one year car respectively, her husband being a prisoner in Germany; and a married woman with nine children - the eldest twenty years of age, the youngest twenty months, - whose husbands was also in the hands of the Germans.


After this country had become the host of tens of thousands of Belgian refugees, there soon arose the problem of how to provide these unfortunate people with employment. In the last two or three months of 1914, work was none to plentiful in England, even for our own countrymen, consequently, if any of the refugees were found ordinary employment, there was the danger of some of our own people being displaced. At this juncture, our worthy Mayor (Councillor Stanley Welch, who had succeeded Alderman Hinchcliffe, Brooke), devised a scheme for providing work for the refugees without interfeing with the employment of our own inhabitants. The underlying principle was that the Belgian males should be employed making furniture for themselves. As the contents of many of their homes in Belgium had been smashed by the German shells, it was recognised that great numbers of new homes would have to be set up, and huge quantities of furniture would be required to furnish them. Among the refugees in Hyde were craftsmen skilled in wood carving and joinery. Through the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Ashton, whose cotton factory adjoins Messrs. Jacobsen and Welch’s Newton Mill, the Mayor had the disposal of a large room, which he equipped as a workshop for the Belgians.


Hydonian said...

Very Interesting about the furniture making. I wonder if any exists and is still in the area?

Tom said...

I'd love to be able to show a picture of some of their work Nancy... or even to just know it still exists.