In Denbighshire, in some of the towns of the Vale of Clwyd, efforts to receive and look after Belgian Refugees were rewarded with letters of thanks, a medal from The King of The Belgians, and the most heartfelt presentation by three families in Ruthin. All reports taken from the Denbighshire Free Press:
12th September 1914
A public meeting will be held in the Town Hall, Denbigh, at 11.30 a.m., on Thursday, September 17th, to consider the advisability of establishing a home for a few Belgian Refugees. All who are in sympathy with the suggestion are cordially invited to attend. The Mayor will preside.
There were three separate items in the Free Press of October 17th, 1914:
HOME IN DENBIGH FOR BELGIAN REFUGEES
SYMPATHETIC PUBLIC MEETING
A public meeting convened by the Mayor (Councillor T. Lloyd Jones) was held at the Town Hall, Denbigh, yesterday (Thursday) for the purpose of considering the question of providing a home in Denbigh for Belgian Refugees.
The Mayor presided, and there was a large attendance of influential ladies and gentlemen, representing all classes of the community.
The Mayor, in opening the proceedings, said it was unnecessary for him to say anything in support of the claims the brave Belgians had to keen sympathy. He touched upon the personal suffering, the ravages committed on their country, the destruction of their homes, and, in thousands of cases, the loss of all they possessed. He reminded the meeting of the enormous numbers who had fled for refuge to this country. They had suffered more than any other country in Europe, and immediate action was necessary to relieve their distress. He remarked that as regarded the Henllan portion of the Borough arrangements had already been sorted by the Rector (the Rev. H. Humphreys) and Mr. Roberts, of Foxhall, and it was intended to lend the Old School House, which would be fixed up for the use of one or more Belgian families there, so that they could not expect much support for the town movement from Henllan. As regarded Denbigh, Miss Jones, of Henllys, Rhyl, and formerly of Denbigh, the owner of the house named “Lyndhurst”, recently in the occupation of the late Town Clerk, had generously offered the house rent-free for six months (up to May), and it was suggested it should be furnished for the accommodation at first of about 15 refugees. It was roughly estimated that it would cost £80 up to Christmas and £150 up to May next to maintain the families that could be accommodated in the house, and they hoped to receive gifts in money and kind for the purpose.
The Belgians lived largely on vegetables, and if they got contributions of this nature from the farmers it would materially assist towards the cost. Dr. Lloyd, Dr. Jackson, and Dr. Lloyd Hughes had promised free medical attendance and all the local chemists had promised to supply medicine free. This was a movement which everyone could help, and it had been suggested that the shop assistants might make a small levy amongst themselves to give something each week to the fund. The Caledfryn Lodge of Good Templars, who were organising a concert in aid of The Prince of Wales Fund, had promised to devote part of the proceeds to the local Belgian Fund. A lecture in aid of the funds would also be given under the auspices of the Literary Society by a gentleman from Louvain University. This, he thought, was an indication that the town was anxious to do everything possible in the matter. He was pleased to see so large a gathering, and he commended this most deserving object to their consideration and sympathy (applause).
Mr. D. S. Davies spoke in detail as to the brave stand the Belgians had made, as to the sufferings this had entailed, and their claim upon British sympathy and help, and he moved a vote of sympathy with the Belgians in their sufferings, and that the meeting approve the provision of a temporary home in Denbigh for the homeless Belgians and pledged itself to support this worthy object (applause).
The Rector seconded the resolution, and said that Denbigh, being the county town, would no doubt take a prominent part in fulfilling a public duty in offering succour to these brave people, who were no almost fellow citizens. They were the admiration of the world, and Denbigh people would no doubt be glad to help them in this hour of sore distress. He was sure that the movement would be enthusiastically taken up by all, and that the necessary funds would be forthcoming immediately (applause).
The resolution was supported by Mr. John Davies, who referred to the bravery of the Belgian nation, their present sad condition, and the urgent claim they had upon British sympathy and support. He approved the idea of a house being specially provided for them, rather than an attempt to help them in resident families, as being more congenial and helpful to the poor Belgians themselves. He was sure that the project would receive the hearty support of all classes.
The Rev. D. E. Jenkins also supported the resolution (which was carried with enthusiasm). He said there was a general desire to help; it only needed the opportunities to do so to being pointed out. And he mentioned that already one Denbigh gentleman (Mr. A. Foulkes Roberts had given a proof of his desire to help by placing a house at Prestatyn at the use of the Committee as a home for Belgian refugees (applause).
On the motion of Alderman Clough, seconded by the Rev. Evan Jones, all the ladies present were asked to form a general committee and hold a meeting at the close of that meeting to elect an executive committee to proceed at once with the business. This was agreed to.
Mr. John Davies proposed and the Rector seconded a cordial vote of thanks to Mrs. Jones, Henllys, Rhyl, for so kindly placing the home at their disposal free of charges, and the motion was carried with acclamation.
The Mayor announced that Mr. D. S. Davies had promised to subscribe £20 towards furnishing and £5 a month for the maintenance of the home (applause).
On the motion of Mr. Cottom, seconded by Mr. Francis, the Mayor was accorded a vote of thanks for calling the meeting and presiding.
The Mayor said it was a great pleasure for him to preside and see so many present taking an active interest in the movement.
The Executive Committee was appointed as follows:- The Mayoress, Mrs. Redfern, Mrs. Turnour, Mrs. Lloyd, Beech House; Mrs. Swaine, Mrs. A. O. Evans, Mrs. J. R. Owen, Miss Parry, Eryl; Miss Davies, Plas Castell; Miss J. C. Lloyd Williams, Miss Mildred Hughes, and Miss Clough.
The Mayoress was elected president of the Committee.
Miss Davies, Plas Castell, was appointed honorary secretary, and Miss Mildred Hughes, Ystrad Isaf, the honorary treasurer.
DONATIONS, &c., PROMISED IN THE ROOM.
Mr. D. S. Davies, Plas Castell, £20 and £5 a month; Mr. G. B. Bahrens, Vron Yw, £25; Mrs. Clough, Ty Mawr, £20; Mrs. C. W. Harrison, Goppa, £1 a week for 26 weeks; Mr. Robert Davies, Bodheulog, £1 1s, Mr. Walter Scott, Tanygryt, £10; The Mayoress, £1 1s and 5s a week for six months; Miss Townsend, Cai Dai, 1 stretcher, 2 tables, a sofa, and 1 chair; Mrs. Clough, Ty Mawr, I dresser and 4 chairs; Mrs. Bahrens, Vron Yw, 2 small beds and bedclothes; Mrs. Williams, Llewesog, 1 large bedstead, &c.,; Miss Williams Wynn, Plas yn Cefn, promised a subscription and to supply vegetables; Mrs. .J Roberts, Lleweni, 3 beds; Mrs. Davies, Berwynfa, 1 double bed and 2 single beds; Mrs. D. E. Jenkins, Gladstone Villas, 1 bed and 1 cot; Mrs. Armstrong, Llwyn Ystrad 1 wardrobe; Mrs. Francis, Wynne’s Parc, 1 bed; the mattress, 1 sideboard, 1 cot, 1 cradle, and linoleum; Mrs. James, Cayo, chairs; Miss Gee, 2 carpets; Misses Hughes, Ystrad Isaf, blankets, curtains, &c.,; Mrs. Lloyd, Beech House, 1 kitchen table; Mrs. Redfern, The Rectory, a supply of milk for six months; Mrs. Swayne, Cae Derw, 1 chest of drawers with mirror, and promised to pay for the whitewashing of the house if the Committee were unable to secure free labour.
BELGIANS IN BRITISH HOMES
16th October 1914
To the Editor of the FREE PRESS.
Sir:- Will you kindly insert in your paper a hearty vote of thanks to those who to promptly and kindly volunteer to receive our Belgian neighbours into their houses to snare their fireside comforts? It is the noblest set of self-sacrifice, and should stimulate those of us who cannot follow their example to do all they can in other ways. Denbigh tradespeople will; I hope, recognize the help they will receive by these additions to their list of customers –
Yours truly, S. P. WYNNE.
BELGIAN REFUGEES’ HOME IN DENBIGH
The Committee would be glad if anyone who can give or lend Furniture will kindly communicate with the Honorary Secretary (Miss Davies, Plas Castell), at once, as the furnishing of the house is urgent. The Belgian Refugees are expected in a few days.
This photograph shows Vale Street in Denbigh as the Refugees arrive.
Photo courtesy of Denbigh Community Archive – with our utmost gratitude!
And this photo shows the house, Lyndhurst, on Vale Street – photo from Denbigh Community Archive.
Mrs. Jones, the owner of the Refugee House, Lyndhurst, died unexpectedly in April 1916 at her home in Rhyl. She had been suffering “nothing more serious than a cold”, according to newspaper reports of the time. Her husband John called for Dr. Thomas, but he found that she had deteriorated very quickly and died within 45 minutes of him attending. She is buried in Rhyl (Maeshyfryd) Cemetery. Lyndhurst is now Vale View Care Home.
24th October 1914
BELGIAN REFUGEES IN DENBIGH
Cordial Welcome by Mayor and Townspeople
One came into direct touch with the grim realities of war yesterday (Thursday) when a party of Belgian refugees arrived in town, and were given an official welcome by the Mayor (Councillor T Lloyd Jones), who was accompanied by the Mayoress, the Town Clerk, Mr Guy Francis, and others. The party, numbering ten, consisted of well-dressed men and women who had evidently been in good positions. One of them an aged lady 79, whose sorrow is increased by the fact that she suffers from blindness. It seemed that they had all occupied good positions in Brussels, from whence they had to leave practically everything they had in the world, nice villa residences, good homes, and all they owned. They fled to Ostend, which in time became as unsafe as Brussels, and for a second time they had to flee for safety to the hospitable shores of Britain. What they have suffered in losing all and fleeing from their own country we cannot imagine, but we hope they will find their temporary home an haven of refuge and help them to forget in some degree their sorrow. They arrived at 11.30 a.m., and were met at the station by the Mayor, who wore his chain of office. The party having assembled on the station platform, the Mayor, in offering a cordial welcome to the refugees, said:- “Our guests and our friends,-It affords me very great pleasure, and I appreciate the privilege very highly, of being the first to bid you welcome to this our native town representing, as you do, a nation, small it is true, but whose bravery and courage have won the admiration of the whole world. If it had not been for the wonderful stand and conspicuous bravery shown by your soldiers in the earlier stages of the war, particularly at Liege and Namur, France would have been overrun, and possibly Paris might have fallen. The wonderful courage of your King we all admire, and he has proved himself to be a true hero. The courage of your soldiers is beyond all praise. You have lost all, no, you have kept your honour, which, after all, is of far greater value than any worldly goods. The enthusiasm and willingness with which the movement of providing a home for you in Denbigh did not surprise me, but has been most gratifying. We trust that in these placid surroundings, far away from the clash of arms, you will be able to forget the horrors of war through which you have passed and regain your health and vigour and soon will be able to return to your native land, which you so dearly love. Again I bid you welcome to our town and neighbourhood (applause).” Mr Beeckman; himself a Belgian refugee, who Is staying with Mrs Richards of Cerrigllwydion Hall, on behalf of his fellow countrymen, returned thanks for the welcome so kindly extended them. He thanked them from the bottom of his heart, and all he could say was that his heart was too full to make a speech (applause). He had interpreted the purport of the Mayor’s speech to the party. The party was then conveyed in carriage to Lyndhurst, the home prepared for them, the carriages having being supplied gratis by Mr Williams, Crown Stables, and Mr Jones, Berllan. As the party proceeded up Vale Street, they were given a rousing reception by the school children, who lined the streets and cheered them most vociferously. On arrival at Lyndhurst the children sang the National Anthems of the Belgians, Welsh, and, last but not least, ‘God Save the King.’ The Rector (the Rev T Redfern, M.A.) and other clergymen and ministers of the town were present at Lyndhurst to give the party a welcome; together with members of the committee of ladies managing the domestic affairs of the home. The ladies in charge of the home this week are the Misses Hughes (Ystrad), the Mayoress, and Miss Nesta Davies. The house has been furnished to a large extent by gifts such as recorded in last week’s Free Press, and the house was coloured, painted and cleaned by the free labour of local painters, &c.
THANKS TENDERED BY THE MAYOR.
To the Editor of the FREE PRESS. 22, High Street, Denbigh,
Allow me to express my grateful thanks to all who united to give our Belgian friends such a cordial reception, The welcome extended to cur guests to-day will, I feel confident, be a source of comfort to them and help to alleviate the painful memories of the past. The cheers and singing of the children materially added to the warmth of the reception. The generous response to the appeal for funds for the formation of the Belgian Home has been most gratifying, and shows the practical sympathy felt by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood with our gallant allies. The Committee will be grateful for further contributions in money or kind for the upkeep of the Home.
T, LLOYD-JONES, Mayor.
The Welsh Language newspaper, Baner ac Amserau Cymru of January 23rd, 1915, tells us that the Crown Hotel was used as temporary accommodation for a further arrival of nine refugees:
RHAGOR O BELGIAID
Y mae naw yn rhagor o ffoaduriaid Belgaidd wedi dyfod i’r dref, ac ar hyn o bryd y maent yn aros yn Ngwesty’r Crown, nes y gwneir trefniadau eraill.
…and it’s clear that some of the Refugees kept in touch with the townspeople of Denbigh after they returned home, as this little note in the Free Press of December 27th, 1919 displays:
COMFORT FOR HOUSEWIVES
A letter to a Denbigh lady from one of the family of the Belgian refugees who lived here so long contains the information that in Ostend butter is 5s per lb, meat 5s per lb., and milk 5s per quart! These prices must make Denbigh housewives feel that they are comparatively well off.
1st March 1919
BELGIAN FAMILES SAY FAREWELL
In the first rush of the German hordes over Belgium in the autumn of 1914, when the residents who could escape left all and sought refugee in Britain, a party of them were received in Denbigh, and from the hour, when, representing the town, the then Mayor (Councillor T Lloyd Jones) welcomed them, they have remained (latterly fewer in number) and everything has been done for their comfort and help, by the Committee of the local Refugee fund, of which Miss Davies, Plas Castell, has been the hon. secretary. They resided at Lyndhurst, Vale-street, then, as numbers decreased, at Belmont, and for the last year or two at Windsor-terrace. For some time they have been expecting the opportunity would be made for them to return home, the call came a few days ago, and on Wednesday they said good-bye with a good deal of regret and deeply grateful for all kindness, though at the same time rejoiced to return to their native land. The two charming little girls of Mr. & Mrs. Kyntand were being educated as free day scholars at Howell’s School, and their son, a bright intelligent boy, had a free place at the County School. They were all three recipients of gifts, books &c., from their co-pupils who were sorry to part with them.
BELGIANS RETURN THANKS FOR KINDNESS RECEIVED
Dear Mr. Editor,- Will you kindly allow us space in your valuable paper to thank our friends in Denbigh and neighbourhood for all the kindness shown to us during the last four years. We have been very happy here amongst you; we shall be very sorry to leave Denbigh, but also glad to be able to return to our homes. We do not say good-bye, but au revoir as we hope in a few years time to pay you a visit. Again thanking everyone, – yours sincerely,
Mr. and Mrs. Kyntand and Children,
Mr. and Mrs. E. Deley,
Vale of Clwyd
26th September 1914
BELGIANS IN THE VALE OF CLWYD
We are delighted to find that the Vale of Clwyd is contributing its share – if only limited – to the welcome to the Belgian refugees. In one or two residences in the Vale families of Belgians have been received and are given every kindness and hospitality, and on the flag-staff of one residence the Belgian flag is flying.
25th December 1915
THANKS FROM BELGIAN REFUGEES.
To the Editor of the Free Press.
Sir,-We are Belgian Refugees. We lived at Llanrhaiadr from where we left some months ago, to go and work at Burton-on-Trent. Please allow us to send our best thanks, through the Free Press, to all our kind friends in and around Denbigh, and to wish them a very Happy Christmas and New Year. My wife, my little Ivonne, and myself, we never will forget our dear Welsh friends, principally that best of ladies, Mrs Richards, of Cerrigllwydion Hall, who took such great care of us. We are very happy here, and I earn enough to keep my little family. This, I know, will give great pleasure to all.
BEECKMAN, From near Antwerp.
Burton-on-Trent, December 21st, 1915
24th October 1914
HOME FOR THE BELGIANS.
On Monday evening a meeting was held in the Council Schools to consider the advisability of providing a home for Belgian refugees in the village. The meeting was very well attended, and great enthusiasm was shown. Mr W D W Griffith, Garn, was voted to the chair, and he gave a most interesting and stirring address, full of information upon the present distressing situation. Rev H Humphreys, M.A., The Rectory, was appointed treasurer; Messrs R H Roberts, Foxhall, and O Trevor Jones being appointed secretaries. A proposal to provide a home in Henllan was unanimously agreed to. It was announced that the Chairman had promised to give absolutely free the use of a spacious house in the village for the purpose. This was most enthusiastically received. Mr H Humphreys also expressed his willingness to have the Old Schools converted into another home. The following were appointed collectors Mrs Humphreys, The Rectory Miss Lancaster, Tan’rallt; Miss Roberts, School street; Miss Gladys Roberts, Hyfrydle, Messrs Harvey, D Davies, John Williams, and R Thomas. Subscriptions to the amount of £30 were promised in the meeting, and the collectors are everywhere met with kindness and sympathy sums varying from 1s per month up to £5 per month being promised to support the homes, while others give articles of furniture, household utensils, linen, foodstuffs, etc. Never was more sympathy and enthusiasm shown with any movement in the district. A ladies’ committee, under the presidency of Mrs Heaton, Plas Heaton, has been formed to prepare the homes for the reception of at least 14 persons to this village. It the collectors do not call with anyone who desires to contribute to this worthy cause, the Secretaries will gladly receive any subscriptions.
24th October 1914
The Mayor has convened a public meeting to be held in the Town Hall, on Monday evening to consider the question of locally assisting the Belgian Refugees. We are sure that the public will take up the offer with enthusiasm.
31st October 1914
COLLECTION FOR BELGIAN REFUGEES
The General Committee appointed to make arrangements for providing shelter in Ruthin for homeless and destitute Belgians have arranged for a canvas of the town and district for contributions and promises of subscriptions towards the fund for their maintenance. The persons appointed for this purpose will call upon all residents within the next few days, and it is hoped that their appeal will meet with a generous response.
14th November 1914
[This report was omitted last week owing to a blunder of the railway company in the non-delivery of a news parcel.]
A well-attended meeting of the General Committee appointed to make arrangements for providing hospitality in Ruthin for Belgian refugees was held in the Council Chamber on Wednesday evening, presided over by his Worship the Mayor. The Committee consists of 70 members, and about 60 were present at the, meeting. A Sub-Committee appointed to inspect the premises that had been offered for the accommodation of the refugees, namely, Bodyngharad, Plas Newydd, and Berlh, presented a report dealing fully with the capacity, state of repair, and sanitary condition of the premises. After some discussion it was decided to accept the offer of Bodyngharad and Plas Newydd, and to make immediate arrangements for housing 10 persons in the former, and 20 in the latter premises. An Executive Committee was appointed to carry out the work of furnishing and making all arrangements for the reception of the Belgians. The members appointed were: His Worship the Mayor; Mrs. Tate, Pool Park; Mrs. Springmann; Mrs. Theodore Rouw; Mrs. W. F. Byford, Colomendy; Miss Rowlands, County School for Girls, Miss Evans, Heulfre Mr. E. W. Lovegrove, Ruthin Grammar School; the Rev. the Warden; Rev. W. G. Williams; Messrs. T. H. Roberts; Robert Beech and R. H. Williams. The town and country had been divided into collecting districts, and persons appointed to make a house-to-house canvass for promises of subscriptions in money and kind for the support of the refugees. As all the results of the canvass had not been received by the Hon. Secretary it was not possible to give the total amount that would be available, but the reports received from those who had completed the canvass were very satisfactory, and sufficient to justify the Committee in providing for the number decided upon. A full list of all contributions will be published when complete. Miss Springmann presented Belgian flags to be hoisted on the houses when occupied.
14th November 1914
The Committee of the Belgian Homes in Ruthin would greatly appreciate contributions of vegetables and farm produce. Persons desiring to contribute should communicate with the Town Clerk, hon. secretary to the committee.
11th December 1914
Ten more Belgian refugees are expected to arrive in Ruthin in the course of a few days, the majority of whom will be accommodated at Bodyngharad, Llanfwrog, which has been furnished by the Committee for the purpose. We shall then have 23 refugees under the charge of the Refugee Committee besides several who are receiving hospitality from private persons.
9th January 1915
BELGIAN REFUGEES FUND
Mr. A. H. Rowlands, headmaster of Ruthin Council Schools, has handed to the Mayor the proceeds of the school concert held in the Town Hall last month, to be applied in aid of the Belgian Refugees (Local) Fund, and Mrs. Bellis, Bontuchel, has also paid over to the same object a sum of £10 realised by the concert organised by her and held in Bontuchel.
9th January 1915
BELGIAN REFUGEES’ WEDDING
One would imagine that the last place to look for a love romance would be in the ranks of the unfortunate refugees, to whom we are proud to extend hospitality in these days. But Cupid is apparently no respecter of persons or circumstances, and thus it happens that the love making of two refugees from Belgium had a happy ending in their marriage at Ruthin and Denbigh on Thursday.
Jan Baptiste Van Hoof was the lover who won the heart of Janette Rossiers under happier circumstances in Malines, and he had prepared a home and was intending to be married when the war broke out. It is the irony of fate that the marriage should take place in a Welsh town, of which they had not even heard the name before they left their own country.
Considerable interest was taken in the event by Ruthin people, and they were the recipients of several useful presents. The ladies of the Refugees Committee were anxious to do all in their power to carry out the arrangements, and it was through their kindness that the happy event was such a success. The wedding ring was the gift of Mrs Tate, Pool Park; Mrs Springmann gave the wedding cake, Mrs Tegid Owen, Mrs Baldwin Griffith and Miss Evans, Heulfre, gave the lady’s wedding costume, and Miss Jones, Castle Hotel, her hat; while Mr T H Roberts, St. Peter’s Square presented the bridegroom with a complete wedding suit. The civil portion of the ceremony took place in the Registrar’s Office, in the presence of the supt. registrar, Mr D E H Roberts, and the registrar, Mr Robert Gee. There were also present, His Worship the Mayor (Alderman R H Williams) and the Mayoress, the town clerk (Mr Baldwin Griffith), Mr Wm. Jones, Glasfryn, Mr Rossiers (the bride’s father); Mr Nat Muys, Mr and Madam Stass, Mlle Andrie; and Mrs and Miss Maysmor Gee.
The Registrar had acquired sufficient knowledge of Flemish to be able to conduct the ceremony in that language, the English service having been translated beforehand by Monsieur Mathalis Muys, a brilliant young Belgian boy. The religious service took place in the Roman Catholic Chapel at Denbigh; whence the Bride and Bridegroom and Registrar were conveyed in a motor car kindly lent by Mr Robert Beech, The Rev. Father Drakes officiated. The happy couple afterwards returned to Plas-newydd, where they spent the rest of day with their friends, being entertained by the ladies of the Refugees Committee.
16th January 1915
MORE BELGIAN REFUGEES
A further party of Belgian Refugees arrived in Ruthin from London on Saturday last. They are a family of seven-father, mother, and five children, the ages of the latter ranging from 15 years to ten months. They were met at the station by His Worship the Mayor, the Town Clerk, Mr W R Evans, and the Misses Evans, Heulfre, and several of the Refugees from Plas Newydd, and were conveyed in a motor car kindly lent by Mr E W Tate, to Bodyngharad, where they will reside during their stay in Ruthin. The ladies of the Refugees’ Committee had prepared the house for their reception, and they had a hot meal ready and served immediately on their arrival. The Ruthin Committee have now twenty-three refugees under their care.
10th March 1915
BELGIAN REFUGEES FUND
A meeting of the General Committee of The Belgian Refugees Fund was held in the Council Chamber on Tuesday evening, presided over by His Worship the Mayor (Alderman B H Williams). The Hon. Secretary (Mr Baldwin Griffith) presented the following report dealing with the work done since the last meeting of the General Committee in November:- Ladies and Gentlemen, – The work entrusted by you at your last meeting to the Executive Committee has been undertaken and carried out in a thoroughly business-like and efficient manner. General arrangements for providing hospitality for the refugees have occupied the attention of the committee itself, but special sub-committees were appointed to deal with such questions as furnishing, food supply, collection of subscriptions, and clothing for the refugees. Over forty meetings of the various committees have been held.
We now have twenty-one refugees under our charge. Thirteen of these were sent by the Liverpool Distributing Committee on the 17th of November, and are provided for in Plas Newydd. A family, consisting of husband, wife and five children were sent by the Central Committee in London on the 9th January, and were placed at Bodyngharad. A young Belgian soldier, whose father applied on his behalf to this committee for hospitality, arrived here on 20th March, and is lodged at Plas Newydd. A married couple, M and Madam Stas, were also sent here by the Central Committee in London on the 19th December. After they had been in our charge for three weeks they were taken over by Mt and Mrs Tate, Pool Park, who kindly provided for their hospitality until they left on the 22nd March to proceed to France. Another refugee, a young lady who came to us of the 24th December, is under the care of Mr and Mrs Tegid Owen at the Castle Hotel, who applied to this committee to be allowed to maintain her.
Furnishing.- The sub-committee appointed to see to the furnishing of Plas Newydd and Bodyngharad did some excellent and useful work. Their duties were exceptionally heavy, but were carried out in a most efficient manner under the direction of Mrs. Springmann and Mrs Tate. Everything possible has been provided for the comfort of the refugees, but no unnecessary expenditure was incurred in doing so.
Clothing.- A committee was appointed to attend to the requirements of the refugees in the matter of clothing. Most of the refugees came to Ruthin without any other clothing than what they had on them. The committee have supplied them with all the clothes that were considered necessary for their comfort.
Provisions.- The system adopted for supplying food and provisions to the refugees at Bodyngharad and Plas Newydd has proved to be in every way satisfactory. A special committee of ladies was appointed to see to the food supply. Two members of the committee take duty each week. They attend daily to see what provisions are required, and give the necessary orders to tradesmen. The accounts are made up and paid at the end of each week. It will be seen from the accounts that the average cost of living at Plas Newydd amounted to £3 12s per week, and at Bodyngharad £2 15s per week. Fuel, light etc., amount to an additional 10s per week.
Subscriptions.-A work that proved exceedingly heavy was the organising of the collection of subscriptions towards the refugees fund. The town and surrounding parishes were divided into 26 collecting districts with two collectors in each district. There are over 800 weekly subscribers who contribute in various sums from one penny per week upwards. Each subscriber is provided with a card on which receipts are given by the collectors for all sums paid. The collectors have special books for keeping an account of all subscriptions received, and they hand over to the secretary the total of their collections each week. The average amount collected weekly is £18.
A matter that still receiving the attention of the executive committee is the question of finding employment for the male refugees at Plas Newydd. The difficulty appears to be that there is no work In this neighbourhood such as they have been accustomed to do. They are willing and anxious to work if employment can I be found for them. There is, of course, the additional difficulty of their language, as they are only able to speak Flemish. I have endeavoured to give yon an outline only of the work done in the matter of providing hospitality for the refugees. There were naturally, numerous details of administrative work that were disposed of without being referred to the committees. I think that the members of this committee have reason to congratulate themselves Upon the marvellous success and harmonious working of the movement In Ruthin, which is undoubtedly due to the business like system adopted for carrying out the scheme.- I am, yours obediently,
This report was adopted, and the thanks of the given to the hon secretary for his work, An abstract of the secretary’s accounts for the four months ended February 28th was submitted, which showed a balance of £472 5s 3d in the hands of the treasurer. The accounts had been audited and certified correct by Mr J M Jones, London, City and Midland Bank, and Mr J Edwards, National Provincial Bank of England, Ruthin.
It was resolved that the accounts be adopted, and that a printed copy of the abstract be sent to every subscriber. In view of this large balance standing to the credit of the fund it was decided to discontinue the collection of subscriptions after the present week until the balance is so far reduced as to require further support. A special vote of thanks was proposed to the ladies who have so kindly given their services in collecting the weekly subscriptions towards the fund.
27th March 1915
Two of the Belgian Refugees in Ruthin, Mr and Madam Stas, left on Monday morning for Folkestone en-route for the South of France. They have been in Ruthin since the 19th of December, and after the first fortnight they became the guests of Mr and Mrs Tate, Pool Park, who very kindly undertook to be responsible for their entertainment. They were better class Belgians and spoke several languages fluently, and Madam Stas was also a brilliant pianist. During their stay they made many friends, who greatly regret their departure, and several were present at the station to bid them goodbye, amongst them being the Mayor (Alderman R H Williams); Mr and Mrs Tate, the Town Clerk, Miss Rowlands (County School), Mrs Byford (Colomendy), and Miss Williams. Vale Street. An additional refugee arrived on Saturday in the person of M Christian Magis, a young Belgian soldier, who was wounded and has lately been discharged from a hospital in France. The Refugee Committee have provided hospitality for him at Plas Newydd.
3rd July 1915
OUR BELGIAN REFUGEES
Monsieur Christian Magis, the young Belgian soldier who came to Ruthin as the guest of the Belgian committee at Plas Newydd in March last, has left for Paris where he has obtained employment. Mademoiselle Andre Delpiedsiente, who has been the guest of Mr and Mrs Tegid Owen since December, has also left for Paris. M. Natalis Muys, one of the Belgians at Plas-Newydd, has employed his time to profitable advantage since he came to Ruthin in November. He has studied and become proficient in the English and French shorthand systems, the former he is able to write at 80 words per minute, and the latter at 100 words per minute. He speaks fluently the French, English, Flemish and German languages. He is only seventeen years of age.
10th July 1915
VISIT OF COUNT GOBLET D’ALVIELLA
On Thursday last Count Goblet d’Alviella, the vice-president of the Belgian Senate, who was accompanied by Monsieur Paquet, visited Ruthin for the purpose of meeting the Belgian Refugees Committee and addressing the refugees now residing in the locality. On the same day they had visited and addressed the refugees at Wrexham, Johnstown, Ruabon, Chirk and Llangollen, the journey having been arranged by Mr W R Evans, the Clerk of the Peace, who also accompanied them. Arriving in Ruthin earlier than they had intended, Count Goblet and his friend visited and inspected the Belgian Home at Plas Newydd, Llanfwrog, and expressed themselves delighted with the excellent arrangements and comfort of the establishment. They particularly praised the cleanliness of the place. The Committee and refugees had been called together in the Council Chamber at 6 30 p.m., and the meeting was presided over by His Worship the Mayor (Alderman Robert Henry Williams). There were also present Aldermen T H Roberts and T J Roberts, Rev Canon Basil Jones, Rev Isaac James, Mr Robert Beech, Mr William Jones, Glasfryn; Mr William Jones, L. & P. Bank; Mr Charles Price, the Mayoress, Mrs W R Evans, Mrs Theodore Rouw, Mrs Price, The Mount; Mrs Baldwin Griffith, Mrs T J Roberts, Mrs Jones, Argoed; Mrs William Jones, Glasfryn; Miss A Rowlands, B.A.; Miss Evans, Heulfre; Miss Jones, Rhydy-cilgwyn, Miss Knight. The refugees present included those from Plas Newydd and Bodyngharad, and M and Madame Vosch, who are the guests of the Rev Canon Basil Jones. The Mayor, in an appropriate speech, introduced Count Goblet, who at first addressed the Committee in English, and afterwards spoke to the Belgians in French.
Monsieur Paquet then gave an excellent address in English and Flemish. The effect on the audience was very touching, and most of the refugees were in tears the whole time. Monsieur Gougé replied on behalf of the Belgians, and expressed their heartfelt gratitude for all the kindness they had received since they arrived in England. At the conclusion of the meeting the visitors shook hands and talked with each refugee. Count Goblet and his friend afterwards proceeded to Ruthin Castle, where they stayed as the guests of Col and Mrs Cornwallis West. Letters of apology for absence from the meeting were received from Col Cornwallis West – who did not arrive from London until after the meeting – Mrs Cornwallis West, Col Bromhead, Major Tate, Mrs Tate, Rev Thomas Pritchard.
5th February 1916
A BELGIAN POSTMAN
There is now a Belgian postman doing duty in Ruthin. He is a refugee named Dion Vandenbreuck and has been staying with his family, under the charge of the Barmouth Refugees’ Committee, for several months past. Previous to coming to this country he was a postman in Belgium. The staff at the post office has been much depleted owing to war, and great difficulty is experienced in getting men to replace those who have enlisted.
15th June 1918
One of the Belgian families that came to Ruthin in November 1914, as refugees – that of Mr Ernest Muys – consisting of father, mother and two children, left for Glasgow on Wednesday, where they had obtained remunerative employment. The elder son, Natalis Muys, was called up for service in the Belgian army nearly two years ago. Another of the Ruthin Belgian refugees, M. Louis De Win, who came here at the same time as the Muys family, was called up for military service last week. His wife and daughter and his wife’s father and mother remain with us.
6th July 1918
HONOUR FOR RUTHIN LADY
Mrs. Springman has received a letter from the Belgian Minister in London, informing her that His Majesty the King of the Belgians has been graciously pleased to confer upon her the “Medaille de la Reine Elisabeth,” in recognition of the kind help and valuable assistance she has personally given to the Belgian refugees and the Belgian soldiers during the war. The insignia of this medal will be forwarded in due course. The conferring of the medal is undoubtedly a great honour to Mrs Springman and the town. Ruthin played a worthy part in adopting and maintaining several families of Refugees since November, 1914, some of whom are still with us, and it is a matter of much satisfaction to know that the efforts of the community have been appreciated.
The tiniest newspaper report about a cup being handed to Ruthin Town Council led to a search to see if the cup still existed. We found that it does, its whereabouts and even managed to get a photo of it. We found more information about it too, published both here in Wales and in Belgium:
15th January 1916
BELGIAN REFUGEES’ GRATITUDE
A pleasing function took place in the Council Chamber, Ruthin, on Tuesday evening, when the Belgian Refugees at Bodyngharad and Plas Newydd presented the Refugees’ Committee with a memento of their gratitude in the form of a silver cup. The chair was occupied by the Mayor (Alderman R H Williams), who explained to those present that the Belgians had expressed a desire to meet the members of the Committee, and they had, therefore, been brought together for that purpose, and he would ask Monsieur Gougé to explain the object of the meeting.
Miss Lissette Gougé then came forward, and read the following statement:- Ladies and gentlemen, – It is now over a year since the town of Ruthin decided to offer a haven of rest to some of the Belgian families driven from their homes by the invasion of the barbarians. Since then the committee, which has taken upon itself to procure the necessary comforts for the exiles, has never ceased to devote itself with untiring energy to the work which it had undertaken. It would be very difficult for us to remember in detail all that you have done for our welfare, the care which you have all taken that our material benefit should be every day assured; the delicate manner in which you have performed this charitable work that you have undertaken through kindness of heart; the truly motherly affection that you have shown for our little children, who thanks to you, will never know the bitterness of the exile. And, at the same time that you were looking after our material welfare, you have also assured us perfect peace and tranquillity. You have also secured the intellectual development of such of our children as were eligible for School, and we are grateful, not only to the committee, but also to the Governors of the Schools where our sons and our daughters are receiving a sound and perfect education. We do not wish to wait until the time of returning to our liberated country should arrive to express all the gratitude which we feel towards the General Committee, to the ladies and gentlemen who have taken care of us, to the inhabitants of the town of Ruthin who have given the Belgians such a cordial welcome and who have shown us so much sympathy. If there is one thing that we regret, it is that all of us who have been the object of your kindness are no longer here. Those who are here are anxious to assure you that they will always have a lively remembrance of all that you have done for them. They also wish to leave you with a proof of this gratitude. Now, ladies and gentlemen, we are presenting you with a souvenir of our sojourn in Ruthin. It is simple, but such that it is, take it, we pray of you, because it is heartily offered, so that from now and in the future, it will call to mind to all those who shall see it, the generosity and the untiring devotion of the Belgian Refugee Committee of Ruthin.
The Belgian Families,
GOUGÉ, ROSIERS AND VANDEN BERGHE
January 11th, 1916
The infant daughter of Monsieur Louis De Win then presented to the Mayor bearing the following inscription:-
“Remembrance of Gratitude from the Belgian Families Gougé, Rosiers and Vanden Berghe, 1914-16”
The cup, which is of solid silver, was handed round and greatly admired.
The Mayor, in returning thanks on behalf of the Committee, said that the presentation came to him as a very pleasant surprise, as he had no previous knowledge of the intention to make it. Ruthin, amongst other places, took up the Refugee movement with the feeling that they were trying, in a small measure, to discharge a just debt due from one nation to another. He felt sure that the members of the committee and other ladies and gentleman concerned were exceedingly pleased with the kind thought that prompted the gift, and it was very gratifying to them to see that their work was so much appreciated. He could assure the Belgians that the cup would be treasured by the committee as it deserved to be, and it would service to remind the inhabitants of Ruthin in the future that the town had been privileged to extend a welcome to the people of such a brave and honoured nation (applause).
Other members who spoke in similar terms were Mrs Williams, Bathafarn House; Miss Evans, Haulfre; Alderman T H Roberts and Mr Robert Beech.
Monsieur Gougé replied on the behalf of the Belgians.
We wrote to the current Town Clerk, Mrs. Sandra Williams, and she very quickly located the cup. Mrs. Williams kindly sent us the photograph below:
© Sandra Williams, Ruthin Town Council
The cup was made in Birmingham by T. H. Hazelwood & Co.
How was this reported to the other communities of Refugees and Belgians back at home? L’independence Belge was a French language newspaper founded in Brussels in 1831. This report is from 25th January 1916:
LES BELGE À RUTHIN.
Les familles Gougé, Rosiers et Vanden Berghe, réfugiées à Ruthin (N. Wales), ont organisé récemment un manifestation de reconnaissance en l’honneur du “Belgian Refugees Committee” de la ville, où depuis plus d’un an (nos compatriotes sont l’objet des égards) les plus dévoués.
La cérémonie, à laquelle assistaient la plupart des membres du comité, lieu au Town Hall, sous la présidence de M. le Mayor, R. H. Williams.
Elle a débuté par un discours de Mlle d Lisette Gougé, qui, en anglais, a remercié le comité au nom des familles belges, des attentions dont les réfugiés ont été l’objet depuis leur arrivée à Ruthin.
Un hommage spécial a été rendu à Miss Anna Rowlands, directrice de la County School, et à M. E. Lovegrove, directeur de la Grammar School, où les enfants de nos compatriotes ont été chaleureusement accueillis depuis un an.
Une coupe en argent massif, avec dédicace gravée, a été offerte au comité.
Répondant au nom du comité, M. le Mayor Williams a remercié nos compatriotes, déclarant que la ville de Ruthin était heureuse d’avoir pu accueillir les enfants d’un pays qui a tout sacrifié pour sauver la civilisation.
D’autres discours ont encore été prononcés, tous célébrant l’héroïsme de la nation belge, évoquant ses souffrances actuelles et exprimant l’ardente conviction de voir bientôt les hordes barbares chassées du territoire belge.
And eventually, the cup was handed over to Ruthin Town Council for safe keeping:
8th July 1916
BELGIAN REFUGEES SILVER CUP
The Town Clerk produced a silver cup that was presented by the Belgian Refugees in Ruthin to the Belgian Committee as a mark of their gratitude for the kindness extended to them by the inhabitants of the town. The committee wished to present the cup to the Council to be kept with the Corporation relics.
It was resolved that the thanks of the Council be given to the Refugees Committee, and that the cup be handed to His Worship the Mayor to be placed with the relics.