It’s been a bit of a busy week!
We were very excited to be contacted this week by Diane MacEwan. Diane is the daughter of Helene Geens, who was a Refugee in Prestatyn. We knew of Diane, and had tried to contact her several times, but now she has found us! Diane has sent us a photo of her mother in Prestatyn in her Girl Scout uniform, and is going to send us more information.
We had a suspicion that there was a second refugee house in Rhyl, as an address was used on a marriage certificate that wasn’t 2, East Parade. During a visit to Flintshire Record Office this week we found the confirmation we’d been looking for – there was indeed a second house. In February 1915 the treasurer of the Rhyl Refugees Fund, C. E. Totty, declares that “a small furnished house has been taken for a lady and her children from Brussels”… so lots more work to do to find them and confirm that our suspicions about the actual address are true.
We’ve had a red-herring thrown our way this week: A Belgian researcher used a quote from a Refugee called Clementine De Leender in a publication to describe our iconic “Welcome” picture, taken on October 6th, 1914 at Rhyl railway station. This would have meant there was a whole new family to find. We managed to track down the writer, and she confirmed that she’d just used the quote alongside our picture as a description – and that the person she was quoting was never in Rhyl. We also found the grand-daughter of the Refugee involved (she lives in Aarschot) and she told us that Clementine was in fact in Tewkesbury, not Rhyl.
We had a little trip to Nant Glyn to see the memorial to Thomas Alured Wynne Edwards – the donor of the Refugee house in Rhyl. Nant Glyn is the most beautiful little village, by Denbigh. When we write about Thomas we’ll include some information about the village and the church.
We’re off to the National Archives in Kew again on Saturday – hopefully we’ll have more to report on our return. We’ll also be popping to Twickenham to see their new Refugee Memorial.
A whole new chapter published – the history of the Refugee house before and after the Belgian families stayed there: The History of the House.
We are continuing the research the owner of the house, Colonel Thomas Alured Wynne Edwards, the Squire of Nant Glyn, and we’re also searching for information about Sister Victoria O’Kearney and the nuns of St. Mary’s Convent School.
The page about The Committee has now been published here. It was a lot of work, but we found some fascinating stories about the people who cared for the Refugees.
We knew a little about the history of the house on East Parade, but now we’re looking at it a little more closely, and that’s unveiling a really interesting story too – about the residents over the years, the owner of the house and what happened there after the Refugees went home. More on that soon, when we’ve been in and out of the archives in three counties!
We’re honoured that we’ve been asked to give another public talk, and we’ll publish the date as soon as the organisers present their new season programme, and we’ve been invited to present an exhibition as part of a bigger project in the summer of 2017 – we’ll tell you more about that when it is finalised by the organiser.
Thanks again for the interest in this project and your kind messages of support.
After finding a report about a Silver Cup presented to Ruthin Refugees Committee, we contacted the Town Clerk to see if it is still in their care. It is! Find out more about the Ruthin Cup on our new page dedicated to some of the towns in the Vale of Clwyd here.
Rhyl Town Council recently discovered that they had a portrait of one of the Belgian Refugee committee. The lady in question is Edith Maud Bromley, and she lost two sons in the First World War. You can read about Hugh here and John here . The research into the two brothers is part of the incredible work done by www.flintshirewarmemorials.com
We recently received a photograph showing some members of the Janssens de Varebeke family, including Geneviève, who was in Rhyl. Thank you so much to Louis, who uncovered it and sent it to us!
We have a desk and some documents booked in the National Archives in Kew for October 8th. Hopefully we’ll find a little more about the Janssens de Varebeke family whilst we’re there. We’ve been sent a couple of documents by family members, including a vaccination certificate for one who was born in the UK. We’ve also found that a baby born into the Janssens de Varebeke family of Refugees in Manchester eventually married a baby born into another Refugee family in the UK.
We’ll update the page as we find more about this fascinating family.
Last night we were honoured to be discussing the Refugees who came to St. Asaph with the Rotary Club of that city. What a lovely dinner at the Bod Erw – and great company.
We sincerely hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Thank you to St. Asaph Rotary for the invitation!
Gabrielle & Geneviève Janssens de Varebeke arrived in Rhyl 100 years ago today. Read what we know so far about them and their travels here.
What a wonderful surprise!
This iconic photograph “Arrival of The Belgian Refugees” was found at a Car Boot sale in Towyn today by a great friend of the project. He bought it for us, and delivered it immediately! £2.00 very well spent. We are immensely grateful to Marc for thinking of us!
A very successful visit to the National Archives in Kew last Tuesday gave us the names of two more Refugees who came to Rhyl – Gabrielle & Genevieve Janssens de Varebeke. We’ve started to map their movements in the UK, and also evidence we found of other members of the family, please take a look: JdV Map
The family has a website, here, and they’ve published our appeal for help in the search to their members.
Also, we’ve found a little more about the Prestatyn and Dyserth Refugees, which we’ll add to the pages soon.
We’ve added quite a bit to our “Prestatyn” page, including a “Letters of Thanks” section and a pdf about “Dyserth”. Head over there to take a look by clicking here.
Mr. Bernard Willems is the most wonderful man! He’s the son of a Belgian Refugee and he currently lives in Prestatyn. We had the honour of meeting him on Thursday evening and recording some of his memories. When he’s checked our transcript, we’ll publish it here!
We have amassed quite a bit of information about Belgian Refugees who stayed in Prestatyn. It’s currently 15 pages of notes and that only goes as far as 1916! We’ve managed to find the names of the Refugees and the places where they stayed, and we hope to get to the end of 1918 soon and publish our findings. In the meantime, if you’re researching Prestatyn’s Belgian guests, please do get in touch to see if we have any information that may help you.
We also found a little bit about Belgian Refugees in Dyserth, and this was all new information to us as we’d never found any mention of them before. We’ll add this as a pdf to our Prestatyn page soon.
The search continues!
We’ve had a whirlwind couple of days with the Wales for Peace project. We were interviewed by BBC Wales and Radio Wales, then had the the public lecture together with Dr. Christophe DeClerq. Thanks to everyone who came along, it was great to have your support, especially some of our family members who had no idea about our research, and Town and County Councillors who have been behind the project from the very beginning.
We’d like to say that the staff at Little Theatre in Rhyl were very accommodating and flexible when our timetables changed last minute, and couldn’t have been more welcoming to our guest from Belgium.
What a lovely audience too! We’re so grateful to everyone who came along and that Hanna Huws and the Wales for Peace project invited us to speak.
The highlight of the evening was the visit of Mr. Bernard Willems. Mr. Willems is the son of a Refugee from Ghent. He’s a fine artist who has painted portraits of the Belgian Royal Family. He lives in Prestatyn. We hope to meet him again soon and record some of his stories.
Dr. Christophe DeClerq & Mr. Bernard Willems
Our quest continues for more stories to tell. Details of our current searches are below:
Can you help?