On Friday, February 20th 2015, a small group of people met at St. David’s Residential Home in Rhyl to commemorate Franciscus De Roover. This group was very diverse. It included residents from St. David’s, members of Rhyl History Club, the Chair of Denbighshire County Council, the Assembly Member for the Vale of Clwyd, Rhyl’s Town Clerk, members of the clergy and others. The guests of honour at this meeting were the descendants of Franciscus De Roover who had travelled at their own expense from Belgium for the occasion. There were two parts of the family: Those descended from Franc’s daughter Rosalie and those descended from Franc’s daughter Mathilde. We managed to keep it secret that each half was coming so it was a wonderful moment when they met for the first time.
St. David’s made us very welcome. There was a brief introduction where we discussed the project, and then we crossed the promenade to the Gardens of Remembrance. Mrs. Ruth Waltho, the manager of St. David’s, unveiled the memorial. It’s a simple plaque made of Welsh slate with Franc’s details and our logo. It will soon have a History Points code added to it so interested parties can read all the information. That History Points page is here. We’re very grateful to History Points for doing this, and for coming along on the day.
The photographers took lots of photos of the unveiling, gathering the family for some special pictures, then we returned to St. David’s for light refreshments and the opportunity for us all to get to know each other.
The Daily Post report is here.
After having worked on this project for over a year, we finally had time to talk to Franc’s family face-to-face. They had lots of questions to ask about the project and how the town would have been in 1914. We had many questions for them too! We consider ourselves very lucky to have had the opportunity to meet them. After the unveiling, the family went to Maeshyfrd Cemetery to lay some flowers on the common grave where Franc is buried. Many thanks to Ruth & Maggi of Rhyl History Club for helping them to do this.
There is another, very special way that we will be recording Franc’s story. In 2017 the “Assembly” installation will come to St. Margaret of Antioch Church (The Marble Church) in Bodelwyddan. With the installation comes a beautiful book where we can write about Franc and our Refugee family. We’ll also be recording the names of the “Heroes of Colet House” – these are the men who were educated at St. David’s when it was a school who then went on to fight and die in the First World War. Read about them here.
We’ve created a website about the Assembly installation in Bodelwyddan, which can be viewed here.
The creator of this project, Ms. Val Carman, joined us for the unveiling ceremony, together with Lester Simpson, who worked on a fantastic World War One project (see it here) and Ms. Christina Thompson from the Marble Church.
We have many people to thank for making today happen:
The wonderful residents of St. David’s Residential Home. You made us so welcome in your beautiful lounge. We hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did.
Mrs. Ruth Waltho, Mr. Michael Roberts and the staff of St. David’s, especially Ryan Roberts
who looked after our guests so well.
Ruth and Maggi from Rhyl History Club,
with special thanks for the beautiful gift which will be treasured.
Councillor Brian Blakely, Chair of Denbighshire County Council.
Ms. Ann Jones, Welsh Assembly Member for the Vale of Clwyd.
Mr. Gareth Nickells, Rhyl Town Clerk, and Rhyl Town Council.
North Wales Tourism.
Our friends and family.
The Rhyl Journal and the Daily Post.
The Family of Franciscus De Roover.
You allowed us to tell your family’s story. You came here to meet us.
You are such wonderful people, and it was a privilege to have you here.
This is Franc’s family:
A memorial service was held in February 1921 in Betecom, the village where Franciscus De Roover was born. The brilliant Jos Michiels, who has found so much information for us in Belgium, found this service card:
In October 2014 we travelled to London to meet the Representatives of the Government of Flanders, who had invited us there to discuss our project. Whilst we were there, we placed a Solitary Rose on the Belgian Refugee Memorial in honour of Franc De Roover. The card read “In memory of Franc de Roover, The Broken-Hearted Belgian”. As we left the memorial many people came along to take photographs and most read the card on the rose.
We were contacted by a gentleman from Belgium, Simon Verlinden, who had seen the rose, and Googled Franc’s name to find our page.
This is the Anglo-Belgian Memorial. It was a gift from the Belgian nation to thank Great Britain for their assistance to Belgium in the 1914-1918 war, when thousands of Belgian people found refuge here during the German occupation of their country. It stands on the Victoria Embankment in London, opposite Cleopatra’s Needle.
It was unveiled on the 12th of October 1920.
Leon Delacroix, the Belgian Prime Minister, had offered the memorial to the British nation and it was formally accepted by Lord Curzon.
The unveiling was performed by Princess Clementine of Belgium.
Click here to see a video of the unveiling of the monument, courtesy of British Pathé: http://goo.gl/XjCM5l (opens in a new window)