Antoni Vitti is researching the Belgian Refugees who came to this area during the war. He sent me the following information. See lower down for an appeal for information.
Taken from the pages of the “Prestatyn Weekly”
“BELGIAN REFUGEES” – 12th of December, 1914.
Mr. H. Cooke presided over a meeting held at the Coronation Hall on Monday. The Chairman announced that he had been over to Liverpool, and personally interviewed Mr. Lee, who controlled the permanent camp established at Meliden, and obtained his permission to take over the whole building and its equipment for use of Belgian Refugees for 26 weeks.
Messrs. J. Ellis and J. B. Price were deputed to inspect the buildings, and see if they were suitable to accommodate at least ten people. In order to maintain same, it was proposed to canvas the district, and invite all to contribute weekly any sum from one penny to sixpence, and appoint collectors.
At a meeting of the Committee, held on Monday, the Chairman Mr. H. Cooke, read a letter from Dr. Goodwin of Rhyl, who generously offered his professional services free for Belgian Refugees.
It was announced that many in Cwm parish were in sympathy with the movement and Mr. Thos. Gittins proposed that two members from Cwm be invited to join the committee which was unanimously agreed to.
It was also agreed to add Miss Elsie Grundy, Mr. Macrae, and Rev. R. P. Hughes to the committee. Mr. H. Cooke was appointed manager of the Refugees camp, and Mr. W. L. Hobbs treasurer.
The canvasser’s reports were presented, showing that £3. 9s per week had been promised for 26 weeks. In addition to this, several working men promised to contribute what they could each week so long as they were able. It was decided to collect the contributions weekly, and for this purpose the following ladies and gentlemen were appointed collectors:
Tan-y-Foel District: Miss L. Battine Williams and E. Williams, Clwyd Villa.
Bryn: Misses H. Moores and E. Williams, Bryn Estyn
Village: Misses K Williams and M. Roberts.
Bodrhyddan: Miss W. Gittins.
Farms: Mr. A. J. Wright.
Bryniau: Mr. A Higgins.
Ochr-y-Foel: Misses E. Williams (Hyfrydle) and H. A. Jones.
A meeting of the Belgian Committee was held on Wednesday evening, when a letter was read from the War Refugees Committee, stating that it was impossible to say when a party of Refugees would be sent here, and that the position was very difficult, and that they were expecting further arrivals. The Committee decided that the offer be kept open for them, but to suspend further collections until the Belgians arrive.
“INVITATION TO BELGIANS”
A meeting of the Refugees Committee was held at the Coronation Hall on Monday night, presided over by Mr. H. Cooke. It was announced that Mrs. Smethan had kindly placed Walden Cottage, a commodious furnished residence, at the disposal of the committee, and a Belgian family have been invited to take up occupation as soon as convenient.
“BELGIAN REFUGEES” 26th of December, 1914.
On Thursday last a telegram was received from the headquarters, stating that the Belgian Refugees allotted to take up their temporary residence at the Dyserth Camp may be expected to arrive. Preparations were at once made for their reception, food was prepared, and many residents met the motor train during the afternoon and evening, but were doomed to disappointment. None have arrived, and no satisfactory explanation so far has been received.
“ARRIVAL OF THE BELGIANS AT DYSERTH” 16th of January, 1915.
The long-looked-for Belgian Refugees, to whom hospitality has been offered by Dyserth and Cwm, arrived on Saturday afternoon last. Pandy Station was alive with eager faces, and when the train drew up, and the four adults and five children stepped from the motor they were greeted with spontaneous cheers of welcome that evidently came from the heart.
There was then a touch of pathos – illuminating in its way – in the bundles they carried with them, containing all their worldly possessions. The journey from the station to the camp at Four Crosses, Meliden Road, was by wagonette, and all along the route the villagers and children demonstrated their sympathetic interest.
On reaching their destination, the Refugees were received by Members of the Belgian Refugee Committee and other friends, and Mr. H. Cooke, Chairman, welcomed them on behalf of the joint parishes. He said “My words shall be few but entirely sincere. We realise today that in an active sense what has been in our hearts for a long time. What we owe to the Belgians cannot be put into figures or expressed in words, and we count it an honour and privilege to entertain as guests these representatives of a brave, long-suffering nation. Our pity and sympathy go out to them in what they have been called upon to endure, and we shall do our utmost in the exercise of kindness and consideration, and to bring peace and contentment to their troubled lives during their stay amongst
us. It is a good and gracious thing that we inaugurate to day. This is a time of epoch-making history, and it is well that we should remember that it remains with us to face our obligations in such a way that we shall set an example and leave traditions that may help inspire those who come after us in the difficulties and dangers they may have to meet.”
A substantial hot meal followed, which, after the long cold journey from London, was greatly enjoyed: indeed, it elicited from one of the diners, not suspected of knowing any English, the high commendation of “All right.” May those words be prophetic of an abiding spirit of contentment and appreciation.
The premises occupied are comfortable and commodious and well equipped with all needful household and domestic requirements. They have been secured, free of cost, from a philanthropic organisation at Birkenhead, through the good offices of A. H. Lee, Esq., Birkenhead: and the Refugee Committee take this opportunity of expressing publicly their grateful thanks to Mr. Lee and his committee. Mr. and Mrs. Delathuy and Mr. Octave Delathuy (son), who are our guests at Walden Cottage (generously lent by Mr. & Mrs. A. Smetham) were present to welcome the new arrivals, and act as interpreters and in other ways were most kind and helpful.
“THE BELGIANS” 23rd of January, 1915.
The two Belgian families whose arrival was announced in these columns last week consist of two adult males and two adult females and five children. They are comfortably settled down in their quarters at the camp near Four Crosses. Two of the elder children are attending the Dyserth day school, and it is surprising how quickly they pick up the language and adapt themselves to their new surroundings. Naturally the school children make a fuss of them, and do all they can for their comfort.
17th of July 1915
Two of the Dyserth Belgians above the military age have been given employment on the Dyserth Quarries and are said by their Welsh Workmates to be adept in the business.
Call for Information
During World War One, refugees from Belgium came to Dyserth seeking sanctuary.
They were housed at Four Crosses
and Walden Cottage.
Two of them worked in the Quarry.
Do you know anything about them or the people who helped them?