Celebrating Christmas in Exile

Belgian refugees began arriving in Scotland from August 1914 as thousands were forced to flee their homes following the advancement of German troops. Often leaving with few or no possessions, refugees were faced with a difficult period during which they tried to settle into their new lives in unfamiliar surroundings. In such uncertain times, Christmas celebrations were likely to be far from the minds of Scotland’s growing number of Belgian exiles. As in The Netherlands, children in Belgium believe that ‘Sinterklaas/St. Niklaas’ (Flemish) or ‘Saint Nicholas’ (Walloon) brings them presents on 6 December. The below article, from the Buckingham Advertiser, neatly explains this celebration.

Though plunged into a period of uncertainty, for many Scots, in towns and villages across the country, Christmas 1914 provided an opportunity to offer a little joy during a time of adversity at the same time as demonstrating their support for these new arrivals.

On Boxing Day at Rossholm House, in Stepps, a grand residence situated at the corner of Cumbernauld Road and Blenheim Avenue, ‘the Belgian residents were entertained to a substantial Christmas dinner’. The Kirkintilloch Herald reported that the dinner, which was ‘carried through in a first-class style owing to the generosity of a few lady and gentlemen friends in the district’, included ‘turkey and a roast’, sweets, fruits, toys and gifts. Following the dinner, a number of Belgians in attendance ‘entertained the company by singing Belgian national songs’ and, in traditional Scottish style, the event concluded with a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne (Kirkintilloch Herald, 30 December 1914, p.5). In neighbouring Motherwell, but this time on Christmas Eve, ‘the Belgian refugees housed in the cottages adjoining the Poorhouse were entertained to an excellent supper, concert and dance’. The event was attended by Peter Graham, convener of the House Committee of the Parish Council, and was made possible ‘through the kindness of an anonymous friend’. As in Stepps, the dinner was peppered with musical accompaniments supplied by the Dalziel Brotherhood Orchestra, who delivered a ‘first-rate’ performance under the leadership of Mr Hodge (Motherwell Times, 1 January 1915, p.8).

Venturing north, efforts were similarly made to help the Belgian refugees celebrate Christmas. In Comrie, ‘local merchants gave the Belgian refugees a splendid Christmas dinner’ while, on Christmas morning, a service was ‘conducted in the Roman Catholic Chapel which was attended by the Belgian refugees and a few others’ (Perthshire Advertiser, 30 December 1914, p.6). In Pitlochry, the ‘lot of the Belgian refugees was brightened by a delightful Christmas entertainment which they were accorded in the Public Hall’. After coffee had been served—‘for they do not drink tea’—the refugees were welcomed to the proceedings by Lady Lunn.

A ‘beautiful Christmas tree’, from which gifts were distributed, bedecked the hall and ‘a programme of games and music’, including the singing of La Brabançonne, the Belgian national anthem. The anthem was sung by four-year-old Irine Van Hulst who had arrived in Scotland with her father Emile, a shoemaker, and mother Emerentia from Dendermonde in East Flanders, whose arrival was recorded in the Belgian Refugees register. Her father joined her in performing at the dinner, singing an ode to Belgium, ‘the home references in which drew tears to the eyes of some of the refugees as their thoughts were again turned towards their devastated land’. Greetings were despatched from Scotland to Belgium during the evening, a way of maintaining a link to the homeland:

Belgians at Pitlochry round their Christmas tree send their loyal greetings to their two Princes and Princess of the Royal House of Belgium. They are made as happy as possible by the kind of people at Pitlochry, but their hearts are all in Belgium with their own beloved King and Queen (Dundee Evening Telegraph, 24 December 1914, p, 1).

The following year, Belgian children in Glasgow received gifts sent from the United States. However, the generosity of the American donation, which included a shipment of ‘thirty large cases’, presented the Glasgow Corporation’s Belgian Refugee Committee with ‘some difficulty’ as the contents of the cases were ‘not in the main suitable for sending out as Christmas gifts to children’. For the most part, the cases contained clothing which, it was felt, would be ‘impossible’ to distribute to children of ‘various ages without seeing the children’. Instead, the items of clothing were handed over to the Clothing Committee, ‘leaving it to them to distribute the clothing’. Other donated items included ‘one or two tins of condensed milk which it was difficult to see how a child could appreciate’ (The Scotsman, 29 November 1915, p.9).

Happily, for many Belgian refugees in Scotland, Christmas time, though not celebrated in ways they were accustomed to, did not go unmarked and, for some, perhaps only for a short period, the anguish they felt over their distance from home was forgotten.

Event Report: ‘Settlement, treatment and employment of French-speaking Belgian refugees in France, the Netherlands, England and Scotland’

The final event in an extremely thought-provoking series of collaborative workshops on First World War civilian war trauma funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh took place on 22 November. The event, held at the University of Edinburgh, was well attended by academics engaged in a range of research areas and stimulated much discussion about the story of Belgians displaced from their homeland during the First World War.

The lecture, delivered by Dr Christophe Declercq of University of Leuven/University College London, was entitled ‘Settlement, treatment and employment of French-speaking Belgian refugees in France, the Netherlands, England and Scotland’. The lecture began with an overview of the mass movement of displaced Belgians during the First World War, as Christophe described the reception they were afforded in each of the respective host nations. In France, home to the exiled Belgian government, Belgian refugees were, by and large, treated very well—a demonstration of anti-German sentiment. They were also viewed as a useful source of substitute manpower amid a severely depleted local workforce and many ended up working in factories, replacing men who had been sent to the front. In the Netherlands, keen to maintain its neutrality, Belgian refugees were afforded a less favourable reception and were interned in refugee camps scattered around the country, such as in Uden and Gouda.

Christophe then moved on to the main body of his lecture, the story of those Belgian refugees who settled in the United Kingdom. The constituent nations of the UK had, by August 1917, received close to 172,000 Belgian refugees—155,000 in England; 10,700 in Scotland; 4,500 in Wales; and 1,700 in Ireland. In Scotland, Glasgow tended to provide refugees with their first glimpse of Scotland. For Christophe, Glasgow was a ‘place of dispersal management’—refugees arrived in the city and either settled there or, less frequently, moved eastwards to Edinburgh or settled in smaller towns such as Motherwell and, moving north, Crieff. Previous blog posts ‘Belgian Refugee Culture in Glasgow’ and ‘Belgian Refugees in Scotland’s Northern Regions’ provide greater detail about these movements. In Scotland there was very little in the way of subsistence funding from the national government to support the more destitute Belgian refugees. Instead, groups such as the Glasgow Corporation’s Belgian Relief Committee lent support to Belgians in a variety of ways. Nevertheless, many Belgians were compelled to search for employment, a pursuit that meant large numbers settled in heavily populated, often working-class, areas like Glasgow. The records illustrate that male refugees found work as clerks, engineers and cabinet makers while many female refugees were employed as domestic servants. Yet the search for employment did not affect every member of Scotland’s Belgian refugee community—there were certainly elements of the Belgian population that were more economically well-off, a point which Christophe expanded on. In Edinburgh, home to far fewer Belgian refugees, the records of the Edinburgh Belgian Committee lay bare this class divide:

Many of them [the refugees] held responsible positions in Belgium, and most of the families had been in comfortable circumstances. In dealing with the refugees the committee have endeavoured to discriminate and have consequently graduated the standard of relief to suit the special circumstances of each case.

Here we see a process of positive discrimination—those that arrived in Edinburgh with lesser means had their application for relief advanced in what Christophe termed a process of ‘reverse social mobility’. Christophe ended his lecture with snippets of refugee stories, from a family settled in Dunblane to the Ceuppens of Glasgow, that he hoped, in time, to piece together in order to add to Scotland’s Belgian refugee narrative.

A lively discussion followed the lecture, including questions about intra and inter mobility around the home nations and the potential for linguistic inconsistencies due to language barriers between the Belgian refugees and those responsible for recording their arrival. Christophe’s lecture was a fantastic conclusion to what has been a fascinating series of events. We would like to thank all of the speakers and attendees for contributing to the series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event Report: ‘Mediating Emotion, Making Trauma: Doctors, Patients and the Construction of “Shell-Shock” in First World War Britain’

The third, and penultimate, event in the series of collaborative workshops on First World War civilian war trauma funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh took place on 13 October. The event was well attended by historians and researchers from Stirling, Strathclyde and Dundee, as well as postgraduate students from several universities and engaged in a variety of research areas.

The lecture, delivered by Dr Tracey Loughran, was entitled ‘Mediating Emotion, Making Trauma: Doctors, Patients and the Construction of “Shell-Shock” in First World War Britain’. Tracey’s thought-provoking lecture contemplated the way in which doctors and patients dealt with the effects of war and opened with a fascinating case study of one of hundreds of soldiers treated by Canadian-born Lewis Yealland for shell-shock during the First World War.

One of the first doctors in Britain to incorporate electricity into the systematic treatment of shell shock, Yealland’s treatment integrated electrical stimulation with a variety of other—psychological and physical—interventions. Using original case records of his treatment of soldiers suffering from shell shock, Dr Loughran told the tale of a young man who had been heavily involved in the war, in Marne, Aisne and Ypres. Yealland’s ‘Case A1’, a 24-year-old Private, had been rendered mute having collapsed in Salonica. Over a course of months many attempts had been made to cure the soldier: electricity had been applied to his neck; hot plates had been placed at the back of his mouth; and hypnotism had been tried. However, Yealland identified an alternative method of treatment involving the application of an electrical current to his throat with the charge gradually weakened. While the current was applied the Private was simultaneously instructed to walk up and down the room repeating the vowel sounds he had begun to utter. Five hours later, having been rendered silent for nine months, the case of mutism was resolved. This case was not unique—Dr Loughran identified several other patients suffering from similar conditions, recounting their experiences in fascinating detail.

The lecture went on to reveal the way in which wartime experiences altered the doctor/patient relationship. As this group of doctors was for the first time confronted with men traumatised by the effects of war they were greeted with emotions previously unknown, or previously concealed. For Loughran, the effective treatment of these returning soldiers hinged upon a doctor’s understanding of, and empathy for, the soldiers’ past experiences. Indeed, it was this compassion, shown towards shell-shocked men, that generated new, more holistic, approaches to the doctor/patient relationship—approaches that exist to this day. It also led this group of doctors to amend the case study approach so starkly demonstrated in Yealland’s Case A1 in which the doctor became more likely to discuss their personal reactions and experiences in light of the symptoms shown. Concluding, Dr Loughran reiterated the way in which the First World War marked a turning point in the history of neurological treatment. As clinicians were provided with the opportunity and resources to treat and evaluate large numbers of patients with similar symptoms, the way was paved for a more psychologically-based treatment approach. A lively Q&A session followed Dr Loughran’s lecture as numerous attendees praised the innovative nature of the research topic and contemplated the potential for broadening the scope to include, among other suggestions, a transatlantic dimension.

Following this excellent lecture our next event will be Workshop 4 – on Wednesday 22 November at 5.15pm, when Dr Christophe Declercq (University of Antwerp/University College London) will give a lecture entitled ‘Settlement, treatment and employment of French-speaking Belgian refugees in France, the Netherlands, England and Scotland’. The lecture will be held at the Appleton Tower, Room 2.06, University of Edinburgh. The event is free but, for catering purposes, we ask that you please confirm your attendance with Véronique Desnain (veronique.desnain@ed.ac.uk) by 1 November 2017.

Belgian refugee culture in Glasgow

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For many years, individuals and groups of refugees have shaped and enriched British cultural and political life, their arrival having had a profound impact on the development of modern Britain. Arriving on Scotland’s shores during the First World War, Belgian refugees brought with them their own specific cultural background; from art and music, to needlework and weaving, the Belgians brought with them traditions and customs. In Glasgow, a particular feature of Belgian cuisine left its mark.

Falkirk Herald (20 October 1917, p.6).

A letter to the Editor of the Dundee Courier (2 January 1915, p.6) addressed this culinary matter.

Sir, there are many thousands of Belgian refugees in our midst, and it has been announced that others will be arriving in the near future. Many of these are destitute, and as the present widespread distress will tend to increase progressively so long as the war continues, the provision of cheap and suitable food is sure to become an important and an urgent problem. It is well-known that in Holland, Belgium, and France horseflesh is used as a staple article of food. We are extremely anxious to develop a scheme by means of which our Belgian guests could be provided with the form of food which they appreciate.

An article printed in the Aberdeen Press and Journal (11 August 1915, p.3.) some months later suggests that these needs were soon met. ‘Since horse butcher’s shops made their appearance in Glasgow seven or eight months ago’, wrote a correspondent, ‘a considerable increase has taken place in the volume of trade in horse meat, an article of diet which was unknown in the city until it was first introduced by the Belgian refugees’. While the existence of butchers who traded in horse-flesh provided the Belgian population with food to which they were well accustomed, they were also a noteworthy addition to Glasgow’s retail scene. ‘One day’, wrote a correspondent for the Stonehaven Journal (19 August 1915, p.4), ‘as we were walking along a street in Glasgow, we popped into a restaurant at meal hour’. Enquiring what was on offer, they were met with the reply, ‘Well, we have very nice horse steaks and sausages’. ‘Let us say nothing further about the lunch or the subsequent proceedings’, continued the article, ‘the point is that in housing and feting the Belgians we have begun to adopt some of their national habits. Already there are butcher’s shops in Glasgow selling horse meat’.

Indeed, records found in the Belgian Refugees Register demonstrate that, during the period 1914-1920, many Belgians trained in the art of butchery arrived in Glasgow. Among them were Andreas Nicate, Joseph Edward Uyterhoeven, Joseph Ludovic Gooskens, and Peter van der Anwera, who all arrived from Mechelen, a city in the province of Antwerp, while Alphons Van Emden, Adolf De Smet, and Remi Broos originated in Hoboken, Dendermonde, and Aarschot respectively. Pictured below are the London Road premises of J. Wouters, a Mechelen-born refugee.

Individuals such as Wouters helped develop the Glasgow-based trade in horse meat:
The horse butchers’ shops in Glasgow, to which attention has been given in the press, are being run by Belgian refugees for the benefit of their compatriots. There are three shops, all situated in the poorer quarters of the city. They sell steaks at 5d and 6d per lb., sausages at 5d per lb., and pickled and smoked meats ready for consumption at 7d per lb. The shops obtain their supplies from dealers in worn-out horses, which formerly were shipped to the Netherlands and to Germany via Leith. While the Glasgow shops cater for Belgians, a Stirling firm, which was associated with the Continental trade in decrepit horses, announce that they will open in that town on Saturday a ‘high-class shop for the sale of horse-meat Aberdeen Press and Journal (11 August 1915, p.3.).
As the months wore on, the trade extended beyond the refugee population as a number of Glasgow citizens began to operate as horse butchers and buy horse meat. One trader, operating in the Anderston area of the city in 1916 revealed that ‘probably 90 per cent of his present customers are British housewives’ (Aberdeen Press and Journal, 29 January 1916, p.8). We see then that, in more ways than one, traditions strongly associated with the Belgians made their way into Scottish homes and onto Scottish tables.

Benevolence towards Belgian Refugees

In July 1916, John Howard Whitehouse, a Liberal and MP for the constituency of Mid Lanark, raised a question ‘within the area of kindness, philanthropy, and mercy’ about Belgian refugees in the House of Commons. Interested in the number of refugees now residing in the country, Whitehouse was informed by William Hayes Fisher, Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, that they ‘computed them at 200,000’. All told, the First World War uprooted millions of European civilians. The resulting crisis had profound consequences, not only for the individuals directly affected but also for officials and relief workers who attempted to relieve their suffering and for communities that hosted refugees. Indeed, Fisher’s response addressed these individuals, as he used Whitehouse’s query as an opportunity to express ‘on behalf of us all, our immense gratitude to the committees which, from the very beginning of this War have taken these unfortunate Belgian refugees by the hand, and with a very kind hand’. While Fisher hoped that, following the end of hostilities, ‘they will be repatriated’ he nevertheless desired that, while in Britain, the local population would ‘exercise towards them the same hospitality as we are showing them at the present time’.

Examples of this hospitality were evident across the country as a number of local initiatives were instigated in order to support the large numbers of Belgian refugees arriving on Britain’s shores. The below image, taken from The Scotsman (2 January 1915, p.8), reveals some of these initiatives.

Glasgow Corporation’s Belgian refugee committee became the organising committee for the whole of Scotland overseeing the fund raising and hospitality provided by over 200 local authorities and local Belgian refugee committees across Scotland. The Glasgow Corporation committee fund raised around the country drawing on the support of local committees and sometimes bailing them out of they grew short of funds. They raised money from local authorities in areas across Scotland including the east coast where no refugees could be settled under wartime aliens’ restriction legislation due to invasion fears.

Glasgow Evening Times pokes fun at the work of James Stewart of the Glasgow Corporation Belgian Refugees Committee in finding accommodation for Belgian refugees, 2 July 1915

In the summer of 1915, the Aberdeen Evening Express (7 May 1915, p.5) published an article informing readers that steps were being taken in Aberdeen ‘in support of the Glasgow Fund for Belgian Refugees in Scotland’. The following year, this time in the country’s capital, readers of The Scotsman (4 March 1916, p.12) were informed of the opening of a two-day bazaar held in the Lauriston Halls ‘in aid of Cardinal Mercier’s fund for the relief of the Belgians’. In honour of the occasion the hall had been ‘tastefully decorated’ and stalls were ‘mostly named after towns prominent in the war—Liege, Namur, Antwerp, Louvain, and Ypres’. In addition, there was a King Albert stall ‘laden with flowers and fruit’. The event, though important in its remit, was entertaining in nature. Part of the hall was screened off as a tearoom; guests were invited to have their fortunes told; and there were games of ‘various kinds to amuse’. Moreover, several artists from Edinburgh theatres, including ‘members of the Carl Rosa Opera Company’ provided their services.

Committees also made direct appeals to the public for financial aid to help them to provide the necessary food and shelter, ‘and thereby in some measure lessen the sufferings of the refugees during their temporary sojourn in Scotland’. The Glasgow Corporation Belgian Refugee Committee made an appeal in early 1916 and, upon doing so, received royal recognition from King Albert who sent the following letter to the Committee:

The King has heard of the generous care and attention given in Scotland to Belgians, and also of the devotion with which your Committee has led and guided so charitable a cause for our compatriots. This proof of sympathy for Belgium has been greatly appreciated by his Majesty, who is happy to be able to address to all members of the Glasgow Committee his felicitations and his thanks. (Western Daily Press, 15 May 1916, p.3).

Responses to the appeal were plentiful and, by June 1916, the funds raised by the Committee amounted to £105,710 (Daily Record, 5 June 1916, p.4).  By the end of the war the Glasgow Committee had raised £190,000 (£11.8 m today) and the rest of Scotland had raised £170,000 (£10.5 m today). Instances of benevolence such as these demonstrate that, whether in Scotland’s cities or smaller towns, the local population was willing to help those who had fallen on hard times.

2017 PhD Studentship

GLASGOW’S REFUGEE HERITAGE – THEN AND NOW 

Fully Funded PhD Studentship

(A Match Funded Studentship provided by the University of Stirling and Glasgow City Archives)

 APPLICATION DEADLINE: 21 August 2017

The University of Stirling is offering a match-funded PhD Studentship supervised by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities alongside Glasgow City Archives (under the auspices of Glasgow Life) to commence in Academic Session 2017/18. This fully funded PhD studentship provides full RCUK costs of fees and student stipend for 3 years of PhD study.

The Studentship: 

This PhD project will explore Scottish responses to Belgian First World War refugees. Around 20,000 refugees settled in Scotland (among 250,000 across Britain) – but why was support for them administered by a committee of Glasgow Corporation without resort to government funds, and funded instead by Scottish people, trades unions and churches? The researcher will investigate the motivations of the Glasgow committee and contextualise its work within the UK’s history of refugee welfare provision. Collaborating with Glasgow Archives and Museums, they will draw lessons for present-day public and policy debates at a time when Scotland is once more welcoming refugees.

This PhD project will therefore explore a series of questions and challenges in order to understand Scotland’s distinctive response to Belgian First World War refugees, in the context of Britain’s supposed tradition of welcoming refugees and to bring this history into dialogue with public and policy debates in the present, through a collaboration with Glasgow Life.

These questions include: 

  • What were the motivations behind the large-scale humanitarian and charitable efforts of Glasgow Corporation’s Belgian Refugees Committee during the First World War?
  • What was the relationship between Glasgow Corporation and central government, and how did they interact to provide for Scotland’s c. 20,000 refugees?
  • To what extent was the Belgian refugee presence problematised in wider Scottish discourse?
  • What comparisons can be drawn with the varied reactions to present-day refugees in Scotland?

While the student will have freedom to shape the exact parameters of the project, the student’s doctoral work will include a sustained programme of archival research using materials held in the City Archives and relating to the administration of relief for Belgian refugees in Scotland. The researcher will seek to explain why Scottish hospitality for Belgian refugees was administered by a committee of Glasgow Corporation and funded by the people, trades unions and churches in Scotland. Contextualising the committee’s work within wider Scottish and UK government arrangements to support Belgian war refugees, they will consider a commitment to municipal welfare, and civic pride in identifying Glasgow as the ‘second city of Empire’, as factors informing the policies and actions of Glasgow Corporation. The student will also undertake a programme of activities to bring this history into dialogue with the present, including the preparation of an exhibition for wider public engagement, and work with policymakers.

The PhD student will be jointly supervised Dr Jacqueline Jenkinson, Senior Lecturer in History and Politics at the University of Stirling and Dr Irene O’Brien, City Archivist, Glasgow City Archives, Mitchell Library.

At Stirling, the student will join a lively community of PhD students in History and in the wider Faculty of Arts and participate in the research and writing skills training provided by the University. At Glasgow City Archives, she or he will have the opportunity to work closely with City Archivist Dr Irene O’Brien and her team of archivists in Glasgow City Archives throughout the research period.  In addition, Glasgow Life will provide training, facilities provision in the archives and, via Glasgow Museums, will provide both training in museum display plus cover the costs of mounting a professional exhibition ‘Refugees – then and now’ to be staged by the PhD student under the auspices of Glasgow Museums and fully resourced by Glasgow Life at the end of their PhD period.

Who can apply: Applicants should have a good undergraduate qualification and a relevant Master’s degree in History or a related field of expertise. Experience of the following areas of study is particularly welcome: social history, political history, archive studies, digital humanities, politics, Scottish studies. You will have some experience of relevant research methods (but note that research training is a key part of the studentship). Applicants without a Master’s qualification should include with their application a 1-page statement outlining the specifically relevant skills, experience and knowledge they have gained beyond undergraduate degree level, that could be considered equivalent to Master’s study.

 The application: Applicants should submit:

  • a summary curriculum vitae (max 2 pages)
  • an example of recent academic writing (e.g., MSc/MLitt chapter or undergraduate dissertation)
  • a short statement (1 page) outlining your qualification for the studentship, and initial thoughts on how you’d approach the project
  • the names and contact details of two academic referees

Submit your application via email to fahgs@stir.ac.uk. Applications will close 21 August at noonPlease ensure your referees are able to provide (on request, via email) an academic reference by 28 August, 5pm.

Interviews will be held during September at the University of Stirling.

Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Dr Jacqueline Jenkinson (jlj1@stir.ac.uk) and Dr Irene O’Brien (Irene.O’Brien@glasgow.gov.uk) for ‘further particulars’ of the project, or with informal queries.

Belgian Refugees in Scotland’s Northern Regions

During the First World War, a number of Scotland’s cities and towns played host to large numbers of Belgian refugees. While Glasgow absorbed the majority of these refugees, to the order of almost 20,000, a number of other, far smaller, towns found themselves home to large numbers of new faces from the Continent. Many rural regions of England and Wales similarly played host to Belgian refugees, as demonstrated by recent historical research, and the rural localities of the north of Scotland were no different.

In October 1914, in one of the publication’s first allusions to the arrival of Belgian refugees, the Perthshire Advertiser (17 October 1914, p.2) informed readers that Mr. Hamilton-Smith, of Ellengowan, Almondbank, had ‘granted a cottage on his property for the use of Belgian refugees’. The cottage was furnished in preparation for their arrival and was ‘occupied by a party of seven’. Less than four miles away, in the same month, ‘a batch of Belgian refugees were housed in the vicinity of Perth’. According to the report, a representative committee based in the Fair City, had, for some time, been searching for a suitable building to accommodate the ‘Belgian peasants who have been obliged to seek refuge in this country’.

It was in the village of Methven, to the West of Perth, that appropriate lodgings were found and a range of houses known as Drumtochty, shown in the above image, were secured. The building was ‘in every way suitable for such a purpose’ and, after the execution of a small number of repairs will ‘make for the comfort of our Allies’. The following week news came through on how the new arrivals had settled into their new surroundings. Readers of the Perthshire Advertiser (17 October 1914, p.2) were advised that ‘the Belgian refugees at present in Perth have been roaming about the city during the past few days and have enjoyed themselves much. The old buildings of the city have a special attraction for them’. The author of the report made special mention of ‘how aptly the Belgian pick up the English language. Already they are able to make themselves fairly well understood to their hosts’.

The early months of the war also saw Belgian refugees settling further north, in Crieff and Pitlochry. In October 1914, a party of 63 men, women, and children, were reported to have arrived into Crieff sent on from Glasgow where they had been put up as a group at the Great Eastern Hotel, Duke Street a 300 bed hostel for homeless working men in Glasgow given over to house Belgian refuges on arrival for a few days. These included Joseph and Adelina Van der Plas and their seven children aged 15 to 3 who had fled after the occupation of Antwerp.

On arrival at the train station they were ‘conveyed to the Strathearn Institute, where a large company of local ladies and gentlemen’ headed by Walter Mungall, Provost (1913-25), ‘awaited their arrival, and extended a warm welcome to them’ (Dundee Courier, 23 October 1914, p.4). The following month ‘seven families of Belgian refugees to the number of twenty-six arrived in Pitlochry, the party being welcomed by Lady Lunn’. On this occasion, the train brought more than human cargo—a parrot was included in the luggage of the refugees ‘being carefully carried by its owner in a cage, which but a few weeks before had hung in a happy home in devastated Belgium’ (Perthshire Advertiser, 18 November 1914, p.6).

Belgian refugees continued to arrive in Scotland’s towns and cities until the cessation of hostilities in 1918. When war ended, efforts were made to repatriate the Belgian refugees and, by April 1919, reports suggested that only 400 Belgian refugees remained in Scotland. In some cases, the good wishes extended to the refugees upon their arrival were similarly extended upon their departure. Indeed, a ‘party of Belgian refugees’ who had been residing at Dell Farm, Kingussie, ‘were handed £20 as a parting gift’ (Aberdeen Press and Journal, 25 March 1919, p.2).