I am hoping that Old Scholars and other readers might be able to fill in some pieces of the story regarding Hungarian refugees at Bootham c.1956-57.
An Old Scholar sent this memory in response to an email about Bootham’s initial response to the Syrian refugee crisis:
“As a pupil in 1956 we were asked to make wooden partitions between beds for the Hungarian refugees. I remember spending long hours in the workshop doing this. One of the Hungarian refugees graduated in medicine with us in Edinburgh.”
I found this reference in Bootham magazine, May 1957:
“The Lodge found a new use when refugees from the top storey of No. 54 were housed there while the floor was made safe. The ability of the floor to move fully six inches vertically when encouraged had apparently been brought to official notice.”
I’ve yet to find any other references in the records from the period, so if anyone can remember anything about refugees at Bootham in the 1950s, please do get in touch (Jenny.Orwin@boothamschool.com).
At the 1915 Old Scholars’ Association AGM Ivy Weston gave an account of her work amongst refugees arriving at Folkestone, which was reproduced in Bootham magazine, December 1915. Whitsuntide, the Old Scholars’ Reunion, was a joint event between Bootham and The Mount (the Quaker girls’ school in York). Below is a summary of Ivy’s account.
She mentioned that Folkestone was the main port of arrival soon after the outbreak of war. A War Refugee Committee was set up, and arrangements were made to meet all the boats, which were coming from Ostend, Calais, Boulogne, Flushing and Dieppe. Due to the numbers of refugees arriving the committee asked the Government to send some help. The Government paid for food and train tickets to London or any central depot, and the Corporation lent them a large building that had been a grammar school. People from across the country sent gifts to supplement the necessities that were being provided. The committee started providing food (coffee, sandwiches, biscuits, milk and apples) at the harbour, as people were so hungry when they arrived. They fed as many as five or six thousand people per day at the busiest times. Ivy mentioned the team of eight or ten volunteer sandwich cutters, who “reached such a stage of perfection that they could turn out a thousand sandwiches in an hour”. She talked about how “when the boat was in the people seemed to sweep over you like a rough sea; panic-stricken people who came straight from Ostend, straight from the horrors, and not only hungry people but starving; in many cases some of them had walked through Belgium to Ostend, many carrying babies.”
The Old Scholars’ Association met for their AGM on Saturday May 22nd 1915. T. Edmund Harvey, chairing the meeting, started off by saying: “If we had been gathering together for a social function I think we should all have felt that it would be better that the Old York Scholars’ Association should not have met at all at such a time, but I think all of us feel, and we are glad to feel, that our annual gathering is something infinitely more than a social function; it is a time of inspiration and of fellowship, where friends meet together to help each other, to share in the sense of comradeship and of unity and to get inspiration from the ideals that have been lit for us in our youth in the two schools. And so all the more because of the great cloud that is upon us do we feel that it is worth while making an effort to be gathered together to feel the strength that this comradeship gives.” He went on to pay tribute to the Old Scholars who were giving service in many different ways: “There are very many who have gone forth to different services : to the wonderful service of the Ambulance Unit, to help the war victims, to what seems much simpler work at home, and there are a great many who have felt it their duty to stick to what is perhaps the hardest task of all, the service which they have been doing or which lies ready to hand where they are and that does not involve any apparent act of great sacrifice, and yet is essential to the true well-being of the country, and is, it may be, the highest fulfilling of duty.”
Ivy Weston then talked about her work with Belgian refugees at Folkestone, where a local War Refugee Committee was formed. She talked about how they fed as many as five thousand people in a day at the harbour, meeting the boats as they arrived.
Florence Barlow talked about the work of the Emergency Committee for the assistance of distressed Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians in Great Britain, and how she had visited two camps on the Isle of Man.
Philip Baker discussed the Friends Ambulance Unit, and the motives which brought the unit together.
T. Edmund Harvey mentioned the Friends War Victims Relief Committee work, including medical, agricultural and other relief work, such as building shelters and temporary housing for the populations of areas affected by the conflict.
A summary from the AGM report in ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1915. Both Bootham and Mount Old Scholars were at the meeting. Longer excerpts from the accounts of the various types of work done will follow in later posts.
“The Friends’ Ambulance Unit has now completed four months’ work at the front. During the whole time it has continued to work in the same area in Flanders and Northern France; and its headquarters remain still where they were first established at Dunkirk. The original party that went out from England has been more than trebled in size, and there is still no slackening in the demand for men to do the additional work that is continually opening out. Before Christmas the unit’s main achievement was the organisation of a system of seven ambulance stations on the front, which carried among them in a few weeks over ten thousand wounded men, mostly from aid posts just behind the trenches, to hospitaux d’evacuation in the rear. Since Christmas the biggest development of the work has consisted in a large scale attempt to cope with an epidemic of disease among the refugees and civilian population still living in the very front of the fighting zone in Flanders. Besides the work of two hospitals, which have an accommodation of over two hundred beds, various preventive measures have been taken; six thousand five hundred civilians have been inoculated against typhoid ; a pure water supply has been provided in various towns and villages; and now every house in the district is being visited and, if necessary, disinfected. Much of this work is done within range of the German guns. The unit also has two hospitals in Dunkirk, one of which, it is hoped, will vary rapidly expand.”
From ‘Bootham’ magazine, March 1915