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Monday 29 June 2015

Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 2

This is a continuation of Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 1.
It was performed as a "radio play" in Berwick Guildhall on 25 April 2015 at Discover Berwick’s First World War Story. Researched and written by Julie Gibbs.

Now ladies, if by late October, you are still unclear as to how you can help, ‘Border Woman’ will put you straight.  You no doubt read her regular ‘Women’s Work and Interest’ column in the (Berwick) Journal.

Border Woman    (22 October 1914)

Good Afternoon,
‘Women of Berwickshire', let us put our shoulders to the wheel and see what we can do, now, immediately, to help our friends and allies, the Belgians. Just imagine how it must feel to leave everything behind and then be plunged into a country in which you cannot make yourself understood by your neighbours – in which it is extremely difficult to glean news even of what has happened in your own land since you left it.
 I implore you not to say, “There is so little that I can do. I have had so many calls on my purse lately” – every one of us can do something, and every one of us must do all that lies in her power; and please, when you are asked to help, do not say “Yes, yes, but they’ll have to find some work to do.” Find some work to do! You cannot imagine how anxious they are to find work, nor how difficult it is to find it. Those who have a home in a farm cottage will probably be given odd day’s work by the farmer, but as winter comes on, and the odd day’s work is more and more difficult to find, we must help and help and help again.

To begin with, all who have “summer cottages,” or unoccupied furnished homes, can offer to lend them free of rent and taxes. The War Refugee Committee promises to put only responsible people of the educated classes into such houses - people who will understand how to take care of them. While few of us possess such a house, all however, can help with the Belgians of the working class, by finding every suitable empty cottage in the country, and buying, begging or borrowing furniture and then asking all one’s friends to guarantee a regular weekly contribution towards helping that family through the winter – 3d (1p) to 2s 6d (12½p) a week – whatever they are able to promise regularly in money or kind.

If you cannot help in this way, there are already 59 Belgians in the Ancroft, Lowick, Haggerston, and Cheswick districts. In the two former, the organisation is under Mr Riddell and Mr Middlemass, South Berrington; Mrs Crossman, of Cheswick House, and Mrs Leyland, of Haggerston Castle, are responsible for between 20 and 30. The Belgians who have come are extremely thrifty, industrious, and intelligent- indeed it is wonderful how well they have been able to make themselves understood, although three weeks ago they did not know a word of English. The families are in need of furniture, clothing, boots, food, and money. And if your children have toys or picture books that they could put into the parcels for all the poor mites, I think it would be very nice.

 Let it be quite clear that no portion of the Belgian Relief Fund has yet been used for this work; all that has been expended so far, has been sent to Belgium. The cottage people themselves are helping up to the limit of their capacity, but help from outside is really much needed.

(Border Woman  sits down.)


  1. You show the equivalent in current English money (3d (1p) to 2s 6d (12½p) a week) but how much was that in Belgian currency ?

  2. Marie,
    That's an interesting question.
    I haven't found a website with a definitive exchange rate table but since both Britain and Belgium were on the gold standard. comparing the amount of gold in a Belgian gold 20 franc coin and in a British sovereign gives an exchange rate of roughly 25.23 Belgian francs to the pound sterling.

    So the value of 3d (1p) was 32 centimes and 2s 6d (12½p) was 3 francs 15 centimes a week.


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