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Saturday 11 July 2015

Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 9

This is a continuation of the Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 8.
Alternatively, see all the previous parts of the Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915, together.

What good organisers, the people of Lowick are or were!

The Steffen family, at Haggerston Cottages, had the sad task of burying two young children in Lowick churchyard; the ‘heretic cemetery at Lowick’ as recorded in the Roman Catholic Register of Deaths. Josephina aged 3, buried in November 1914 and Jan aged 4, in December, died from bronchitis and convulsions, as certified by Dr Elliott. Hendrik, their 13 year old brother, used English for the first time to ask for milk for his sick brother and sister.

Edward Steffens and Elisabeth Neutjens (in later life)

A report, in the Advertiser, of a concert held in December, at the Catholic School, Lowick, stated that a grant had been received from the Berwick Belgian Relief Fund which together with the work of the local committee had put the provision for the families on a sound footing. All the able-bodied men were employed and earning wages, although some of the work was seasonal and casual.

Van Puyenbroeck family in November 1918
The Van Puyenbroeck family joined in the singing with great enthusiasm.

During the first few months of 1915, fund raising for the Refugees continued in Lowick and elsewhere. On April 29th, a public meeting was held in the Lowick Subscription School by the Belgian Refugee Committee. As there was a balance in hand of £37 7s 11d (£37.40) (943.35 Belgian francs), it was decided to discontinue the monthly subscriptions, leaving it to the Committee to resume them as and when they thought necessary.

As 1915 wore on, appeals appeared in the national and local newspapers reminding the ‘Britishers’ what they owed the Belgians and asking for a greater show of liberality both in money and energy to aid local refugees and those in Belgium. In Northumberland, the refugees, now numbering about 900, were in a great need of summer and under-clothing. It was felt necessary to point out that as most were the better class people, they would not accept dirty clothing.

The Mayor of Berwick decided to ignore the June appeal for funds for Belgium, but was upset when Berwick was left off the list of Northumberland towns that were ‘doing their bit to keep alive the unfortunate millions’. He pointed out that shortly after the War started, £400 cash and £100 of valuable goods were sent to Belgium. While aware of the needs of the Belgian people, efforts still needed to be made for the French and Russian funds and he felt it unadvisable to make any further special effort.

Extract from Lowick School Register
Official letters confirm the presence of the De Roover family in Lowick between July and November 1915. PC Henderson, the Lowick Constable, and the Chief Constable, who you have already met, will explain further.

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