1914 Blantyre Lodge’s Belgian Refugees

Gordon Cook has given me some more information on Blantyre Lodge, the former works managers home in the Village, Low Blantyre. (which was once situated where the current play park is now at David Livingstone Centre).

Gordon told me, “It was lying empty for quite a while just prior to WWI, when Rev. J. Brand Crombie of the Congregational Church approached Messrs William Baird & Company, the owners at the time, to ask permission to use the Lodge to house some of the Belgian refugees that were then flooding into the country. The request was duly granted and Rev. Brand Crombie and his small committee, along with a large crowd of locals, greeted 32 Belgian refugees off the train at Low Blantyre station on the evening of Wednesday 21st October 1914. The displaced Belgians were then taken to the lodge and settled in for the night by the ladies of the committee, who had prepared a supper for them.

1914 Belgian Refugees at Calderwood

1914 Belgian Refugees at Calderwood

The following night, the refugees were invited to the Picture House by Mr Bostock and his manager Mr Marchant, and there they were treated to tea and buns, after which they enjoyed a film show. This became a regular feature for these Belgians, and also for the 200 odd refugees being put up at Calderwood Castle by the Co-operative Society. The Blantyre Lodge Belgians attended the Picture House on Thursdays and the Calderwood Castle refugees on Saturday afternoons. Pictured are the Calderwood Belgians.

The committee headed by Rev. Brand Crombie was formally known as ‘The Belgian Refugees (Local) Relief Committee’, and they supervised the gathering of furniture, donations of food and groceries etc., as well as organising flag days in support of the refugees. They also organised a football match in which the Calderwood Castle Belgians played against the Blantyre Vics in a friendly match, which was refereed by the Scotland goalkeeper, Blantyre’s Jimmy Brownlie, and although the reporter was tactful enough not to give us the score, I don’t think the Vics got it all their own way. This match raised more needed money for the Relief Fund.

The first Belgian Flag Day was held on Saturday the 31st October 1914 and raised over £53, a good sum of money considering all the other efforts going on at this time in Blantyre. Monday 7th December is the Belgian Christmas Eve, and the committee went to the Lodge that night and gave an entertaining concert before handing out gifts to the children and the adults, much of the practical side of the evening came courtesy of Mr Cochrane’s Calderglen household and others. Two of the Belgians spoke to give thanks to their visitors, Henri Diybooms and M. Vandikiboom and their English was reported to be “fairly good” considering they had only learned it since they came to Blantyre. Rev. Burleigh and Rev. T. A. Hugh along with father O’Hanlon gave short addresses before the evening ended with the singing of the National Anthem and Auld Lang Syne. After the war, it would seem that Blantyre Lodge was doomed to neglect and finally destruction.

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  1. clovermcg@aol.com

    Would you know if the Father O’Hanlon, mentioned in this article, would have been the priest assigned to St. Joseph’s RC Chapel? If so, he could have baptized my late mom Helen Dolan, who was born on 8 November 1914, right after the Belgians arrived. Thanks. Regards, Mike.

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