Monday, October 13, 2008

Basque Refugee Children in Scotland

Thanks to The Courier for publishing this article:

Weekend events mark civil war

SOME OF the lost children of the Spanish Civil War who stayed in Angus were remembered yesterday with the unveiling of a plaque at the house they lived in.

Meanwhile, “missing” fallen Dundee soldier Allan Craig, rediscovered through an article on the city’s contribution to the International Brigades, is also now commemorated.

None of the surviving 24 children brought from the Basque region to Mall Park House, Montrose, were able to attend the ceremony but Tom Borland provided a moving account of his mother Encarnation Buenavente, who arrived as one of the refugees in September 1937.

Despite the British policy of non-intervention during the war, it allowed voluntary groups to arrange the evacuation of children and in May 1937 the Habana docked in Southampton carrying around 4000 in the biggest single influx of refugees in British history.

Miss May Wilson, who was fluent in the language, was put in charge at Montrose, while Basque teacher Adelina Larraga and helper Maria Blanco came with the children.

To raise funds, the children performed Spanish and Basque dances and songs across Scotland, often accompanied by accordionist Charles McNeil. One in Dundee in November 1937 attracted 3000.

By 1939 many of the children had been repatriated, but others had no home to go to so stayed in Britain.

In Dundee, Mr Craig’s son Allan jun unveiled the plaque, alongside former Transport and General Workers Union general secretary Jack Jones—at 95, the oldest surviving British volunteer.

Mr Craig died after being wounded near Madrid in February 1937 and a granite memorial will be placed alongside the existing plaque in Albert Square.

Allan (74), who lives in Glasgow, saw an article in the Scottish Local History Forum journal which said 16 men from Dundee died in Spain, though the late Tom Clarke, the last survivor, always claimed 17 volunteers from Dundee had died.

“I thought my father was born in Dundee, so I got in touch with the article’s author,” said Mr Craig.

Dundee TUC secretary Mike Arnott, who wrote the article, was delighted to have tracked down the city’s “missing” soldier.

Other events at the weekend included a Saturday march and a meeting at the Central Library.

Dundee TUC has also published a book tracing the city’s involvement with the International Brigade, available in city bookshops from next week. An exhibition is also on show at the Central Library.

The rescue operation described in this article had nothing to do with the Spanish government, it was negotiated between the Basque government and the UK.

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  1. I just want to say that I really love this website and I love Scotland! I hope you guys will love my new blog, it is for people from Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. 'Experience - Scotland' is my first blog but it is a lot of fun: (

  2. free basque freedom

    free scotland

    jarrai dezagun gure helburuarekin, laister lortuko dugu!! bietan jarrai

    besterik gabe,
    agur bero bat zarautzetik(gipuzkoa)