Basque Child Refugees from Northern Spain welcomed in Keighley and Bradford, 1937-1939

To mark the 80th Anniversary of the arrival of child refugees a talk and an exhibition will be held in Keighley Local Studies library on Saturday 28th October at 2.00pm by Simon Martinez and John Birkbeck..

On the 13 September 1937, the Morton Banks Sanatorium in East Riddlesden and the Dr Barnardo children’s home on Manningham Lane, Bradford were turned over to voluntary groups to house children from Northern Spain.

These children had been evacuated at the height of the Spanish Civil War to avoid bombing and hunger following the bombing of Guernica forever immortalised by the painting by Pablo Picasso.

Keighley welcomed 100 of these child refugees and the adults who accompanied them.

They were very happy in Keighley. One later recalled ‘it was a town of twenty to twenty five thousand people, not pretty, not ugly, without a coastline but with swimming pools, a big park, and three cinemas (later there was one more, The Ritz) The Picture House, The Regent, and The Cosey Corner, and a lake which in winter froze over.’

This is a rare opportunity to hear two experts on this often forgotten piece of history speak together. John Martinez is the son of one of the refugee children Ruperta Martinez, (see picture) and he is a leading figure in the Basque Children organisation.

Ruperta Martinez

John Birkbeck’s grandfather was a significant figure in the lives of the Basque children who came to Keighley in 1937 and he has gathered a wealth of knowledge about the experiences of local refugees.

The event is free and all are welcome.


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