Picture heads home after turning up on other side of the world

AN IMAGE of Hyde people doing their bit to help those affected by World War One is back on home turf, after turning up at the side of a street one the other side of the world.

The picture of the Hyde branch of the National Committee for Relief in Belgium was found as part of rubbish waiting to be collected in the Newtown area of Sydney, Australia.However, curiosity about what it was meant it was not thrown away – and research uncovered a 10,000-mile global story.

But initially it was thought it had only travelled around the corner.

“The state library was contacted by a member of the public who found the photograph in a street, as part of rubbish to be collected, in Newtown in July,” Vanessa Bond of the State Library of New South Wales told the Correspondent.

“She knew it was important so brought it into the library.

“Library staff thought it may be related to Hyde Park in Sydney and consulted a book on the National Committee for Relief in Belgium, which indicated there was a committee in Hyde in the county of Cheshire in the UK.

“Subsequent research confirmed that there was an alderman on the local council in Hyde who was named on the photograph as the mayor of Hyde, confirming the location in the United Kingdom.

“The library sent the photo to Tameside Library.

“Both the Tameside Archives and the member of the public are thrilled it has made its way back to the UK.”The National Committee for Relief in Belgium sought to provide food and shelter for millions of people affected by World War One, many of whom were displaced by the German invasion.

It issued a poster during the conflict in 1915, which starkly pointed out the horror of what they were going through.

“Three million Belgians are destitute in Belgium,” it said. “They must not starve.”

At start of the First World War saw an influx of refugees into Britain from Belgium. The Germans had swept into Belgium killing its inhabitants and burning their houses.

Those that could fled to save their lives and it was estimated that by mid-June in 1915 there were about 265,000 refugees in Britain.

The British Government accepted responsibility for them but looked to Local Authorities to house them, plus a Relief Fund was set up to raise monies.

Many found homes in various towns in Tameside, including at Lousy Thorn Farm off Derby Road in Gee Cross – known as Birches – and 120, Muslin Street, which is now Talbot Road, and Rosemount Sunday School on Bennett Street in Hyde, where five classrooms were turned into bedrooms.

The first refugees, a party of 12 men, 15 women and 15 children, arrived in Hyde by train on October 14, 1914 and some were employed at the margarine works in Godley.

Others made furniture for their homes including beautiful oak panels in the town hall, which contain the names of 710 Hyde soldiers who died in the war.

A party of between 30-40 refugees was also taken to a football match between Hyde and Rossendale United, where banners with the words ‘Welcome to the Belgians’ were displayed plus a collection was made at half time.

Hyde’s contribution to the war effort – and people from the town who perished – is commemorated in a memorial on Werneth Low memorial.

Unveiled on June 25, 1921 in front of a crowd of 15,000 people, the then mayor of Hyde, Alderman Squire Fawley read a letter from Colonel Sir John Wood MP while Evelyn Welch, mayoress during the World War One, unveiled it.

The Second World War plate was unveiled on May 5, 1963, commemorating 162 servicemen and women and 12 civilians who died.

The photograph, measuring 82 x 64 cm (32 x 25 inches) had a card frame around it, some of which is missing.

On the top of the frame reads ‘The Great War, The National Committee for Relief in Belgium, Hyde Branch inaugurated by the Mayor Councillor S. Welch JP, referring to Stanley Welch, who was mayor from 1914 until 1916.

The photograph is probably taken at Waldorf Playing fields near Early Bank Road at the top of Yew Tree Lane in 1915.

Welch became mayor in November 1914 and provided jobs for them in his firm Newton Mill that made Waldorf stationery.

Jill Morris, senior library assistant at Tameside Local Studies and Archives, said: “The photo was taken to the New South Wales State Library.

“Staff there asked us if we would like the picture and we said, ‘Yes, we’ll have it.’

“When it arrived we couldn’t believe that everything was so clear. The faces looked like they were photographed within the last few weeks and not 100 years ago.”

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