Child refugee scrapbook gets funding nod to go online

Marx Memorial Library. Photograph: Justinc.

A scrapbook of child refugees who escaped to Britain during the Spanish Civil War (1936-9) is likely to receive funding to be professionally digitised and displayed online for posterity as part of Refugee Week 2019.

The scrapbook, part of the 150-box Spanish Civil War collection at Islington Marx Memorial Library, tells the story of the 4,000 Basque child refugees who fled the fascist aerial bombardment of northern Spain in 1937.

The Conservative government of the time agreed with the grassroots initiative led by Labour, communist and trade union activists to take in the children, on condition that no government money was spent on their upkeep.

Meirian Jump, archivist and library manager at the Marx Memorial Library, said: “It was kept by one specific household in Worthing, who were obviously conscious that this was quite a special thing that was happening.

“It’s a real insight into what was going on in the late 30s, and how people pulled together.

“It’s a lovely story, and a unique item that tells a microhistory story, but a bit heartbreaking, as you’re struck by these photos of children who don’t know when or if they’ll see their families again, which underlies the whole thing.

“Looking at these kinds of documents really brings things to life, seeing names and faces, and always brings home the actual experiences.

“One of the things I love the most about the scrapbook is a thank-you booklet where all the girls have signed their names in thanks to the people who were looking after them, which is really moving.

“There are also themes of communities pulling together in a charitable fashion to support newcomers, which is obviously a theme which resonates now, as ever.”

The 29 January meeting of Islington’s voluntary and community sector committee agreed the budget proposals in principle out of the council’s Local Initiatives Fund, subject to sign-off from the Corporate Director of Housing and Adult Social Services.