30/10/2014 Minister Humphreys launches book on history of Belgian WW1 refugees in Monaghan
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D., will this evening launch a new book by Monaghan’s Belgian Square Centenary Association about the Belgian refugees who came to Co. Monaghan during World War One. The book, entitled “Belgian Square, 100 Years”, aims to remember the impact of World War One on Monaghan and on those Belgian refugees who came to the county a century ago.
Thousands of Belgians were forced to flee their homeland during World War One and about 3,000 came to Ireland from 1914-1918. In Monaghan Town, a small local committee, headed by Winston Churchill’s Aunt, Leonie Leslie, was formed to prepare 27 houses that the Urban Council had spent £4,000 converting from an 18th century military barracks to house the Belgian refugees. The Barracks soon became known as Belgian Square.
Speaking in advance of the launch, Minister Humphreys said:
“We have many reasons to be proud of our heritage in Monaghan, and there are thousands of families around Cavan and Monaghan who can recall family members who served in World War One, the Rising or the War of Independence.
“I was in Belgium earlier this week where it was made very clear to me that the sacrifices made by men and their families from Monaghan and Cavan are honoured by those who live in the areas where those men fought, and where too many lost their lives.
“A century ago a small group of refugees from Belgium were welcomed here, and I know that this has never been forgotten in Belgium. The Belgian refugees have left an amazing legacy in Ireland, from Kylemore Abbey to locations like Belgian Square in Monaghan.
“Our community gained from the influx of diverse skills and talents, including from those who could teach French, bake and produce needlework. When these people needed assistance, Monaghan stepped up to the mark, and I hope that this wonderful book and the collection of images helps to show people the richness of our local history, and of the welcome that visitors to Monaghan are sure to receive to this day.”