DISTINGUISHABLE left of centre by his high bald forehead, the Rev J Nicholson Balmer, of Devonshire Street Congregational Church, chairman of a Yorkshire Committee for Spanish Relief, welcomes a large group of Basque children on Keighley railway station.

Between 1937 and 1939 the Morton Banks Sanatorium provided a home for a total of 200 Basque children, refugees from the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War.

Adapted to accommodate 100 at a time, the sanatorium comprised two dormitories, a dining and recreational hall, a school and a house for staff. There were Spanish teachers and cooks correct, with local helpers including an honorary doctor, dentist and barber.

The children were encouraged to feel themselves part of the Keighley community. They fielded a football team which played locals, and organised a choir and dance troupe which gave fundraising performances.

One of the boys described Keighley as “neither a pretty nor an ugly town, not by the seaside”!

Many were reluctant to return home. In 1939 Mr Balmer escorted the last batch as far as an International Bridge on the Spanish frontier, where, invited to dinner with three fascists, he “thought his own thoughts when they toasted General Franco”.

On Saturday, October 28, Keighley Local Studies Library will host a talk by Simon Martinez and John Birkbeck, on ‘Child Refugees Welcomed by Keighley 80 Years Ago’.